Entering its second century, a Portland, Ore., bread company thinks young as it searches out 21st-century ways to be environmentally responsible.

Franz Bakery relies on a catalytic oxidizer to push exhaust through 600°F (316°C) ceramic tiles that vaporize ethanol into water and carbon dioxide. The unit reduces the plant's overall emissions by 33 percent and lowers its ethanol emissions by 95 percent. In addition, throughout its six locations in the Pacific Northwest, the baker recycles more than 98 percent of its production waste and reuses 99 percent of excess packaging cardboard.

Management is so seriously green that the 104-year-old family-run company has trademarked its marketing slogan, "Bread has never tasted so sustainable."

"We've gone through this bakery and really turned it around," says Jim Kennison, Franz's general manager.

Focusing on water efficiency, wind energy and waste reduction at all its locations has earned the company an energy champion award from the U.S. Department of Energy. And it all started with the lights.

Ninety-six percent of the Portland bakery now uses high efficiency light bulbs, Kennison says. Most of the truck depots, where they park the delivery trucks, received similar treatment thanks to an Oregon initiative that offers incentive rebates for businesses that opt for more efficient lighting.

The bakery also saves energy in other, often overlooked places. Almost 75 percent of the bathrooms are equipped with automatic systems that reduce water flush. Kennison says the Portland facility has a heat-reflective roof that reduces energy demands up to 50 percent. Franz reduces its environmental footprint in other ways as well. The company:
  • Buys wind credits from Portland General Electric. Every year, the firm prevents 316,909 lb of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, which is like taking 28 cars off the road.
  • Makes 90 percent of its packaging with biodegradable materials.
  • Offers 100 percent of all overages and unsold bread to food banks.
  • Invests in recycling glass, plastics and paper with 99 percent of the bakeries and common areas having recycling bins.
The DOE's Save Energy Now Energy Champion Award went to Franz for achieving more than 250,000 million BTUs total energy savings - more than 15 percent total energy savings - at its Portland facility alone.