Hello!

Guess what: Dordan has started construction on its organic garden!

For those of you unfamiliar, Dordan started several internal sustainability initiatives last year to, as this article states, “get its own environmental house in order.” Some initiatives implemented/currently being executed are: achieving zero-waste at the Dordan facility (check out July 15th’s “How-to OR How-to-NOT Conduct a Waste Audit” post); composting Dordan yard and food waste (check out August 25th’s “How to Build a Composter” post); starting an organic garden (check out August 17th’s “Day 1 of How to Start an Organic Garden” post); and, community education on recycling (check out October 4th’s “Environmental Task Force” post).

Soooo we began construction on the to-be organic garden plot last fall, as discussed in the July 15th post; this included mapping off the plot with stakes/rope so our landscapers would hold off treatment, checking for any electrical situation under the intended plot, beginning to till the ground to observe the quality of soil, etc. Then the winter came and we retired our efforts until the sun was shining and the weather was sweet.

In the meantime, our local Woodstockian farmer Emily began growing some of the seedlings in her house, intended for transportation to the Dordan plot when the weather allowed. For those of you who live in the Midwest, however, you will recall that this winter to spring transition has been less than favorable insofar as we have gotten A TON of rain. This, consequently, pushed back the date Emily was able to bring the young seedlings to the Dordan plot because the ground was too soup-like; luckily, the sun this past weekend dried the plot enough for Emily to begin transporting the seedlings and doing other ground prep work.

First, Emily created a way to manage the amount of water that had access to the plot. In previous posts describing this project, I discussed how we were looking into getting rain barrels to capture the rain water that collected from Dordan’s roof. After doing some research, however, we thought there may be a more economically inventive way to go about this, and there is! Check out the picture below: this shows how we took plastic tubes and connected them to the rain downspouts at the parameter of the plot, which allows us to control the amount of water entering the plot by drilling holes throughout, as a form of rudimentary irrigation, per se. Neat!

After doing a bit of tilling, we discovered that there was a lot of sand and clay in the soil. While I know very little about what the perfect soil composition for organic produce farming is, Emily thought we needed further nutrients. Luckily, in conjuncture with the construction of our composter, Dordan collected all of its yard waste last fall to be composted over the winter; this included leaves, grass clippings, etc. So, Emily took the very-broken down yard bits and sprinkled them all over the plot, tilling them in with the existing soil, to create super soil! We also took some of the organic food waste compost from last fall’s activities and sprinkled it about, making for some fun in the sun! In the end, we had a very rich, nutrient-rich soil, perfect for nurturing young seedlings! See:

Next, we had to create long, what’s the word…trenches? that ran horizontally across the plot, which would serve as the organization for the different types of produce grown. While creating these trenches, however, we discovered that Dordan was sitting on a Glacier gold mine, insofar as we found TONS of perfectly circular rocks, 5-6 inches below ground. Emily’s dad, Phil, explained that due to their smooth, circular shape, it was safe to conclude that these came with the glaciers. Cool!

Emily decided to plant the two sets of seedlings brought—leeks and lettuce—in the portion of the plot that had more sand in the soil because I guess these types of vegetables are more “hard core.” Dordan had a sand volley ball court on part of the plot intended for the organic garden, which obviously means there was a bit of sand under the soil. Upon tilling I almost had a heart attack because I couldn’t believe just how much sand was there; after all, it had been like, over ten years since we had planted grass over the court, so I assumed the sand would, I don’t know, go away? Luckily, Emily didn’t seem too concerned, saying she would just add in some of Dordan’s compost and it was no big deal for the types of vegetables she would be planting there. I wish all people were as laid back as organic farmers, ha!

So yeah, here are the adorable little seedlings before being planted in the plot:

Tootles!

Greetings world!

Today has been an exciting day! We mapped out the plot for our Victory Garden and began working on the compost construction! Yippee!

First, let me introduce Emily, our fabulous Woodstockian farmer, who is going to be using Dordan’s land to grow organics on next spring. These organics will then be sold to her customers, which consist of local restaurants in Woodstock and our neighboring oasis of Crystal Lake, a.k.a. my hometown!

Strinking a pose!

She is joined by her father and former high school biology school teacher, Phil. As you can see, he’s serious about composting; check out his compost themed-shirt! For those of you who can’t make out the text, I will transcribe, because it tickles my fancy:

Compost

Because a rind is a terrible thing to waste!

Here here, Phil!

Ha!

