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SC Johnson Goes Geothermal at Frank Lloyd Wright-Designed Headquarters

RP Siegel headshotWords by RP Siegel
Energy & Environment
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It's fair to say that the best companies are those that recognize their size, stature and success as opportunities for them to do good in the world. We often see a small number of companies repeatedly mentioned in this regard.

One of them is Wisconsin-based SC Johnson, a fifth-generation family-based business that specializes in the manufacture of household products (e.g. Windex, Pledge and Glade) and owns brands such as Mrs. Meyer's, Ecover and Method. The company has long distinguished itself as a leader in corporate and environmental responsibility and transparency. SC Johnson’s list of numerous awards keeps growing, including most recently, a 2017 Conservation Hero Award from Conservation International and a 2015 Annual Gold Medal for International Corporate Achievement in Sustainable Development from the World Environment Center.

The company has now taken a further step with the announcement of a plan to reduce its energy consumption at its Frank Lloyd Wright-designed corporate headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin (pictured above) through the use of a GeoExchange geothermal energy system to provide heating and cooling for the complex's buildings.

Geothermal energy takes advantage of the constant year-round temperatures underground as inputs for heating and cooling operations. As such, it is recognized as a renewable source of energy. Typically, wells are dug and fluids, such as water, are used to bring the warmer (in winter) or cooler (in summer) temperatures to the surface where they are further heated or cooled. In this case, the well field will be drilled beneath a parking lot. The project, which is pending local approval, is expected to reduce energy consumption by 40 percent, compared with the system it's replacing. Additional measures, including the installation of solar photovoltaic panels along with a more efficient boiler, will result in an overall facility energy savings in the 57 to 62 percent range.

CEO Fisk Johnson had the following to say about the project:

“As a global company, you think about your footprint in all the places you operate and how to minimize your impact. Leading the industry in an environmentally responsible manner starts at home. For us, that meant taking a look at our operations and finding where we can lessen our impact by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, addressing air quality and increasing the amount of energy offset from renewable resources. Transitioning to geothermal energy at our headquarters goes a long way toward accomplishing those goals.”

This is hardly the company's first venture into the use of renewables. Going back over 15 years, the company has launched several projects focused on sustainability, including:

  • A manufacturing plant in Surabaya, Indonesia, that uses waste husks from rice grains as a fuel source for heating water for production. This initiative reduced 7,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.
  • Solar power for hot water heating within various manufacturing facilities in China, India, Indonesia and Mexico.
  • Three SJ Johnson manufacturing sites – Bay City, Michigan; Mijdrecht, Netherlands; and Gorzow, Poland – run on 100 percent wind energy, while others including those in Mount Pleasant and Waxdale, Wisconsin as well as Toluca, Mexico, generate a portion of their power from wind.
  • The Waxdale plant also uses methane gas from a nearby public landfill to generate 28 percent of its energy. An additional 57 percent of its power requirements comes from a second cogeneration system that uses cleaner-burning natural gas.

In total, SC Johnson’s greenhouse gas reduction efforts have cut emissions from its worldwide manufacturing sites by 62 percent relative to the company’s 2000 baseline.

“SC Johnson has made a commitment to diversifying energy sources and prioritizing the use of renewables whenever possible,” Johnson said in summing up this project. “Our work is far from over, and we’re excited to do our part at home in Racine with the GeoExchange system at our headquarters. But we also believe that lowering our carbon footprint around the world will make a positive impact on the communities we serve.”

Image credit: SC Johnson

RP Siegel headshotRP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, Grist, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering,  Design News, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, Environmental Science, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Eniday, and engineering.com among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 53 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP was the winner of the 2015 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week blogging competition. Contact: bobolink52@gmail.com

 

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