An ice cream plant and a cheese plant were among the dairy processors and dairy farmers honored this week in the 2013 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards program of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, Rosemont, Ill.
The Unilever Ice Cream plant in Henderson, Nev., was recognized for Outstanding Dairy Processing & Manufacturing Sustainability and Ballard Family Dairy & Cheese, Gooding, Idaho, was honored for Outstanding Achievement in Energy Efficiency.
The Innovation Center announced the winners at its meeting in Washington, D.C., on April 23. Other winners are:
Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability
• Petersen Dairy Farm, Appleton, Wis.
• Prairieland Dairy, Firth, Neb.
• Skyridge Farms, Sunnyside, Wash.
• Honorable mention: McCarty Family Farms, Rexford, Kan.
Outstanding Achievement in Renewable Energy
• Green Valley Dairy, Krakow, Wis.
• Honorable mention: Fulper Family Farmstead, Lambertville, N.J.
Unilever honored for dairy processing and manufacturing sustainability
Unilever's Henderson, Nev., plant manufactures ice cream products under brand names including Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, Good Humor, Klondike and Popsicle for distribution throughout North America. It has more than 450 employees and has been in operation for
According to Unilever, "sustainability is a corporate wide way of doing business." In 2010, Unilever unveiled its Sustainable Living Plan with goals to reduce three outputs by 50% by 2020: greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water use associated with consumer use of their products and waste associated with disposal of their products.
Plant managers followed a measured approach: Allocate resources, identify potential projects, follow through on implementation and conduct post-installation verification of results. The return on investment went beyond economic and environmental impacts to improving quality of work for employees.
Through the implementation of technology, the Henderson plant has reduced electricity use by 13%, natural gas use by 16% and water consumption by more than 1.1 million gallons per year.
Unilever focused on system upgrades, waste-water system improvements and utility monitoring.
The plant enlisted energy experts to review the facility’s major energy users in order to develop specific projects to reduce energy. The plant implemented new, automated sequencing for its refrigeration and compressed air systems, and addressed opportunities to improve energy use for water heating systems.
The systems upgrades implemented by Unilever have increased refrigeration system efficiency by 13.5 percent, reduced compressed air system energy use by more than 20% and recovered heat equal to one-sixth of the facility’s 2009 natural gas use rate. These upgrades reduced electricity usage by 13% and natural gas use by 16 percent.
Waste Water System Improvements
Unilever used a combination of waste water system improvements, including removing waste before it enters the water system.
The plant’s water system improvements have reduced water consumption by more than 1.1 million gallons per year, reduced the strain on local water resources, improved the quality of waste water returned to the municipal water treatment facility and provided solid wastes for animal feed. They also resulted in improved air quality around the plant’s waste water pond and in the nearby residential neighborhood.
Unilever installed a utility monitoring system for electric, gas, water and production, which provides the capability to track key performance indicators for future project identification and further improvements.
A utility monitoring system tracked how new practices directly impacted energy use in specific areas. That information was then used to track additional benefits, such as reductions in maintenance costs. The monitoring system could pinpoint detailed variations in energy and water use so that each improvement practice could be evaluated.
With its focus on energy efficiency and water conservation, the Unilever Ice Cream Plant in Henderson has emerged as a model to other plants around the country.
The team at the Unilever Henderson plant learned several key lessons during these projects:
• Energy savings provide a positive return for the company when implemented successfully.
• Energy-saving projects involve many areas of the plant and are most successful with high-level support and a company champion who overcomes hurdles as they arise.
• Sustainability efforts have the best success when concrete measurements are taken and compared with relevant benchmarks.
These key lessons have been documented and shared with other dairy industry businesses through public programs, internal best practice communications and third-party contractors. The plant has future plans to maintain, improve and build on its commitment to suitability in order to reach its 2020 goals.
Read about Ballard Family Dairy and Cheese on the next page.