For those of you unfamiliar with the term and/or demographic—and I myself just discovered such a concept—“locavore” refers to those people who have committed to consuming food grown and harvested within a 100 mile radius of their home. From what I understand, some locavores make the commitment for a month, while others for the rest of their lives. There are locavore communities in San Fran, Boston, NYC, and pretty much any other city where conscious consumers reside. Consider the following definition of “locavores” supplied by good old Wikipedia:

Local food (also regional food or food patriotism) or the local food movement is a “collaborative effort to build more locally based, self-reliant food economies – one in which sustainable food production, processing, distribution, and consumption is integrated to enhance the economic, environmental and social health of a particular place” and is considered to be a part of the broader sustainability movement. It is part of the concept of local purchasing and local economies, a preference to buy locally produced goods and services. Those who prefer to eat locally grown/produced food sometimes call themselves locavores or localvores.

I don’t know for certain if Woodstock resturants prefer localy sourced organics because it participates in the above ideology or if it is just cheaper and/or better to buy organics from a local supplier as opposed to a national supplier and/or distributor; I can assume, however, that locally produced organics—like those grown in Dordan’s “backyard” next spring—will be free of pesticides and other chemicals and require little energy to transport when compared with those organics shipped in from national/international groweries, insofar as these organics are only traveling to resturants in Woodstock and Crystal Lake. Hurray for sustainability and Dordan being able to particpate in our communitys’ understanding thereof! And who doesn’t like a sun-warmed tomatoe on a late August afternoon?

And for those of you unfamilar with how this all came about (it is not everyday that you hear of a plastic packaging manufaturer who is converting its land into a farm!), let me provide a quick recap:

Emily is best friends with my brother’s and colleauge’s wonderful wife, Karen. Karen introduced Emily to my mother, the wife of Dordan’s CEO Daniel Slavin, as she intended on starting a garden this summer and needed some help with the layout. Emily then explained to my mother that she was in quite the pickle for next year because the land that she is currently using to grow her organics on for her various local customers will not be available next year because it is up for sale. My father and Dordan CEO Daniel Slavin then suggested that Emily come look at the plot Dordan sits on, as it is several acres big, is sheilded from the road, and gets direct sunlight for most of the day. She and her father came to look at our land several weeks ago and finally determined that it would suit their needs for next years’ harvest! And now we are converting Dordan’s “backyard,” or, more approriately, “sideyard,” to a lot for Emily to grow her organics on!

AND, as discussed in a previous post, Emily and Phil have been so generous to help us in the construction of a composter.

Which how-to would you like to hear first: how-to build a composter or how-to start a plot for farming organics? Decisions decisions…

Let us begin with a how-to make a plot for farming organics.

Please note, however, that today is Day 1 of converting the plot into farmable land. Therefore, many further steps must be taken, which of course I will share with you, my packaging and sustainability friends, in real time! By way of introduction, today consisted primarily of measuring the space and staking out the dimensions. Next step is to plow the area and begin working the soil. Details to come!

Day 1 of converting Dordan’s land into a farm suitable for growing organics: Measuring and staking out plot dimensions.

Emily’s current plot is roughly 3/4th an acre; she was hoping to map out a similar space for her plot next year on Dordan’s land.

Here’s Dordan’s sideyard, available for Emily’s farm:

Dordan land available for conversion to farm plot

And to give you some percpective, here is another shot of the land with Dordan to the right.

Available land with Dordan to the right

There are 43,560 square feet in an acre, which means we were looking to achieve a plot size of around 32,670 square feet.  

Emily and Phil began by measuring the desrirable space in Dordan’s sideyard and staking out the dimensions.

The tools needed are measuring tape, wooden stakes, and a heavy-duty hammer.

Imagine the stakes, too!

They decided to begin the plot 15 feet from Dordan’s outer wall (the wall that runs the length of the factory) and 15 feet from the brush that marked the end of our property, giving the plot a width of 45 feet.  

Measuring the width of the plot

By distancing the plot a bit from Dordan and the brush, Emily and Phil maintained that the farm would receive the best sunlight available. Moreover, this 45 foot width is comprised of the most homogenous and flat land available for conversion into a farm, which would make plowing the plot easier come fall. In addition, this placement sheilds the plot from the street and other hooligans, insofar as it is at a lower decline than the street and protected on each side by Dordan itself and the tall and unruly brush.

How Dordan can protect the plot

They then ran the measuring tape perpendicular to the stakes marking the width, until the reached where the land dibits and moves downhill.

Measuring length of plot

A man on a mission!

Where the plot will end due to existing vegetation

This totaled about 210 feel long, bringing the total lot to roughly 9,450 square feet, between 1/5th and 1/4th  an acre.

PISS, it’s not big enough, I thought to myself as I scanned the layout.

“Is it too small,” I asked with a wavering pitch?

