Sunday, July 17, 2011

Building green

Chicago is still known as the "hog butcher of the world", at least to people above a certain age. The Union Stock Yards were one of the engines that drove this city's economy for over a century. They disappeared back in the 1970s, but there are still vestiges of them in the neighborhood, in a handful of small meatpacking companies that still operate, along with their smell.

While driving past the site of the old stockyards the other day, I came across this unusual sight for the middle of the city:

The wind turbine is part of the new home of Testa Produce INC, a fruit and vegetable distributor that has been around for almost a century. The facility just opened this year although the turbine has not yet been put to use. It will be interesting to see how much noise the thing generates when its blades start to spin, I suspect we'll be seeing a lot more of them in the near future.

It may seem a little ironic that a fruit and vegetable company would locate in the heart of what used to be the carnivore capital of the world. Not to mention building a Green plant in the heart of an industry known for its brutal working conditions and horrific environmental record. They used to say that the stockyards were so efficient, they used every part of the animal "except the squeal." That was not true as the effluent runoff from the plants into the South Branch of the Chicago River known not so affectionately as Bubbly Creek, testified.

But there it is, a windmill serving as a beacon proudly advertising the company, and its commitment to building an environmentally friendly facility. The soon to be electric generating wind turbine is just the beginning. Here from the company website is a list of the green features of their building.

There are some who would view this effort with cynicism. They see the Green Movement as nothing more than a bunch of tree huggers standing in the way of development and progress. Global warming caused by human beings emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere they say, is merely a theory, nobody knows for sure what the true cause is for this very real dilemma . That may be true. On the other hand, nobody knew for sure there was a direct link between cigarette smoking and cancer until fairly recently either, but people with any shred of common sense have always known that sucking smoke into your lungs certainly can't be good for you.

In the same way, we don't need scientific proof to understand that polluting the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the ground in which we grow our food, can't be a good thing either, and we need to take steps to protect our environment, pure and simple.

The way I see it, efforts like Testa's, for whatever their actual motives, symbolize something that is extremely positive, that is to say that a profit generating business is willing to take the effort and spend the extra money (even if they do get a tax write-off) to build something that recognizes that our planet is the one and only home we have, and we need to take care of it. Hopefully their message will spread.

Those on the other side should see this positively as well, here is proof positive that there is money to be made in Green Technology.

Everybody wins.

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