2013 Solar Decathlon

The 2013 Solar Decathlon is underway! The U.S. Department of Energy’s biennial event challenges college teams to design and build an energy-efficient, affordable and attractive home. All this and the team must prove it’s actually livable!

Twenty university-led teams are participating in this year’s challenge. One team comes as far away as the Czech Republic! Czech Technical University’s AIR House is geared for empty-nesters nearing retirement. Stanford’s Start.Home focuses on affordable ultra-efficiency with their innovative and intuitive automated technology. Andersen donated our 100 Series windows and one of our large folding patio doors to Stanford’s team. Follow the progress here on their blog!

Stay tuned for more Solar Decathlon posts this month!

Corporate Sustainability Reporting, Materiality – Report what’s Relevant

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is the world’s most widely recognized and respected organization offering sustainability reporting guidelines. The non-profit organization released their updated G4 version in Amsterdam earlier this year. One of the most notable changes in the new version pertains to “materiality”. The previous G3.0 and G3.1 versions required companies to report on a wide range of indicators, perhaps not even relevant to a company’s operations. The new G4 guidelines focus on materiality – in other words, less breadth more depth. 

The latest G4 version allows for smaller companies to participate in sustainability reporting where previous reporting was too daunting and irrelevant to their operations. Specific business violations and human rights issues vary globally. Some offenses are more prevalent in certain regions than others. The latest G4 version encourages organizations to drill down into issues that are most relevant and material to their operations.

Also noteworthy is the elimination of the A, B or C application level. The intent of this approach had been to encourage compliance to the GRI guidelines. In actuality however, the application level conjured misleading assumptions of reports. For example, an “A” report simply indicated a company’s thoroughness of reporting – touching on many of the indicators outlined in the GRI guide. However, an “A” report was often mistakenly perceived by readers as identifying a superbly sustainable company – particularly in the United States where our culture utilizes the A, B, C method for reporting academic success.

Sustainability reporting is a journey – continually improving performance and transparency. Andersen Corporation is proud to utilize the GRI Framework in our Sustainability Reporting work, which is supported by knowledge obtained from the GRI Certified Sustainability Reporting Course and practical experience. Our 2013 Corporate Sustainability Report can be viewed here.

Andersen Hosts Forest Stewardship Council Meeting

Last month, Andersen hosted the first ever Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), U.S. Lake States, certificate holders meeting at our Bayport, Minn. facility. Forty FSC® Certified land managers, loggers and timber product-related folks travelled from the five state area to participate. The all-day meeting was chock full of rich presentations and discussions. The session wrapped up with a Logger Chain-of-Custody panel consisting of Department of Natural Resource (DNR) representatives from Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, the executive director of The Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association Henry Schienebeck and others.

Andersen supports FSC’s mission to promote environmentally-sound, socially-beneficial and economically-prosperous management of the world’s forests and has been FSC Chain-of-Custody certified since 2008 (FSC-C016636). The organization’s vision to “meet our current needs for forest products without compromising the health of the world’s forests for future generations,” aligns with our company values and commitment to sustainability.

The Forest Stewardship Council currently operates in over 80 countries. In the United States there are over 35 million acres of FSC certified forests and 3,500 companies FSC Chain-of-Custody certified. Over 40,000 American family forest owners are FSC certified. According to FSC, the world’s forests currently store 283 billion tons of carbon in their biomass. Visit their website to learn more about the world’s forests.

Eco-Village Community

A field of bright orange covered Habitat for Humanity’s Eco-Village jobsite in River Falls, Wis. last week. Over 60 Andersen employees volunteered 1,200 hours at this year’s blitz build. Stormy late spring weather spared us as intermittent showers and power outages affected surrounding communities. Swinging hammers, raising walls and building camaraderie over five days made for a productive week at the St. Croix Valley affiliate’s nationally recognized Eco-Village neighborhood.

Eco-Village is quickly becoming a national showcase for affordable sustainable building. When completed, a total of 18 LEED® for Homes Platinum houses will sit on five acres of transformed greyfield site. The solar paneled homes, built with 14-inch thick structural insulated panels (SIPs) and energy efficient Andersen windows, will produce as much energy as they use, resulting in a net-zero energy home. Rain water captured in cisterns yields a 50 percent reduction in potable water usage. Also, 90 percent of construction waste is diverted from landfills.

