By Cheryl Lewis
May, 5, 2015 | Fort Payne, AL
Heil Environmental received recognition from Jacksonville State University's Environmental Policy Information Center during an April 30 ceremony at Little River Canyon Center. The inaugural EPIC award was conveyed to Al Curtis, senior manager of continuous improvement projects by Peter Conroy, EPIC's director.
"When Sen. [Richard] Shelby recently came to visit Fort Payne, I was fortunate to have been with him to learn about Heil's plant operation, philosophy and sustainable practices," said Conroy. "Usually when a corporation is pitching what they do to a U.S. senator, it is all about bottom line. I was so pleased that this pitch was about quality of life; it was about air; it was about sustainability. A key element of JSU's EPIC mission is to encourage economic development through sustainable practices and since Heil does just that, we are glad to recognize them."
Curtis explained why Heil is delighted to receive the honor.
"Environmental Solutions Group, which owns Heil, is in the refuse business, taking garbage and trash and turning it into a value stream and hopefully putting as little as possible into landfills, which is kind of exciting from an environmental point of view," he said. "When you think about Heil, you think it's just a garbage truck, but you have no idea until you get involved with it of the technology in developing garbage trucks. We have numerous engineers, so there is lots of engineering and innovation and product development is continually going on. That has made Heil an outstanding leader and number one in the world in our business sector."
Employees, he said, make all the difference.
"We have been so successful, and it's because of the employees," said Curtis. "The employees at Heil are very dedicated to innovation and product development and sustainability and even the environment. We have plants that have carbon footprint that use lots of energy and we have vehicles that every day are burning fuel — diesel, natural gas and some gasoline, I suspect. We sell garbage trucks all over the world mounted on various chassis. We don't build chassis, but we can affect how much fuel is burned by our chassis by innovation, design and materials.
"For every pound we can reduce garbage trucks by, it saves our customer $1.80 per year," he said. "That doesn't sound like much, but the first project I had with the company, we took 3,000 pounds out of one of our standard designs. That equates to $5,400 energy savings every year and, over a 10-year life, that's $54,000 value added to our customer. We're working with several organizations where we're taking organics and turning them into methane and powering our garbage trucks. We actually have a sustainable program where our garbage trucks pick up enough organics every day that we can process to make the natural gas to keep the whole thing working. We're working in Montgomery right now to try to put that program together for them, which is extremely exciting."
The goal is to accurately project costs.
"All the fuel costs go away, and fuel costs are the biggest changing cost they have," said Curtis. "It's hard to project what your cost is going to be when your fuel cost can go from $2 to $4 in the matter of a few months. It's very hard from the point of sustainability to be able to handle the costs that you have no control over. So if we can give our customers the ability to have cost control, we have given them a great value added."
Because of this key goal, Heil leadership is thrilled by the recognition.
"We are very honored to receive this prestigious award," said Pat Carroll, president and chief executive officer of EGS.
"Every day we strive for implementing sustainable and environmentally friendly practices and procedures in all our facilities. This award is testament to the quality of the people we have in business and the passion they have for a sustainable approach for the benefit of all."
Sustainability measures continue.
"We are in the throes right now of a million-dollar program to change out all our lighting to LED lighting," said Curtis. "In the school district, we just gave you about a 1,500 bulbs that we took out of service replacing them with LEDs. We will be replacing roughly 2,500 fluorescent light bulbs and 950 high bay fixtures. That will save us, with the other work we're doing relative to our exhaust fans, I'm estimating about a half-million dollars a year in cost savings from requiring over 5.5 million kilowatts less. That's huge and it's the second time we've done this in 3 years. So it's a pretty big commitment by our company.
"It's the leadership who have pushed our corporation to make these kinds of investments," he said. "We're definitely committed to reducing our carbon footprint and improving the quality of life for our employees by the things we do. Believe it or not, with our LED lighting, we're actually improving the quality of the workplace for our employees, because the spectrum of light we're giving them is much better than what they had. Everything is crisper, sharper, so we think we're going to see a safety improvement and quality improvement. Everything we're doing is trying to benefit the whole."
The impact on the local community, he said, is significant.
"Our CFO is always telling us to make sure to help the schools," said Curtis. "It's our mission to work together. If you look at the number of employees who work and live right here in Fort Payne, and support this whole area, it's huge. They graduated from this high school, went to Alabama, came back and now they're part of this community. They love it. Supporting this community is what we're trying to do."
The award was given with this in mind.
"This is a recognition not for garbage trucks," said Conroy, "but for the way you create sustainability vision."