Peterborough This Week
September 2, 2014
By: Sarah Frank

PETERBOROUGH — Even on days when the sun is hiding behind clouds, the main corridor at Lansdowne Place floods with natural light.

The oversized windows on the mall’s ceiling aren’t just there for looks – they were intentionally installed so the facility wouldn’t need to use a pile of energy on lighting. It’s one of many building features that helped Lansdowne Place become Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified. Years later, mall staff are continuously working to grow other, less obvious green initiatives to reduce their footprint on the environment, and their collaborative effort is pulling off huge results.

According to Mario Serracino, operations manager for the mall, their efforts to go green started off relatively small. The team decided to start an organic waste program, even though it isn’t currently offered by the City. They also swapped out paper towel or energy efficient hand dryers.

As time went on, the mall saw it’s overall operations costs steadily decline. Administration also began to notice there was more buy-in than push-back from mall tenants who wanted to support green initiatives.

Now, he says mall staff are always on the look out for opportunities to save on energy and waste whenever possible. Because for the mall, going green makes good business sense.

He’s sharing the mall success story as the City, County and two area First Nations prepare to embark on a two-year process to create climate change action plans. It’ll lay out and track the progress of various area-specific initiatives to reduce carbon emissions and will largely hinge on participation from residents and businesses.

READ MORE: 10 Municipalities, Two First Nations, One Common Goal

Mr. Serracino says businesses apprehensive about making some changes to lower the impact on the environment can rest assured: It’s not as hard as it seems and the payoff is well worth it.

Sure, going green has it’s benefits from a marketing standpoint, since customers are often looking for good corporate citizens, and the mall’s marketing director, Helen Edwards, doesn’t deny the fact. But a number of the mall’s green initiatives operate behind closed doors, including one of it’s proudest accomplishments — waste diversion.

Mall wide, there was 526 metric tones of waste produced in 2013. Through an annual, third-party waste audit, staff learned recycling diverted 62.7 per cent of that waste- a number that’s risen from 38 per cent in 2006. Compared to other Canadian shopping centres, the mall sits in the top 25 per cent  for waste diversion.

Largely to thank, is a behind-the-counter organic program in the food court.

The waste was previously hauled to an organic waste facility in Durham Region since Peterborough doesn’t have one of its own.

Mr. Serracino knew the effort was a little counter-productive, since trucks were traveling long distances to get rid of the waste.

So, the mall invested in its own bio-digester.

“That’s 22 garbage trucks that are not on the road,” Mr. Serracino says. “Twenty-two garbage tucks full that aren’t going into the landfill.”

He says the mall created an education program for tenants and all staff have jumped on board.

“It’s become a really big, competitive thing,” he says.

The bio-digester turns the waste into water that goes down the drain.

Mr. Serracino says eventually customers will have the options to separate out their organic waste.

Still, there are some green initiatives the mall has gone ahead with that involve customers, including taking paper towels out of washrooms in 2009.

“We talked about that for a long time,” Mr. Serracino says. “We thought we were going to get a lot of backlash. We went ahead and did it and we put signs up to fill in customers.”

The mall removed 892,000 sheets of paper towel from their waste that year.

The mall’s sprinkler system has also changed in recent years. It runs on real-time weather data and only waters when it’s needed, using 40 per cent less water than standard irritation systems.

Mr. Serracino says the key is to think outside the box.

“It opens your eyes to things you wouldn’t normally think of,” he says.

The initiatives work in the tenant’s favour, since they all pay a common-area maintenance fee, so if the energy bill goes up, they’re all responsible for a portion.

Businesses interested in taking action to make their operations more stainable can do a self-audit through Peterborough GreenUP’s green business program. It helps guide smaller businesses to make a variety of changes to reduce their carbon footprint.

Co-ordinator Cathy Mitchell says the program offers the tools businesses need to track their progress.

Unfortunately, she says the misconception that going green comes with a huge price tag is a barrier for many companies.

The opposite is true.

“After they see the energy savings over time, businesses will often call us and say ‘what else can we do?'”

She says cost is a huge benefit, but businesses should also consider the human impact of going green.

“If businesses have happier, healthier employees, that comes back three-fold,” she says.

The sunlight streaming down to the mall floor through skylights is a prime example.

“Doesn’t it just feel better?” Ms Edwards asks.