The large vegetable garden outside of the Polycon Industries cafeteria is just one way the 1,350 employees at this Magna division in Guelph, Ontario are going green.
The garden was the idea of Jennifer Bridge, Polycon’s world-class manufacturing lead, who inspired ten others to join her, including general manager David Gray who helped to build the beds.
At harvest time, nearly 300 pounds of vegetables were donated to the local food bank. Employees with home gardens added to the bounty by contributing bushels of their own produce to the needy.
“Employees took care of the garden during lunch and after hours,” said Heidi Mullins, Polycon’s environmental coordinator. “Our biggest problem was lack of bees because we’re in an industrial area. We had to learn how to self-pollinate. Next year, we plan to have beehives and a bigger garden.”
She adds: “Gardening has the added employee benefit of being a great wellness activity.”
Other environmentally friendly initiatives at Polycon include recycling cigarette butts, installing more than 10,000 LEDs through the facility, tracking electricity usage by department, and working with suppliers to limit packaging on components.
The recycler of cigarette butts makes a charitable donation for every pound collected. So far, this effort has resulted in a $1,800 donation to the United Way of Wellington County.
“It helps to keep our grounds litter free, and cigarette butts are not washed down the storm sewer into our waterways,” said Mullins, a longtime green advocate who taught outdoor education early in her career and has a master’s degree in rural land-use planning from the University of Guelph.
Mullins was introduced to Magna years ago, when she was working as the waste management coordinator for the Wellington County School Board, and would collect cardboard inserts from Polycon for use in art projects for elementary-school students. She’s been with Magna for 25 years.
With her direction, not only has Polycon, which makes exterior components, saved thousands on utility bills, it has reduced hazardous and non-hazardous waste by 78 percent through the implementation of a plant-wide program. In December, Union Gas presented Polycon with a $318,000 incentive check for its natural-gas savings in 2019.
The division’s energy team works to build employee awareness a number of ways.
Meters were installed in March 2019 on the plant’s water and compressed air systems
that track hourly, weekly and monthly electricity usage. Managers monitor usage on computer dashboards, looking to limit spikes; employees will get similar information next year on TV screens throughout the plant.
“Our management team is very supportive and always makes sure we’re doing the right thing,” Mullins said. “Our environmental policy is ‘leave no trace.’ It’s posted in the main entryway of Polycon and throughout the plant. It’s all about building awareness.”
Our management team is very supportive and always makes sure we’re doing the right thing. Our environmental policy is ‘leave no trace.’ It’s posted in the main entryway of Polycon and throughout the plant. It’s all about building awareness.”