Innovative Entrepreneurs: Running In The Green

June 8th, 2011

“God has … a purpose for each of our gifts,” writes Nelson Longenecker ’78, vice president for business innovation at Four Seasons Produce in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. “(Mine are) relevant to the business arena.” Nelson has overseen numerous sustainability initiatives at his company.

Sustainability can’t exist in a vacuum, says Nelson Longenecker ’78, the vice-president for business innovation at Four Seasons Produce in Ephrata, Pennsylvania.

“From a business standpoint, it needs to be driven by what makes sense,” he says. To that end, Nelson has worked to reduce his environmental footprint and operating costs with a variety of sustainability initiatives at Four Seasons, a produce distributor that supplies grocery stores from New England to North Carolina to Ohio. Examples include retrofits and upgrades of the warehouse lighting and climate-control system, improving delivery procedures, and employing mixed-stream recycling.

As a result, Four Seasons’ nearly 250,000-square-foot warehouse became the first in the country to earn an Energy Star certification in 2008. The facility has also saved 1.6 million gallons of water per year, recycled 88 percent of its waste, reduced natural gas usage by 29 percent, and eliminated 1.2 million annual fleet miles from its delivery routes.

“I just think there’s tremendous upside and opportunity [out there] for the environment and for business,” Nelson says. “There’s just so much improvement to be had.”

Other EMU alumni who have found a niche in the business of sustainability include Mark Grimaldi ’94, president and CEO of Equinox Chemicals in Albany, Georgia. One of Grimaldi’s business ventures has been the development and marketing of Rynex, an environmentally friendly dry-cleaning solvent that rivals the effectiveness of conventional industry solvents, and spares dry-cleaners the expense of handling hazardous waste.

Carole Persinger ’91 and her husband, Barry, work in a similar field as owners of Green Solutions Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning in Harrisonburg, Virginia. They use products that protect human and environmental health and are packaged and shipped in responsible ways.

Also in Harrisonburg, Ben Wyse ’99 launched Wyse Cycles in 2009, which he believes to be the first pedal-powered mobile bicycle repair shop in the nation. He pulls a 150-pound trailer of tools for on-site bicycle repairs, using recycled parts as often as possible.

Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Ron Thomas ’82 runs Redwing Ecological Services, which does environmental mitigation and restoration work for private and public land development across the United States. The 14-employee company includes several scientists who conduct endangered species assessments and oversee restoration of wetlands, stream channels, prairies and other habitats. “We believe that living sustainably in the world means balancing smart development with preservation of natural areas,” writes Thomas, a certified ecologist.

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