sustainability takes center stage in neo, tackles biz bottom lines

Sustainability is gaining traction throughout the region, in public policy and everyday applications -- particularly in the world of business both big and small.

Just last week, the Cuyahoga County Executive's office announced that former Ohio House of Representative member Michael Foley will helm the newly created Department of Sustainability, which according to a statement will "(promote) economic development to support businesses that provide environmentally sustainable products and services; (educate) the public about environmentally sustainable practices; and (collaborate) with businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies to develop programs incorporating environmentally sustainable methods into accepted practice."

Area businesses, however, are already incorporating policies to that end, which was evidenced last month during a roundtable discussion on how business is reacting to climate change. Cleveland State University's Center for Sustainable Business Practices hosted the event, which included the City of Cleveland, the small business Kalman & Pabst (K&P) and corporate giant Parker Hannifin.
<span class="content-image-text">Mike Wasserman</span>Mike Wasserman 
"I think we felt like we were in very good company," says K&P co-owner Mike Wasserman, who spoke at the roundtable, noting that his 12-employee business in MidTown was a nice contrast to Parker Hannifin, which employs some 57,500 people in 50 countries. "They have a different perspective."

The centerpiece of K&P's sustainability practices is a 137-panel rooftop solar array, which generates between 25 and 30 percent of of the studio’s electricity. That savings, coupled with $17,000 in solar renewable energy credits the company has garnered courtesy of the array, which was installed in 2010, have resulted in a three and a half-year payback for the installation.

Per Wasserman, future green plans for the 18,000 square-foot commercial photography studio, with its three working kitchens, include the installation of a system that collects and reuses the property's rainwater run-off and expanding usage of LED lighting. Currently, fluorescent and LED bulbs make up more than 75 percent of K&P's lighting.

Wasserman is also interested in smart technology, which monitors employees' behavior and controls energy systems accordingly.

"I'm really interested in the technology side of things," he says, stipulating that any green improvements have to "make sense for the bottom line as well."

During the roundtable, Parker Hannifin's Dennis Wolcott, resource conservation and energy programs manager, cited the company's collective "resource conservation" as resulting in an overall savings of $160 million since 2004.

Matthew Gray of Cleveland's Office of Sustainability stated at the forum that the Midwest region emits 20 percent more greenhouse gasses per capita than the national average. Hence, efforts from huge corporations like Parker Hannifin and small local outfits such as K&P are equally important and impactful.

"Were always looking to do something—and it might be a little thing," says Wasserman, "but those little things compound and build into big things."

Erin O'Brien
Erin O'Brien

About the Author: Erin O'Brien

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others. The sixth generation northeast Ohioan is also author of The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts. Visit for complete profile information.