As a company that manufactures energy efficient lighting fixtures, it would only make sense that Lightolier’s own conservation efforts would be at the core of its philosophy.

As a company that manufactures energy efficient lighting fixtures, it would only make sense that Lightolier’s own conservation efforts would be at the core of its philosophy.

With an increasingly green attitude, Lightolier was recently commended for reducing toxic chemical use in its Industrial Park plant.

The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs awarded a Certificate of Partnership to Lightolier for eliminating 1.25 million pounds of toxic chemicals from its manufacturing process over the past decade — a move that has also saved the company more than $2 million in operating costs.

“We’re really trying to reduce our emissions,” said Ronald Westgate Jr., Lightolier plant engineer. “We’ve done good with eliminating toxic chemicals. It’s just the right thing to do.”

The toxic chemical Westgate is referring to is: trichloroethylene, better known as TCE, a liquid solvent used for degreasing metal parts. He said the chemical is harmful  to humans and the environment and is no longer used in the building.

As an alternative to TCE, Lightolier first switched to using terpene, a safer organic solvent. During those years, it had decreased its emissions to 60-70 tons per year.

Today, it has reduced its emissions by 95 percent. It has virtually eliminated its need for any solvents.

New buffing machines — dubbed “Ming” machines — were designed by Yong Ming Zahg, Lightolier fabrication engineering manager, and built in-house. They’ve enabled Lightolier to modify its production process and eliminate chemical solvents.

The project was part of the Massachusetts Toxic Use Reduction Act, according to Westgate. Lightolier has been working with the state Office of Technical Assistance and Technology to explore ways of reducing toxins. The OTA supported the company with various training sessions, and has done case studies on Lightolier, which it uses today to train other companies pursuing toxic elimination.

Lightolier has been involved in various environmental efforts since the late 1980s.
As an added bonus, the company is also saving money, and according to Westgate, is now focusing even more on renewable energy and conservation.

Over the last couple of years, Lightolier has switched to high efficiency motors on its machinery, made other mechanical upgrades, including “Ming” machines, and started a simple campaign urging employees to turn off lights when not in use.

As a result of these changes, the company saved $140,000 in electricity in the last 12 months.

“It means a lot to us that all our employees were able to achieve this,” Westgate said.
Besides cost effectiveness, Westgate said that keeping costs down also “keeps manufacturing in the U.S.”

Lightolier, a division of the Genlyte Group Inc., does 80 percent of its manufacturing in North America, and 70 percent in the United States.

“It’s something to be proud of,” Westgate said.

Its newest green initiatives include pursuing the construction of a windmill to help the company become more sustainable, and it is also working to save on gas, electricity and water usage with more energy-efficient means.

“We plan to keep up improvements,” Westgate said.

E-mail Deborah Allard at dallard@heraldnews.com.