Long credited with putting fun — and sustainability — into home cleaning products, Method has taken a step that goes far beyond “zero waste” and has become the mantra of other cleaning products and CPG companies. One year after announcing its plan, the iconoclast company opened its South Side Soapbox factory last week in the Pullman Park district of Chicago. Cradle to Cradle pioneer William McDonough + Partners designed the factory, the first such LEED Platinum certified facility within this sector.
The factory’s opening is just another step for Method as it has shaken up not only the cleaning products industry, but also the way business is done period. The company has held onto its “weird” corporate culture, even after its acquisition by the Belgian cleaning products company Ecover. Instead of focusing on its products’ “green” features, Method has made them cost-competitive, as well as cool, chic and artistic, nudging consumers to keep those sleek bottles on display in kitchens and counters instead of hidden under the sink with the bug spray. Plastic from the Pacific Garbage Patch has found its way into Method’s plastic bottles, and the company has also been active in pushing Congress to update federal chemical safety laws. Its products have long been available to the mass market; they have been on for sale at Target for years. The new factory in Chicago proves even more how forward-thinking this funky soap company has become.
Clean energy will power the South Side Soapbox, which sits on 22 acres. A refurbished turbine onsite will provide wind power, while solar energy trees will contribute electricity as well; the company says it will buy renewable energy credits (RECs) to ensure the facility runs on renewable power for at least two years.
Additional features also help make the factory operate with maximum energy efficiency. A 1,500-square-foot covered walkway will keep workers and visitors cool; the light-reflecting concrete and roof will reduce solar gain; a 120-gallon (455-liter) solar heating system will reduce dependence on the local grid for heating; and skylights will also keep the facility light and airy during the day.
Another cooling feature is a 75,000-square-foot green roof and urban farm, designed in a partnership with Brooklyn’s Gotham Greens. According to the company, the urban farming operation will be able to produce up to 500 tons of produce annually while reducing energy consumption and storm-water runoff.
Method is positioning the factory as a way to have a positive impact on Chicago. This is not the walled-off factory laced with barbed wire of your grandparents’ generation; the public will have access to the space, which includes 19.5 acres that are undergoing restoration as a wildlife preserve. The company also says it will plan to lead public tours focused on clean energy, hydroponic farming and sustainable manufacturing.
Method’s latest venture goes above and beyond the zero-waste plants that have become the narrative of companies such as Unilever, P&G and even GM. Method is going many steps further, leading by example, making as many investments as possible to make its operations lean and green, and becoming an active stakeholder within the local community. This factory truly represents the three Ps of sustainability: people, planet and profit.
Image credit: Method
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's worked an lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.