Mark Elzinga, owner of Elzinga & Hoeksema Greenhouses of Portage, Mich., has worked hard to create an atmosphere of eco-friendly practices in five locations and among all associates.
With geothermal heat, solar panels, wind energy and USDA organic production across four acres, Elzinga & Hoeksema (E&H) exemplifies sustainability. And it’s because the business has paved a sustainable path for itself that E&H, a former Grower of the Year, is now pursuing MPS-ABC certification.
“I liked the European way of looking at the environment and involving our associates and getting a comparison of how we are doing versus other North American growers and European growers,” Elzinga says. “We are proud of many of the things we do which are good for the environment, and we are glad that we have been able to create a culture in our organization, which encourages everyone to do their part as good stewards of the environment: recycling, researching new growing practices, thinking and caring about wasteful use of resources as we complete our tasks.
“Take recycling: While we don’t know that we will ever reduce our trash to zero, the cost savings has been significant. Our trash is less than half of what it was two years ago.”
In a year, the Elzinga & Hoeksema team will get its first score. First, it must record the use of fertilizers, crop protection agents, energy, water and document their recycling. After one year and an audit, the score will document a comparison to other growers and become a management tool for their internal use.
Some growers use the score to benchmark their improvements over time; others may start out immediately with a high score, which documents the good practices they already have embraced. The program thereby addresses a range of growers and rewards all levels of sustainable practices.