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Going green isn't just for the Eagles: Area workplaces embrace sustainability

The Philadelphia Eagles take 'bleeding green' so seriously, they lead the NFL in solar energy production, promote sustainability, and gave birth to the modern movement of green professional sports.

Lincoln Financial Field solar wing facing I-95
Lincoln Financial Field solar wing facing I-95Read moreDrew Hallowell / Philadelphia Eagles

Many companies have greened up their acts in ways that aren't readily apparent – their lighting, for instance.

And then there's the Philadelphia Eagles. They have 11,108 solar panels covering an entire side of their building, Lincoln Financial Field, and over some of the parking lot.  The Eagles say it's the largest solar power plant in the NFL, producing 40 percent of the energy the stadium uses. On breezy days, 14 wind turbines atop the upper levels – the things that look a bit like giant egg beaters – generate more energy.

The Eagles divert virtually all of their waste from landfills, said Norman Vossschulte, the team's Director of Fan Experience.  Post-consumer food scraps go to a Montgomery County composting operation, Two Particular Acres. Other waste is sent to a facility that separates trash and burns it for energy.

"We're constantly striving," said Vossschulte.  One of the newest projects: Two large water-infused machines – digesters – that churn waste and reduce it to a mush safe enough to be sent into the sewer system.

Ever since launching its "Go Green" campaign in 2003, the Philadelphia Eagles have been reinventing and tweaking nearly every aspect of the business, from the stadium's cups and cutlery (compostable) to the chemicals they use (or, rather, don't use) on the field. The team has led not only the region's businesses, but also the nation's professional sports teams. The Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental group, has credited the Eagles with giving birth to the modern movement of green professional sports.

They're doing it not only to save money, but also to make a point. To encourage fans to do likewise, they tout their achievements on stadium posters like this one: "The only water we waste is sweat."

The stadium is LEED-certified, a sustainability standard of the U.S. Green Building Council. True, it has only achieved a silver rating, as opposed to gold or platinum, but given that the stadium was designed and built before a lot of green practices were even thought of, the Eagles are proud of it.

The Eagles also take their greening efforts on the road, in a sense. For every away game, including this year's Super Bowl, they calculated the carbon emissions associated with the travel and planted enough trees – 5,900 since 2007 – to compensate.

Vossschulte's advice to other companies: "Don't just jump into the latest and greatest, but really do your research. A few years ago, waterless urinals were a big craze. So we asked a lot of questions. How do you clean them? Well, you have to clean them with water. What about the cartridge that captures the ammonia? Is it recyclable? No, it's not."  Eventually, an engineer came forward with a small, inexpensive rubber flange that could be installed on the urinals. With it, they use half the water.

Many companies in the region are also greening their buildings and practices, adopting recycling practices, sourcing local materials and installing energy-efficient lighting.

Perhaps not surprisingly, health care companies are embracing sustainability; climate change and other environmental problems have health effects.

Among other green initiatives, AmerisourceBergen, a global healthcare solutions company, has made energy efficiency investments across its network of distribution centers. The company provides car charging stations for associates at its U.S. headquarters in Chesterbrook. It recycles paper and plastic. Over-the counter medical products are donated to communities in need.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America has an efficient co-generation plant that provides much of its Philadelphia hospital's electricity and heat. In addition, a green roof was installed above the operating suites.

Tabula Rasa HealthCare of Moorestown repurposed an old building into what its vice president of technology operations Jason Nyzio calls a "21st century environmentally conscious workplace." The LEED-certified building includes low-flow plumbing fixtures and efficient lighting.

The Bala Cynwyd environmental law firm, Manko, Gold, Katcher & Fox, has long focused on sustainability. Those yellow legal pads were replaced by ones with recycled content years ago.

But when they moved to new headquarters on City Avenue, a new world of green opportunities opened up. "When you've got a whole new space to work with, you're not just working around the edge," said Brenda Hustis Gotanda, a partner who leads the firm's sustainability practice group. "You can start from the core."

In a way, it began with the location – within walking distance of public transportation. Showers and bike racks also encourage alternatives to the automobile.

Inside, glass walls opened the interior to daylighting. It not only reduced the energy demand, as expected, but it also promoted collegiality simply because people see each other more.

Nearly all eligible equipment is rated Energy Star, a federal program promoting energy efficiency. Low-flow plumbing fixtures lessen water usage. For meetings, the firm uses real dishes instead of disposables. Even the vending machines have motion sensors. In off hours, the lighting blinks out.

Why? "We wanted to demonstrate market leadership. We wanted to reduce our environmental impacts. We wanted to promote health and wellbeing. And we wanted to reduce operating costs," said Gotanda. At the moment, she was talking from Hawaii, taking advantage of the firm's telecommuting policy.

In the first year, MGKF realized a 47 percent savings in its energy bill, even though the new space was 10 percent larger. In the end, the office was awarded a LEED gold certification.

IMC Construction went through a similar transformation of its Malvern headquarters, also garnering LEED gold recognition. It, too, went for daylighting, energy-efficient bulbs and low-flow plumbing fixtures. It provides priority parking for energy-efficient vehicles.

Even small companies have found major ways to green their operations. With 117 125 employees, Havertown's Nolan Painting uses only low- or zero-VOC paints that do not contribute to indoor air pollution. Partially filled paint cans are a no-no for landfills, so Nolan frequently offers to remove up to 20 old paint cans from homes where the interior paint job totals $1,000 or more.  When possible, the old paint is donated to groups such as Habitat for Humanity. Otherwise, it's treated with a hardening material so it can be disposed of in an environmentally safe manner.

The way owner Kevin Nolan sees things, "it's nice to have a small business because you can really put your values into it. This just happened to be a value of mine. After I watched the movie, An Inconvenient Truth, the next day I decided to see what changes we could make."