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With help, Moorhead business aims to be 'the most sustainable little malt plant in the world'

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MOORHEAD, Minn.—The Minnesota Waste Wise Foundation has been providing safe, cost-saving alternatives for environmental sustainability to Minnesota businesses since 1994.

The nonprofit organization is a partnership between the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the state of Minnesota that provides sustainability consulting, project funding assistance, energy benchmarking and more.

Its supporters, which come from a variety of Minnesota counties as well as energy companies, work together to provide businesses with energy rebates and grants for more energy-efficient materials.

Waste Wise Executive Director Jill Curran says the program has two main goals: "Zero waste, on the waste front, and net zero energy on the energy front. Not many people get there. Also on the energy front (is) using renewable energy as much as possible ... to offset what you're using in electric or natural gas."

Curran visited the Busch Agricultural Resources building in Moorhead on Monday, June 11. She toured the location to see if she can improve how the company distributes its waste and how they can access grants or rebates for energy-saving materials

Anheuser-Busch has a goal to be 100 percent sustainable by 2025, so Curran plays a huge part in the success of the Moorhead location in meeting that goal.

"I would like to be the most sustainable little malt plant in the world. Programs like the Chamber has and the state of Minnesota has, along with the vendors that provide us power, (are) programs to get us there," said Busch's Moorhead Plant Director Alan Slater.

"Personally as a director, I am proud of the progress we've made, and I would like to make sure that by the end of the year with the new programs, we could at least be 100 percent recyclable."

Slater sees businesses collaborating with Waste Wise as a shift toward a more sustainable future.

"I think it's a collaborative effort, and it starts to be routine. You see the sustainability in the messaging with small examples, such as the signage and the type of container. All of a sudden, you see routine with your employees, or if you change jobs or visit another industry, it just becomes a second language," said Slater.

The impact has been felt in other Minnesota businesses, as well.

For example, The St. Paul Hotel worked with Waste Wise and several other companies to improve its organic recycling program. According to Minnesota Waste Wise, "The hotel has ... realized a savings of $5,000 in waste hauling costs in the first six months of the program. Improved training and right-sizing of the hotel's single stream recycling service has also increased diversion rates for these materials by an estimated 156,675 lbs/year. All told, The Saint Paul Hotel is now achieving a 90 percent recycling rate. It's also estimated that the organics diversion and recycling program has reduced carbon emissions by 159 metric tons, which is equivalent to taking 410 cars off the road."

Curran just wants businesses to know that resources are out there.

"It can be pretty ominous trying to think about doing some of this stuff for businesses because they are so busy trying to keep their door open and pay their employees. But there are a lot of resources out there to help, so you can always start with us. And if we're not able to serve you for whatever reason, we can find someone who will," said Curran.

For more information on Waste Wise, its partners and application information, you can visit its website at www.mnwastewise.org.