Going green means more than tea for Fairfield's Bigelow
For a company that ships 1.7 billion tea bags every year, Fairfield-based Bigelow Tea tries to leave no trace behind.
The family-owned company stresses sustainability and the environment, CEO Cindi Bigelow told a lunch crowd at the Come Together for Business Expo 2014 in Trumbull on Tuesday, even when it might not make sense from a strictly business perspective.
"We're a little crazy when it comes to going green at Bigelow Tea," she said.
Bigelow, who has run the company since 2005, cited a number of initiatives that have cut the company's use of materials, including reducing the thickness of the cardboard boxes the tea ships in and of the foil the company uses to keep its tea fresh. Instead of using shrink wrap on pallets, tea boxes are shipped with reusable rubber bands.
"Some of that saves money, some of it doesn't," she said. "When employees see that your mission is for something greater, you can get a real commitment."
Bigelow Tea is the nation's largest specialty tea company with about $150 million in annual sales.
Among her proudest environmental accomplishments is the dramatic cut in waste sent to landfills, Bigelow said. More than 96 percent of waste at its three facilities nationwide is reused, recycled or used as compost, she said.
Efforts to make the company greener extend to employees. Bigelow's Fairfield facility is next to Metro-North's Fairfield Metro station, and about 10 percent of workers ride the train every day. Solar panels on the roof account for 15 percent of the plant's electricity, and changing over to LED lights and motion sensors has cut energy use, she said.
Bigelow said employee morale is improved by company environmental efforts. "Put together a green team," she said. "Pay employees to do something nice for the environment."
The key, she said, is to take these steps for the right reasons. "You'll find that the reaction you get really makes a big difference," she said.
The expo was organized by the Greater Valley, Bridgeport, Stratford and Trumbull chambers of commerce, and the Bridgeport Regional Business Council. A series of seminars and networking activities followed Bigelow's speech.
It was held at Insports Trumbull, a 108,000-square-foot sports recreation center that gets more than 60 percent of its energy from solar panels.
Bigelow, who represents the third generation of company leadership in her family, said environmental efforts transcend day-to-day business. "We try to ask ourselves, `How are we making the world a little bit of a better place?' " she said.