“Ah, whatever,” Emily replied, “it will be just fine.”

Phew, I thought to myself. I love people that love the environment!

Let’s back up; I am getting ahead of myself.

The decision to use Dordan’s land did not happen overnight. There were many emails exchanged between myself and Emily as she began considering our offer as a viable business move. Below is a list of issues discussed, which anyone considering converting land into a farm for organics should consult, with Dordan’s answers in bold:

Has the land been sprayed with pesticides or chemicals? If so, when was the last time?

Yes, in the spring of 2010; we spray each spring and fall. Because the land will be converted into a farm beginning this fall, however, Emily has requested that we suspend future plans to spray as it may compromise the integrity of the organics grown in spring 2011.

Is there access to water?

Yes, we have hoses on the side of the building adjacent to the plot. We can also capture the rain collected from our roof via the downspouts in large barrels; because the plot has a gentle downcurve to it, we could use gravity to pull the collected rainwater from the barrels throughout the plot, as a form of elementary irrigation, in concept. How cool is that! (I will be honest, these weren’t all my ideas!).  

Is there access to elecetricity?

Of course, right inside the door adjacent to the outlined plot.

Is there storage space for our tools?

Yes.

Would you consider erecting some type of greenhouse next to the plot? Many types of vegetables require “starting” before spring because they have a longer growing seasons. A greenhouse therefore allows you to start the seedlings in a warm and protected environment and then transfer them to the outdoor plot when the weather beckens it.

We are totally open to looking into mini-greehouses and look forward to your suggestions.

Tune in tomorrow to learn how-to begin construction on a home-made composter. Many pictures to come!

Greetings!

I know I said I was going to have a juicy email for you today about all things composting BUT I just got done with Dodan’s “Story to Sustainability,” which I wish to share with you. I intend on submitting it to some of my colleagues in the publishing world to see if it would resonate with their readers/subscribers; if so, perhaps we could get some coverage. Let’s say HURRAY for free press!

Granted it is a little cheesy and I definitely tout my own horn a bit, I think it still helps to convey our understanding of sustainability, which sets us aside from our competition.

The part that gets good is after the “this brings us up to present day” section because it discusses how “sustainability” for us is an ever-evolving concept that draws on much more than marketing claims but an integrated approach to a constructed ethos. Sounds heady, huh?

Enjoy!

Dordan Manufacturing Co. Inc.

Our Story to Sustainability

Dordan Bio:

Dordan Mfg. is a Midwestern based, National supplier of custom thermoformed packaging solutions such as clamshells, blisters, trays and components. Family owned and operated since 1962, Dordan Mfg. prides itself on being “the total package:” From our extremely sophisticated engineering and tooling capabilities to our punctual production and superb customer service, Dordan Mfg. is a one-stop-shop for high-quality custom thermoformed packaging.

Description of Dordan’s approach to sustainability, prior to 2009:

 Dordan has always been economically—and therefore conveniently environmentally—“sustainable” by recycling our industrial scrap and implementing energy-saving techniques. Below is a list of our internal sustainability efforts prior to 2009:

  • We have replaced the 88 Metal Halide light fixtures in our factory that each used 455 watts of electricity, with 88 Fluorescent fixtures that each use 176 watts, for a total electrical savings of 150,250 kilowatt-hours per year. This represents a reduction of approximately 150 tons of CO2 per year being released into the atmosphere.
  •  All of our internal scrap plastic is returned to the manufacturers of plastic sheet and rolls to be recycled and remanufactured as usable plastic sheets or rolls. Our PVC scrap is currently sold to a manufacturer that reuses it to make RPVC, which often times is remanufactured into PVC piping, siding, and deck products.
  •  All of our scrap aluminum is collected internally and sold to a metal scrap buyer; this material often times is remanufactured into new products.
  •  We use pressed wood pallets in addition to traditional wood pallets. Our pressed wood pallets are made in the USA of pre- and post- consumer wood waste; they are cradle to cradle certified as sustainable; and, considered source reducing insofar as pressed wood pallets weigh 50% less than traditional wood pallets and because they nest during shipment and storage they also require 50% less space. This translates into roughly a 50% reduction in the number of trucks needed to transport our skids to us. A 50% reduction in trucks results in a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions.

