From recycling and composting to building groundbreaking, multi-million-dollar structures, local businesses and organizations are joining the sustainability movement.

When Alberici opened its headquarters at Page Avenue and Interstate 170 almost 10 years ago, it was one of only nine in the world to have achieved LEED Platinum status. Chairman of the board John Alberici says that although it had never done a ‘green’ building, the company wanted to create the project because it was a “groundbreaking building for St. Louis.”

The company converted an old manufacturing facility into an energy-efficient corporate office, complete with solar panels, a native prairie and wind turbine. Ninety-three percent of all construction and demolition waste from the building was diverted from the landfill; of the building materials used, more than 50 percent came from within a 500-mile radius, and almost 30 percent were recycled. Materials include cork, a bamboo-derived plywood called Plyboo and even recycled tires.

Alberici says employees and clients view the company differently now. “People latched onto the newness of what we had done,” he says. “Instead of being a 90-year-old company, it’s a 90-years-young company.”

Another local organization that is hoping to reach LEED Platinum certification is Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School (MICDS). In April, the school will officially open McDonell Hall and Brauer Hall, a new 52,000-square-foot building that will house science, technology, engineering and math classrooms as well as an assembly hall and greenhouse.

“We want to make sure the building itself serves as a teacher,” head of school Lisa Lyle says. “And we want students to be ever-more alert to the natural world, and their responsibilities to be good stewards of the earth.”

The building includes a storm-water filtration system that will use rainwater for the evaporative cooling systems and to flush toilets. Geothermal windows and photovaltic panels will be energy-efficient, while indigenous and butterfly-friendly plants and an outdoor classroom will allow students to learn from nature while still supporting wildlife. MICDS is inviting community members to explore the building and see hands-on demonstrations at the April 26 grand opening open house from 1 to 4 p.m.

While many businesses and organizations are taking monumental leaps to be more environmentally friendly, some companies are taking things one step at a time, changing habits and products as they go.

Crushed Red Urban Bake and Chop Shop manager Candace LaRocca oversees the sustainability mission at both the Clayton and Kirkwood locations. The restaurants are part of the Green Dining Alliance, which certifies the company “exceeds industry norms for sustainable restaurant management and operations.” Right now, Crushed Red is rated three out of four stars, but LaRocca says it is taking steps to hopefully receive four stars at its next audit in December. The pizza and salad cafe serves locally produced pizza dough and granola, as well as many USDA-organic options. The restaurant also uses real utensils and plates, composts food and recycles containers, making them a little-to-no-waste establishment.

Hotels are also becoming more environmentally friendly. Alper Oztok, GM at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis, says the hotel now uses biodegradable key cards, made out of birch wood that’s harvested from a sustainably managed forest in Scandinavia. The Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis is the first in the company to use these cards to replace traditional key cards, which are made of PVC and will never biodegrade. Oztok says the hotel also has installed charging stations in the parking garage for guests to use to charge their electric cars, with more on the way. The hotel also uses green-friendly chemicals in all dishwashers, serves food made with locally-produced ingredients and uses only all-natural product lines in the spa.

“It’s a huge component of our day-to-day life,” Oztok says. “It’s been received very well by our guests. The ones who experience it rave about it.”

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