Environment success story comes clean in Chicago

A rendering of the completed greenhouse atop the Method factory.

A rendering of the completed greenhouse atop the Method factory.

With the alarming news that even a two-degree Celsius rise in temperature could mean a rise of 10 feet in sea levels over the next 50 years, let’s look at some good news in the environmental arena.

In Chicago, an eco-friendly soap manufacturer is planning the world’s biggest rooftop greenhouse, according to a story in Business Insider. The manufacturing plant is owned by company called Method, and it already has a good environmental track record.

“This is no ordinary factory — the $30 million space is equipped with three solar ‘trees’ that move with the sun and a 230-foot-tall wind turbine,” the story says. “Combined, the on-site renewable energy sources generate a third of all energy for the building.”

Now the Method factory will have a 75,000-square-foot greenhouse that is set to be fully planted this fall. That’s bigger than both a city block and a football field. “Once it’s up and running, the greenhouse will produce a number of different kinds of pesticide-free greens, including kale, arugula, bok choy, and butterhead lettuce,” according to the story. “Gotham Greens [the company building the greenhouse] will distribute the produce to local stores, restaurants, and farmer’s markets.”

The Method factory is already the industry’s first LEED-certified plant. The company, with headquarters in San Francisco, manufactures a variety of home cleaning products, hand and body washes, laundry detergents, and dish cleaners — all with non-toxic ingredients. Method also uses recycled plastic in its packaging, both post-consumer plastic and discarded plastic collected from beaches in Hawaii.

Perhaps the best part is that the manufacturing plant, which just opened a few months ago, is on Chicago’s South Side in the historic Pullman neighborhood and thus has job openings for workers in a place otherwise known as a job desert. Indeed, the company’s website about the new plant describes it as a “south side soapbox.”

I’m sure the products are more expensive than conventional cleaning products, but a quick check with the website’s store locator shows that the products are available locally — around me, anyway. When a company is willing to do that much to help the environment and employ people on Chicago’s South Side, which has neighborhoods with sky-high unemployment rates, it’s worth it to pay a little extra to save a job and help save the planet.

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