 Dordan also performed an analysis of the materials we use to help quantify the above statements. While this analysis was performed several years ago during the height of the economic boom and therefore production, we believe they help contextualize our internal materials management for sustainability. Consider the following:

  • Dordan has purchased 3 million lbs. of reprocessed plastic from our suppliers within the last 12 months; that is nearly 75 full truck loads.
  • Dordan sends out 1.3 million lbs. of plastic scrap annually to be recycled, which equates to 25,000 lbs. per week.
  • Dordan has purchased nearly 2 million lbs. of cartons with 30%-50% recycled content; that’s almost 1,000,000 lbs. of purely recycled corrugated.
  • Dordan has purchased nearly 70,000 lbs. of 100% recycled pressed wood pallets and has sent out almost 100,000 lbs. of scrap pallets to be recycled. Combined, that is more than 4 truck loads of 100% recycled wood.
  • Dordan has purchased over 11 tons of aluminum that has a recycled content of 70%-90%. In addition, we have recycled almost 10,000 lbs. of scrap aluminum.
  • Dordan has recycled 250 gallons of petroleum products.

Dordan’s Story to Sustainability:

While Dordan has always been economically and therefore environmentally sustainable with its post-industrial materials and energy use, it wasn’t until about a year ago when Dordan’s understanding of the “sustainability movement” transformed, resulting in a much more aggressive sustainability platform. For the first time since its incorporation in 1962, Dordan was being asked questions that it didn’t know the answers to; questions not about thermoforming, engineering or polymers, but questions about the environment, greenhouse gases, and fossil fuel consumption. Because Dordan had always been very successful at doing what it does best—thermoforming—it never honestly accessed the sustainability movement and its place therein…until now.

This time coincided with the CEO’s youngest daughter, Chandler Slavin, graduating from DePaul University with a degree in Ethics and Social Justice. Beginning as a consultant for Dordan, Chandler utilized her research skills to put together a plastics and the environment 101, per se, to orient Dordan employees about the environmental benefits and drawbacks of plastic packaging. Little did she or Dordan know, however, that this research compilation would be just the tip of the iceberg on all things sustainable.

Chandler’s consultancy quickly turned into a full-time job when Dordan’s CEO realized that this “green movement” wasn’t a fad; it was here to stay. While CEO Daniel Slavin should never be considered a cynic of the green movement, his reluctance to jump on the green bandwagon was a result of his history: it wasn’t the first time that packaging—specifically plastic packaging—had been targeted by environmentalists for its perceived environmental inadequacies. Therefore, Daniel assumed he would continue to do what he does best—good business—and let the green movement nestle within its specific niches.  To his surprise, however, the green movement began to have a much more active role in business decisions—even his business decisions—and Daniel decided it was in his and his company’s interest to honestly access this new phenomenon.

Chandler was appointed Dordan’s Sustainability Coordinator in September of 2009 with the task of trying to uncover the truth about plastic and sustainability. While Daniel was aware that he ran a plastics manufacturing company, he never let that trump the direction of Chandler’s research; he encouraged honestly, transparency, and attention to detail. Luckily, his ethics of good business paralleled his approach to sustainability: honesty and integrity before all else.

While trying to uncover the truth about plastic and sustainability, Chandler went to her first business conference in Atlanta: the Sustainable Packaging Coalition was hosting their fall, members-only meeting. While there, Chandler had a crash course with packaging and sustainability: though most of the member companies had been in the world of sustainability for a while, Dordan was very new and therefore had a lot of catching up to do. Suddenly Chandler was bombarded with terms like life cycle analysis, waste management, biodegradability, cradle to gate, and many others. In this new and very focused world, Chandler knew Dordan had to rise to the challenge; otherwise, it may compromise the reputation that it took almost 50 years to cultivate; that is, one of excellence, expertise, and good works. 

While at the SPC conference, Chandler learned that thermoformed packaging, along with most packaging materials, usually ends up in landfill. Outraged that her family’s pride and joy wasn’t being recycled, Chandler, with the support of Dordan, took it upon herself to discover: (1) why thermoformed packaging was not accepted for recycling in most American communities; (2) how thermoformed packaging can be integrated into the existing recycling infrastructure. Armed with nothing more than a recent graduate’s altruism and idealism, Chandler took to the books, to uncover the complexities of recycling in America.

These efforts and others are discussed in our blog, recyclablepackaging.org, which narrates our day-by-day attempts to recycle thermoformed packaging. The most notable discovery prior to 2010 was that our RPET packages, which are certified as having a minimum 70% post industrial/consumer content, moved through the optical sorting device at a recycling plant just like PET bottles. In other words, there was no “optical” difference between our RPET packages and the bottle-grade PET; therefore, the reason why thermoformed packaging is not recycled has nothing to do with the inability or ability to sort the resins; it is because of good old economics of supply and demand, sprinkled with the need for technology and investment.

