Going Green to Save Green

CARLETON — High up in the greenhouse, shade cloths that partially screen the sun are incorporated into the roofing panels and are so effective at retaining thermal heat that in the winter the growers can turn off the heating system.

On the floor, all the water that makes its way there is channeled and recycled. And in another area of Four Star Greenhouse, parts of the roof open up to let in natural light and fresh air while reducing the need for electrical fans.

“It’s free cooling,” said Dan Foster, site manager at the sprawling greenhouse at 1015 Indian Trail Rd. near Carleton. “And the whole site uses recycled water. Anything that hits the floor is recycled.”

On Monday a group of legislators, consultants and business associates took a bus tour to the La-Z-Boy Headquarters and Four Star Greenhouse to view examples of how cleanenergy is being incorporated in everyday operations.

Led by State Reps. Bill LaVoy, D-Monroe, and Jason Sheppard, R-Temperance, the local tour was intended to show specific examples of renewable energy in use. With Michigan’s clean energy policy set to expire this year,legislators in Lansing are discussing how they can convince businesses and industry to commit to clean energy.

“It’s time to re-evaluate the Michigan Clean Power Plan,” Rep. LaVoy said. “I think there’s room for incentives. But it takes a commitment; it absolutely does.”

Liesl Eichler Clark of 5 Lakes Energy, a clean energy and consulting firm, said the examples of renewable energy she witnessed were impressive.

“This greenhouse is a great example of recycling and how to implement clean energy,” Ms. Eichler Clark said. “ They’re doingit for the right reasons: They’re saving energy and saving money.”

Charlotte Jameson, policy manager for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, said it’s vital for legislators to create policies that encourage companies to invest in renewable energy. Protecting Michigan’s natural resources should be a priority, she added, and some of the practicesin place at the greenhouse were impressive.

“This is a real-world example,” Ms. Jameson said while on the tour of the greenhouse. “And it’s about our legislators taking up bills that dictate further use of renewable energy.”

The tour traveled on a 30-foot Lake Erie Transit diesel-electric hybrid bus. LET General Manager Mark J. Jagodzinski told the group that the hybrids are 30 percent better in fuel economy and produce 90 percent less particulates. Of the 30 buses in the LET fleet, six are hybrids.

“I thought it was a great chance to see how Monroe County businesses conserve energy,” Rep. LaVoy said after the tour. “Reducing energy use is the right thing to do.”