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T.S. Designs Focusing on People, Planet, and Profitability

(May 2006) posted on Tue May 02, 2006

Discover why the company decided to go green and what actions it's taken to make eco-friendly screen pritning sustainable.

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By Lori Leaman

Here's one example. Several years ago, T.S. Designs stopped buying Styrofoam cups and disposable straws and asked its employees to bring their own ceramic mugs. Meanwhile, the company researched the coffee industry and learned that an overabundance of coffee in the world market was hurting coffee farmers. In response, T.S. Designs stopped buying coffee from the large chain stories and began purchasing Fair Trade Certified organic coffee to ensure that farmers receive a fair price for their products and earn a living wage. This small change costs the company $150 extra per year, but the higher quality of the coffee and the benefits of the Fair Trade system make the cost worthwhile.

Another example of sustainability is the company's co-op thrift store where employees can donate good, useable products for other employees to take. T.S. Designs also decided to transform the grassy areas at the facility's entrance into a native, natural landscape (Figure 3). The change greatly reduces the need to mow grass, which in turn reduces noise and air pollution. The company uses damaged cardboard to press the grass and weeds down. The cardboards covered with mulch, including leaves that the city of Burlington removes from its streets, to hold wildflower seeds and water. The cardboard eventually decomposes.

T.S. Designs also started compost piles, where coffee grounds, filters, leaves, grass clippings, and fruit are dumped. The decomposition produces nutrient-rich soil for the wildflower landscape areas. The company's co-op organic garden (Figure 4) not only serves as an area to produce fresh vegetables, but it also gives employees the opportunity to spend time together outside of work.

A much more visible example of T.S. Designs' commitment to sustainability is one that the people of Burlington and any visitors to the company can't miss—a gigantic solar-tracking array installed on the southeastern side of the property (Figure 5). The system is equipped with three dozen 51-watt Kyocera solar panels mounted on a Wattsun tracking system. It supplies approximately 2% of the building's power and is used for critical systems, such as phones and computer file servers. The solar array costs the company 45¢/kWh, as opposed to 7¢/kWh charged by Duke Power. So why does T.S. Designs pay more than six times as much for the solar power?


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