Recycling, solar panels, LEED certification and more: how businesses and government agencies are going green by going green

CHICAGO (WLS) — There are significant savings, environmental and financial, for businesses and public buildings from going green.

Environmental practices like mega solar power, giant batteries, and new ways to recycle are helping businesses and government agencies make money on efforts to reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change.

Now, building owners are hoping that more individual consumers can take some of the same steps and enjoy the same benefits.

Family-owned Abt Electronics in Glenview takes polystyrene that would otherwise be in a landfill and melts it down, using it to make frames, building materials for homes and more.

“Everything we do here is cost-effective and environmentally friendly,” said 85-year-old company co-owner Mike Abt.

After earning a degree in biology, he asked his family if he could make their business greener and more profitable at the same time. Abt Electronics recycles 95% of its own waste every year.

“We recycle cardboard, paper, plastic, refrigerators, electronics — everything — all metal. And that’s what this place is for,” Abt said.

When they deliver new products, they take the waste with them by recycling old appliances, electronic parts, mattresses and more from customers.

“Here you’ll see stainless steel; we have copper and it’s about $4.50 a pound. Other than that, it’s compressors. Those are a bit higher in value,” Abt explained. .

Abt recycles 20 million pounds of materials annually, saving 2.2 million pounds of cardboard and paper, over 350,000 pounds of polystyrene, over 13 million pounds of appliances, and 1, 4 million pounds of electronics from landfills.

Their fleet of delivery trucks run on biodiesel, forklifts run on clean new battery power, and forced heating in warehouse entrances saves energy.
But the real money makers are above, soaking up the sun.

“We have 1,500 solar panels, and then on our new roof we add 6,000 panels. This will generate enough for us to run 80 homes in a year. This will generate half of our electricity in the summer,” Abt said.

A Tesla booster station stores energy and then can be sold back to ComEd, earning money.

“We make about $150,000 a year,” Abt said.

Government buildings do many of the same things for the same rewards.

“We don’t have an energy bill here,” said Oak Park Park District Superintendent Chris Lindgren.

When the village needed to expand its recreation centre, the community and council wanted it to be environmentally friendly.

“We create as much energy onsite as the building uses on an annual basis,” Lindgren said.

This qualifies the New Buildings Institute’s Carroll Center for Zero Energy Verification. The designation comes with a grant, which enabled the suburb to install a geothermal cooling system and triple-glazed insulated windows.
The 70 solar panels on the roof and the solar panel canopy create more clean energy than the leisure center needs in the summer.

“This clean energy is pushed back onto the grid and used by neighboring properties,” Lindgren said. “Then we reserve ComEd’s credit, so we can basically get our credit back when we need it.”

In 2022, Illinois tied with California for first place for buildings with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, meaning those buildings are LEED certified.

Some of these buildings include the Wrigley Building and the McCormick Place expansion. Here is a complete list of other LEED buildings in our area.

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