In addition to reducing environmental impacts, this project promotes the social aspects of sustainable living. Drastically reduced utility bills resulting from energy efficient envelops provides additional discretionary funds available for groceries, education and other necessities. A community educational center, walking trails and edible gardens promote the human and social aspects of a vibrant community. Read an inclusive list of the sustainable attributes of Eco-Village here.

Riding for a Cure

Kurt Hillstrom, Deb Moe and Janine Crotty from Team Andersen

Kurt Hillstrom, Deb Moe and Janine Crotty from Team Andersen

Team Andersen completed another successful weekend-long bike ride to fight Multiple Sclerosis (MS), last week. Nearly a hundred Andersen employees, friends and family members pedaled their bicycles 150 miles over two days partaking in the MS150 fundraiser. Riders covered 75 miles on Saturday beginning in Duluth, Minn. and staying the night in Hinckley. They continued another 75 miles on Sunday, ending near St. Paul, Minn. The first day was perfect bicycling weather; the second was best suited for testing out raingear!

Andersen Corporation has supported the MS Society for over ten years. Through corporate sponsorships a large team presence and volunteer support opportunities the company and employees jointly donate time, money and physical exertion towards a great cause. This year Team Andersen donned sharp new jerseys and the company continued to support the many water stations along the 150 mile route. What’s so special about the ride? In addition to benefiting the Minnesota MS Society chapter, it’s seeing people push themselves to reach limits they may not have thought possible.

Bicycling is part of Andersen’s culture. With 66 acres of manufacturing under one roof at our Bayport plant, dozens of yellow work bikes provide fast transportation for supervisors and maintenance crews to quickly get around the building. Perhaps one of these years Team Andersen will ride matching yellow work bikes on the MS150!

Freshwater Hops!

Absolute Gruv at Summit Brewery

An evening filled of freshwater hops and live music – benefiting The Nature Conservancy (TNC) – is a tough bill to beat! Summit Brewing Company of St. Paul, Minn., local master of handcrafted micro-brews, donated its Ratskeller Tap Room to host the Conservancy’s first ever Freshwater Hops event. The event was in celebration of the Mississippi River, which flows just below the brewery.

The event highlighted TNC’s freshwater program, where the 47,500 square-mile Mississippi River Headwaters north of the Twin Cities metropolitan area is a priority focus. Efforts to keep “healthy waters healthy” begin by protecting the forestland around the headwaters. Securing these waters not only ensures safe drinking water for local residents, but enhances recreational opportunities, protects jobs and provides refuge for wildlife. Moreover, making the investment now avoids future high costs of water purification if water sources degrade.

Summit Brewery proved to be the perfect venue as it is located along the banks of the river and understands the value of preserving fresh water supplies as well as prairies for hops. The brewery recently implemented a Bottle Line Rinse Water Reclamation system resulting in an 85 percent reduction in water use per case. Learn more about Summit’s water conservation efforts here.

Local restaurants Cossetta’s, Gandhi Mahal, Bulldog and BreadSmith donated food while the local band Absolute Gruv donated musical talent. Freshwater Hops wonderfully celebrated the Mississippi River, fresh hops and The Nature Conservancy.

2nd Annual USGBC MN Chapter IMPACT Conference

The Minnesota Chapter of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) held its 2nd Annual IMPACT Conference this week in Bloomington, MN. Entitled Building a Better Tomorrow, the event offered educational presentations for architects, builders and others working to improve performance and lessen environmental impacts within the building industry. The event was held at the recently opened, impressive Radisson Blu – a destination hotel located steps from the popular Mall of America. It is the first hotel in the state striving for LEED Certification.

The conference began with keynote speaker David Lehrer of The Center for the Built Environment, UC Berkeley, presenting Changing the Rules: Innovative Occupant-Responsive Buildings. Additional break-out sessions offered engaging topics around resilient landscapes and insider tips on the Leadership on Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification process. Highly anticipated results from the chapter’s study, Describing Operational Energy Performance for Minnesota’s LEED Certified Buildings, were released as well. Attendees received a hard copy of the results which will be posted on the USGBC MN website in June. Watch this blog for summary details later this summer.

