Look out into the skies over the Owens Corning plant on Central Expressway in Santa Clara and you’re likely to see a plume of white smoke coming from the towers. But what few people realize is that smoke is actually steam and it’s coming from one of the greenest companies in America.
“Perception can be very deceiving,” said Owens Corning Director of Operations Jim Gerodimos. “The only emission is the water removal…water vapor. There are no other emissions.”
The plant not only meets the standards of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the California EPA and the Bay Area Air Quality Management, it exceeds them.
“We’re one of two manufacturing plants that are under the 25,000 metric ton carbon dioxide emission limit that is in a lot of cap and trade programs in California and within North America,” said Matt Glibota, the Senior Environmental Manager at Owens Corning. “That’s something we take a lot of pride in is our carbon dioxide intensity.
“It wasn’t always like that,” continued Glibota. “A lot of that push came from internally. A lot of our own technology goals, initiatives were about: how can we recycle any kind of waste streams? How can we bring more streams from the public into our process?”
In May, Owens Corning, which is based in Toledo, Ohio, was recognized for the changes it has made through the years. Corporate Responsibility Magazine ranked the company number one on its 100 Best Corporate Citizens list. It’s a list that looks at how large companies deal with environmental and social issues, something that the Santa Clara plant is on the cutting edge of.
“One of the things that we’re most proud of are the things that have happened in the last decade and that is our use of recycled glass as a raw material,” said Glibota. “That’s beer bottles, wine bottles, etc.”
The Owens Corning manufacturing plant in Santa Clara processes 25,500 pounds of glass per hour and about 65 percent of that is recycled glass.
In 2011, the company took things a step further and switched to a natural binding agent to hold the fiberglass together.
“What’s cool about that binder is that binder is 99.9 percent green,” said Glibota. “The three primary ingredients of it you can find on the back of a can of Coke. It’s a sugar, it’s lemon juice, it’s a starch and vegetable oil and that’s what’s making up our binder.”
The plant runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and while it uses a lot of energy, it’s also saving a lot of energy on the consumer end.
“For every one kilowatt of energy that we use to produce the product, it’s going to save a consumer eight kilowatts the first year alone,” said Glibota. “Even though it might look energy intensive for us, it’s saving eight times that on the consumer end.”
“It’s a great success story to say I am making something I have made now through the years, I have made a lot of advancements to make it even greener and greener and more importantly, I want to save as much energy as I can,” said Gerodimos.
Owens Corning will celebrate its 70th year anniversary in Santa Clara in October. The company hopes to host an open house around that time to show local businesses just how green its operations are.