After this discovery, our clamshell recycling initiative came to a stand still. Most municipal contacts articulated that our approach to recycling thermoformed packaging, that is, incorporating RPET thermoforms into the existing PET bottle recycling infrastructure, was technically impossible due to different IVs between bottle-grade PET and thermo-grade, different melting temps, densities, etc. Receiving contradicting information from different contacts, Chandler had no idea if Dordan’s approach to recycling thermoforms was valid or not.

It was not until the early spring of 2010 that Dordan’s clamshell recycling initiative finally got some attention. Recyclablepackaging.org caught the eye of Walmart-Canada’s Sustainable Packaging Coordinator, who was coincidently in the process of managing a Committee looking to achieve zero-waste for several hard to place materials, thermoform-grade PET being one of them. Because of my assumed expertise on recycling PET, I was invited to participate in the second meeting of Walmart-Canada’s Material Optimization Committee.

Unlike in the States, Canada has some product stewardship legislation on the books, which requires producers/brand owners/first importers to finance the management of their products’ waste/packaging waste post-consumer. This, consequentially, facilitates collaboration between industry and municipality, thereby resulting in constantly improving diversion rates. Because Canada has a much more sophisticated waste management system than in the States, Dordan was really excited to be able to work with a Committee that very well may be able to find a way to economically recover thermoformed packaging post-consumer.

A month after returning from the MOC meeting, Chandler was invited to be the co-lead of the PET Subcommittee. By working with stakeholders throughout the supply chain, this Committee looks to incorporate RPET/PET thermoforms into the existing PET bottle recycling infrastructure. By focusing on the development of local markets and possibly, limiting the amount of PET recyclate that leaves the country, zero-waste for PET packaging post-consumer, bottle grade and thermo-grade, may actually become a reality.

After spending a considerable amount of time and money researching issues pertaining to packaging and sustainability, Dordan decided to switch its focus. While previously all the work on sustainability had been from a macro-level, Dordan now wished to address sustainability issues from a micro-level. What this means is that the first 6 months of Chandler’s employment was dedicated mostly to trying to understand “sustainability.” The next 6 months, therefore, would now be focused on Dordan and its place within this ambiguous concept.

And this brings us up to present day: just last week Dordan’s CEO announced his new sustainability project; that is, zero-waste. With the hopes of diverting all Dordans’ waste from landfill, this initiative is multi-faceted and draws upon contemporary constructions of sustainability—the economic, social, and environmental.

The economic dimension of our approach to sustainability is quiet self-explanatory: Stay in business and continue to provide jobs and benefits to our employees.

The environmental dimension of our approach to sustainability, while introduced above, now becomes more focused. While recycling thermoforms will always be a goal at Dordan as will staying well-versed in issues pertaining to sustainability and packaging, we now wish to improve our facilities “carbon footprint.” While our action plan to achieve zero-waste has yet to be finalized, we intend on doing the following:

  • Purchasing a composter for Dordan’s food and yard waste. By being able to compost Dordan’s organic waste, we will be one step closer to achieving our goal of zero waste;
  • Working with Dordan suppliers and third-parties to find a home for all our post-industrial material;
  • Working with third-parties to find a home for all our office waste.

And lastly, the social dimension of our approach to sustainability, which is unique in its conception, can be described as follows:

Dordan is donating the use of a portion of the land that its plant sits upon to a local woman who specializes in horticulture and provides fresh organics to local restaurants and farm markets. While previously she was able to grow her produce on a farm provided to her, said opportunity may not be available for the summer of 2011. Without having a piece of land to grow her crops upon, she would be unable to provide for herself and her family, and the local restaurants and markets she provides her food to would have to look to another, non-local supplier. Because Woodstock is a very environmentally-conscious community, the idea of shipping in fresh produce from an unknown location would not resonate with the demographic. “Locavores” is the term ascribed to those conscientious consumers who try to buy produce grown within 100 miles of their residence; in doing so, they work to counter the contemporary globalization of the food supply, which has serious consequences for the environment, our health and our community. By providing this woman with land upon which to grow organics for the community, Dordan feels as though it has a place within the social sustainability component of our understanding of “sustainability.”

Lastly, Dordan’s Sustainability Coordinator is working with the Superintendent of the Woodstock School District in the organization of a presentation about recycling. While previously such education was the responsibility of an outside party, funding for such education has been cut; consequentially, Woodstock students are not learning about recycling. Because Dordan believes that the best way to increase recovery rates for materials post-consumer is education, we are excited about our grassroots approach to waste management.

Dordan looks forward to reaching its goal of zero waste and working with and in our community. By doing our part, we believe that “sustainability” is not so much about one material versus another or one approach versus another but about cultivating an ethos; one that takes into account the role that sustainability plays in society and our role therein.