As an irrigation solutions manufacturer, water is a key issue for our business and our stakeholders. We’re happy to report that our total water consumption decreased by 26% in 2020 following a significant reduction in water use at our Clermont, Florida, facility. Between late 2019 and early 2020, we collaborated with the local water provider in Clermont to identify several leaks that were causing spikes in our water usage. To stop the leaks, we replaced the liner in our outdoor testing area and repaired a crack in an underground cistern. These actions led to a 60% reduction in water usage in Clermont compared to 2019.
At our facilities in San Marcos, California, and Tijuana, Mexico, water consumption grew as production increased. We will continue to develop strategies to use water more efficiently companywide and strive to improve water-use tracking across each campus. In 2021, the CSR Council will begin evaluating each campus to develop comprehensive water-use footprints. We will then develop action plans to lower water consumption for the sites with the highest impacts.
Note: We discovered a miscalculation in our water data from our Clermont facility for 2018 and 2019. The graph in this report corrects the data for those years.
Achieving a zero-waste certification by 2030 means that we must divert at least 90% of our waste from landfills. In 2019, we initiated steps to develop an accurate baseline for gauging progress, and we continued that work in 2020. We conducted a pilot project with Complete Recycling, a San Diego–based company, to identify outlets for the scrap waste generated by our manufacturing processes in San Marcos. The project helped us understand how much waste we created, whether the materials could be reused by Hunter or another organization, and the total value of the scrap. Based on the results of this project, we decided to partner with Complete Recycling to identify and manage vendors. This strategy will help us maximize the value of our waste products. Complete Recycling will work with our waste haulers to ensure we receive accurate data about the total amount of waste that is being diverted to the landfill. They will also serve as a single point of contact for all our recycling and waste needs over the long term.
Our manufacturing and facilities teams continue to find ways to reduce our waste across all campuses and reuse it within our own manufacturing processes whenever possible. In 2021, we will more accurately capture and report our waste and recycling data. We may also expand our contract with Complete Recycling to include our other campuses.
Solenoid Waste Recycling Program a Win-Win for Product Development and the Environment
Solenoids are component parts used to build irrigation valves. During our solenoid molding process, we identified an opportunity to prevent waste from going to the landfill. In the past, this waste material ended up as scrap, but our Tijuana team decided to regrind it and blend it with virgin resin to create a closed-loop system. Testing confirmed that the use of recycled material did not affect the quality of the solenoids. In 2020, these efforts helped us divert almost 14,000 lbs of runner waste from landfills. In 2021, we plan to automate this regrind process across more molding machines within our Tijuana facility.
Our Mexico team also implemented an electronic recycling initiative to stop dangerous e-waste from going to the landfill. From September to December 2020, employees recycled 240 lbs of electronic devices. The material will be sold to vendors and the money will be used to support a local children’s hospital.
Irrigation Controller Recycling Pilot Program a Success, Expansion Planned in 2021
With the support of our domestic distributor partners, we collected over 4,100 lbs of discarded irrigation equipment in 2020 and sent it to nonprofit organization Blue Star Recyclers. Blue Star employs people with autism and other disabilities to deconstruct and recycle the equipment, thereby preventing toxic metals from ending up in a landfill. Beyond the positive environmental impact, 1.3 days of employment are provided for Blue Star employees for every 1,000 lbs of waste recycled. We plan to expand the program in 2021 by including more distributors and engaging more customers.
As a socially responsible company, we know that reducing our use of energy is the right decision for our business. Managing our energy responsibly is good for our bottom line. Doing so mitigates the effects of future energy cost increases and helps us be more responsive to market demands for energy-efficient products. It also helps us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change.
As part of our revitalized greenhouse gas inventory process in 2020, we focused on collecting energy consumption data from sites that were not previously included in our energy-use disclosures. This is one reason why our data shows that energy usage was up in 2020. In addition, after a brief shutdown due to the pandemic, we had one of our busiest production years ever due to strong demand for our products. Our operations and manufacturing teams continue to identify ways to increase our energy efficiency. They are also seeking ways to add to our renewable energy portfolio. Currently, solar energy makes up 1.6% of our total energy use.
Quality Control Process Improvements Reduce Costs and Save Electricity
Our team in Tijuana developed an innovative pilot project in 2020 to reduce energy use by turning off the hydraulic pump on our molding machines during quality control (QC) procedures. The pump automatically turns off, so energy is not wasted while QC is conducted. With the success of the pilot, the project was expanded to 45 machines, with annual savings of more than $52,000 for approximately 844,834 kWh. Special thanks to Maintenance Supervisor Raphael Camillo and Molding Mechanic Arturo Cintura for leading this project.
New 400 Shop System Pump Streamlines Efficiency and Maximizes Energy Savings
To reduce our energy costs and minimize carbon footprints at our facilities, we’re constantly on the lookout for opportunities to save energy and improve our operations. Our San Marcos team replaced process water pump controls in the 400 Shop with variable frequency drives, control valves, and a graphic user interface. The pumps now start automatically when molding is scheduled. Only the exact water flow rate required during molding is produced. All extra pumping operation and bypassed water is eliminated. This project has optimized plant operation, with a 5.3-month return on investment and annual electricity savings of 166,337 kWh.
Low-Carbon Transition Plan
The impacts of climate change, such as increased and more intense wildfires and droughts, continue to threaten the places where we live and work. In addition to harming our communities, climate change impacts Hunter’s business by affecting our supply chains, the health of our employees, and demand for our products. As a growing manufacturer that cares about the current and future impacts of climate change on our local and global communities, we believe it’s incumbent on us to make a serious commitment to reduce our emissions.
In 2020, with full support from our Board of Directors, CEO, and Leadership Team, we contracted with a third-party vendor to help us update our greenhouse gas inventory process, create a science-based emissions target for 2030, and develop a Climate Action Plan to reduce emissions across our organization. As a company, we’ve set an ambitious target to reduce our emissions by 50% by 2030 using a 2019 baseline. This target goes slightly beyond the number resulting from our science-based target calculation, which focuses on keeping the warming of the planet below 1.5°C.
In 2021, we’ll finalize our roadmap to achieve this goal, including the allocation of all necessary resources. Our high-level plan is shown here. We will need to make significant investments to implement it, but we look forward to the clear returns on investment that will result from this work, both for our company and our planet. We know it will be challenging to reduce our emissions as the company grows, but our history of innovation, hard work, and dedication to our communities position us well for success.
Greenhouse Gas Data
We’ve set 2019 as our baseline year for our greenhouse gas emissions goals. The following charts show our emissions for 2019 and 2020. We’re thrilled to report that our emissions declined by 3.2% in 2020, primarily due to reduced gasoline and refrigerant usage.