June 24, 2019

Our eco-friendly initiatives

Company news
Helping protect our environment

At Manitoba Blue Cross, eco-friendly initiatives start at the top.

Above our headquarters at 599 Empress Street in Winnipeg, the equipment penthouse holds the brains of the building.

This is where Building Engineer Russell Morden and Facility Maintenance Technician Wayne Hunt oversee the systems that keep Manitoba Blue Cross running efficiently.

"Everything is automatic and based on temperature sensors and pressure sensors," Russ says. "That's where a lot of the efficiencies happen."

Russ and Wayne point to the exhaust system as an example.

"We're always bringing fresh air into the building," Russ says. The building's air is completely exchanged every two hours, with 8,000 cubic feet of air brought in and out a minute, Wayne adds.

This seems simple enough when we're bringing in June's warm, early summer air — but what happens in the dead of winter?

That's where the heat recovery wheel comes in, Wayne says.

Inside the exhaust system, the wheel captures heat energy from the exhaust stream and introduces it to the fresh air stream, he says.

"The heat recovery wheel will warm arctic air to around zero degrees — just from the return air leaving the building that we've already heated," he adds.

The wheel can also be used to cool incoming hot air, and together with a glycol pump, it's easy and efficient to keep the building comfortable no matter the temperature outside, he says.

But the ventilation system is just one part of Manitoba Blue Cross's efficiency strategy, Wayne says.

"After our switch to LED lightbulbs, nearly every part of the old fluorescent system was recycled," he says, "including 6.5 tons of metal and enough cardboard to fill a room to the ceiling."

Even the plastic packaging on the new lights was recycled at a specialty depot in town, he adds.

A serious commitment to reducing waste can be found throughout the company, says Geralyn Cruzat, Facility Coordinator.

"We're constantly looking at new and different ways we can change our current procedures to be more environmentally friendly," she says.

This includes recycling bins located in all coffee stations and common areas. To reduce waste, each employee is given a reusable mug, and there are no single-use cups available in the coffee stations.

Waste reduction is especially important when it comes to sanitation, Geralyn says.

"Our daily cleaning supplies, like cloths and towels, are gently used by the cleaners and are cleaned for multiple use by our cleaning team," she says.

Where waste is unavoidable — as in the case of toilet paper and paper towels — the facility team uses only biodegradable materials, she adds.

While the organization makes a concerted effort to be eco-friendly in its processes, it also encourages employees to take their efforts outwards, Geralyn says.

"Every year, we participate in the Omand's Creek Clean Up, allowing our employees and their families to get involved in cleaning up our community," she says. "The cleanup always has a great turnout, and the collective help goes a very long way."

Additionally, dozens of employees participate in the Commuter Challenge every year, choosing to ditch their cars for more active or public transportation. In 2018, 32 employees participated, saving 152.54 litres of fuel and 330.33 kg of CO2 emissions.

To learn more about how to bring greener initiatives to your workplace, visit the Green Action Centre.

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