The day ended with a tour of the new hotel. The striking, glacier-like white sculptures hugging the escalators were contrasted by the warmth emitted from reclaimed barn wood blanketing the lounge. Attendees were given some of the first sneak peeks into the luxury suits on the top floor, offering stunning skyline views.

Employees Volunteer for Junior Achievement

It’s that time of year when our employees step out of their regular routine and assume the role of a teacher for a day. Andersen employees from around the Bayport, MN area bring real-life work experience into the classroom as they volunteer for Junior Achievement. Engineers, accountants and customer service representatives are among the employees who put their daily work aside to teach elementary students skills that can prepare them for the future.

The volunteers spend half the day with students following curriculum provided by Junior Achievement. Subjects range from the basics of earning and saving money to global commerce and international trade. Each concept is followed up with a related activity keeping students and volunteers engaged. It’s often hard to determine who’s having more fun, and who’s learning the most: students or volunteers!

The Junior Achievement Bureau officially started in 1920 although supporting efforts date back to 1916. Theodore Vail, president of American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T) and co-founder of Junior Achievement said in 1918 that what the country needed was “…to teach the growing generations to realize that thrift and economy, coupled with industry, are as necessary now as they were in past generations.” Andersen Corporation has supported the efforts of Junior Achievement for decades. The format and structure has evolved with businesses; their mission – to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy.

My Place in Nature

The Nature Conservancy recently hosted an amazing evening for guests to reconnect with their own place in nature. The Green Tie Affair celebrates the conservation of our amazing natural world. Incredible images reflected just that as featured speaker and internationally renowned photographer Jim Brandenburg wowed the crowd with environmental wonders beautifully captured in time. Brandenburg was accompanied by the evening’s featured host Cathy Wurzer, the endearing host of Minnesota Public Radio’s Morning Edition and co-host of Twin Cities Public Television’s Almanac.

Stream flow

The evening’s dinner program was preceded by a reception luring folks along an urban trek. Interactive activities offered engaging opportunities to learn about The Nature Conservancy’s key biomes of interest – forest, water and prairie. Guests were able to experience the underground world of the prairie, see live forest raptors and get their hands wet in a simulated stream flow! Guests had an opportunity to bid on silent auction items while enjoying tasty appetizers and mingling among friends. 

 However the big ticket items, yielding the greatest fundraising dollars, were offered during the action packed live auction following dinner. Winning bidders walked away with a Bison Experience, Lake Superior Weekend, Caribbean Adventure and more! The competition was high, which is good for fundraising and exciting even for those not bidding.

Interactive underground prairie exhibit

A Special Earth Day at Andersen

We had a very special Earth Day celebration this week. Employees were invited to listen and learn as Jim Weglewski, director of Corporate Quality and Sustainability, touched on some of our unique initiatives around sustainability. Weglewski also unveiled our second annual Corporate Sustainability Report.

However, the topic garnering the most interest and warming the hearts of employees was the introduction of our new feathery neighbors. Nestled high atop a sturdy white pine, located just steps from our manufacturing plant in Bayport, MN, sits the home of a majestic pair of American Bald Eagles – proud new parents of two fuzzy and rapidly growing eaglets.

A live web cam, available internally to employees, was launched at the Earth Day event. Now all employees can monitor daily activity within the nest and watch the eaglets grow!

A panel of raptor experts joined the event to introduce us to the new residents and help us learn to be good neighbors. Jennifer Vieth, executive director, Carpenter Nature Center, Andy Weaver, master licensed falconer and field biology teacher at Stillwater Area schools, and Jim Evanoff of Yellowstone National Park answered questions and educated us on what to expect from (and how to respect) our new friends. The experts explained that in choosing the location for their new home, the eagles are confirming the abundant food supply available in the St. Croix River – a few flaps away. Once a new nest is established with the birth of eaglets, chances are good they will return year after year, sometimes for decades. Eagles’ nests can be active for 25 to 30 years.

One parent tends the nest and eaglets as the other continuously searches for food and sticks to add to their already large nest. While finishing this post, the streaming cam showed the returning eagle bearing fish for the young. Two fuzzy heads popped up above the ridge of the nest, eager to gobble the goods.