Greener pastures

It’s not easy going green. That is, unless you have an ambitious group of high-school interns and the full support of Grinnell Mutual.

In 2017, these interns helped implement solar panels to the east of the building (you can’t miss ’em), LED lighting to replace fluorescent bulbs, and paper cups to take the place of foam in the cafeteria. Additionally, automatic light switches were installed in the conference center.

Interns launch project

Grinnell Mutual had been toying with the idea of installing the panels for a year or two, and the facilities team had received a few quotes, but the interns took the project and ran with it.

“It’s surprising that Grinnell Mutual empowered a team of interns to champion such a huge project,” said Jon Manatt, vice president of Internal Audit and Strategic Initiatives. “They researched everything and got all the information we needed to make it possible.”

So, what prompted the changes? Was it an altruistic effort to do our part to save the planet, or was it motivated by the bottom line? Turns out, it was a little bit of both. According to Vice President of Finance Chris Hansen, the switch to LED lighting will save the company an estimated $20,000 a year in energy costs. And the solar panels, which cost $800,000, will replace 25 percent of the building’s energy usage and are expected to save more than $1 million above the cost over the course of 25 years.

A win-win effort

Manatt said there are other benefits, too.

“On top of being a responsible corporate citizen and the financial savings, employees coming in today have a greater respect for companies that give back to the community and the planet.”

Hansen said that Grinnell Mutual took quotes from eight companies that install panels, but didn’t go with the cheapest option. Communication and the sense of partnership formed more quickly with the company that was ultimately chosen, he said — much in keeping with Grinnell Mutual’s philosophy of valuing close relationships.

Next up in the company’s plans for going green: Water fountains that allow for filling water bottles.

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