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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Simon Property Group @ Sustainability Helm

LED lit mall entrance sign
Gurnee Mills exemplifies the sustainability magic that occurs when passionate, committed managers are supported by strong corporate policy.  On May 07 an Elemental Impact Partner team joined Matt Hupp, Simon Property Group director of waste & recycling, at Gurnee Mills for an inspiring tour of front and back-of-the house green practices.

The tour group
Photo courtesy of Ei Chair Scott Seydel
After a thorough overview of the mall's green initiatives by Randy Erbertowski, general manager, and Kirk Moffitt, director of operations, the group embarked on the Gurmee Mills tour - what a treat!  First stop was one of the compactor areas where the recycling and trash compactors are clearly marked.  A peak inside the recycling compactor revealed clean, contaminant-free material.

Louis @ recycling compactor
Working with CleanRiver Recycling Solutions, Simon developed a national signage program to communicate and remind tenants of recycling practices in place.  The doors leading to the loading area have a "Know Where to Throw" sign and each compactor has clean, simple to understand signs for their respective recycling or trash use.  Compactor signs are on the front and at the load-in area.  All signage is bi-lingual.

Randy @ Starbucks bin
Thanks to CleanRiver's generosity, the Gurnee Mill's Starbucks is testing a recycling bin designed specifically for a coffee outlet. From all appearances, the bin seems to work great with positive consumer participation. CleanRiver founder & CEO Bruce Buchan joined the tour and gave important insights on how to create effective signage and recycling containers.

Louie Herrera of Hilex Poly was on the tour to learn about the tenant plastic film generated from garment packaging at the mall.  Hilex Poly and Simon are in the formation stage of a plastic film recycling pilot at Concord Mills in Charlotte.  The ZWA Blog post, 2011 Planning = 2012 ACTION, gives an overview of several Charlotte pilots in development.

Restrooms are a behind-the-scenes haven for energy & waste initiatives, ranging from water to paper to energy reduction opportunities.  The recently renovated mall restrooms are complete with paper towel reducing hand dryers, water-saving faucets and toilets and energy-efficient lighting. For those die-hard consumers committed to paper towels, the towel dispenser is in easy view yet at the back end of the restroom facility.

Gurnee Mills green initiatives are throughout the sustainability gamut.  Over 3,000 light fixtures were replaced with energy-efficient bulbs and mall entrance signs were converted to LED lights. A new electric vehicle charging station was installed in the parking area.  Along with recycling all construction material related to renovations, the mall uses a panel construction barrier system that eliminates the use of sheet rock to conceal tenant improvements. 

Kirk showing the "cool" LED lights
Although some upfront investment is required, the green initiatives are in general cost-saving in nature and|or have a short payback period before contributing to the bottom line.

The Ei FB album, 05-07-12 Gurnee Mills Tour, gives a pictorial recap of the impressive tour.

Success stories like Gurnee Mills require the partnership of strong corporate policy supported by passionate, committed on-site managers like Randy and Kirk,  Gurnee Mills provides the foundation for Matt to develop a template for nationwide implementation.  It is thrilling to witness the nation's largest mall owner take the sustainability helm.  Stay tuned for tales from the exciting journey! 


  1. Wonderful article Holly, wish I could have joined the tour!

  2. Aim for a zero waste planet should be developing by now.
    We should all be aware that everything can help our planet must be implemented.

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