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Bennington

Where green is gold

Monadnock Paper Mills  Bennington company wins environmental awards

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(Staff Photo by Ashley Saari)

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The Monadnock Paper Mills was recently inducted in the inaugural class of the N.H. Businesses for Social Responsibility’s Cornerstone Hall of Fame for its positive impact on the environment and the community. The induction, as well as a June 2013 federal recognition environmental award, is the most recent in a long line of awards the paper mill has received over the past few years for its efforts to conduct green business.

At the NHBSR Spring Conference held May 21 at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord, the Monadnock Paper Mills was inducted alongside Hypertherm, Inc., of Hanover. The company was a finalist this year for the annual Cornerstone Award, which is given to the New Hampshire business organization that exemplifies and promotes the concepts of corporate social responsibility.

NHBSR Executive Director Michelle Veasey said in a phone interview on June 24 that the Cornerstone Hall of Fame was created in response to three very strong finalists for the 2013 Cornerstone Award. Two of the three finalists for the award, the Monadnock Paper Mills and Hypertherm, have both won the Cornerstone Award in the past, so the NHBSR decided to create the hall of fame to make sure all qualified business organizations are honored.

“We felt it was important to recognize what they were doing,” Veasey said. “We were very impressed by the quality of all three finalists.”

W.S. Badger Company of Gilsum won the 2013 award.

Veasey said that a lot of people equate the terms sustainability and social responsibility with helping preserve the environment , but forget that on the business side there is a community aspect to both sustainability and social responsibility .

Michelle Hamm, environmental manager for the paper mill, said that she and company CEO Richard Verney were traveling to Boston on June 26 to receive a 2013 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Merit Award for Region 1 (New England). The paper mill was one of five organizations and people in the state honored with the federal recognition, and “among 28 recipients across New England recognized for their significant contributions to environmental awareness and problem-solving,” according to a press release issued by the EPA.

“All of the company’s reclaimed short paper fiber, a byproduct of the papermaking process, is reused for animal bedding and compost. Recycling has cut Monadnock’s landfill wastes by more than 600,000 pounds a year,” the press release reads. “The company uses groundwater for processing of papers and it has an on-site water conservation team. Monadnock also runs environmental and energy fairs. Finally, the company makes sure its raw materials come from responsible sources.”

In 2012, the paper mill reduced its electricity consumption by 7 percent, Hamm said, and reduced criteria pollutants, such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide, by 30 percent over the past two years. Fifty percent of the mill’s electricity is offset by renewable energy certificates, or purchased environmentally friendly power that is carbon neutral, and the other 50 percent is generated by on-site hydro generators.

The company, which was founded in 1819 along the Contoocook River in Bennington, produces custom-designed paper products for printing, packaging and specialty markets. Its products range from ceiling tile backing to digital printing papers, and are shipped globally.

The paper mill was recognized with the 2008 NHBSR Cornerstone Award, and has received numerous other environmental recognitions, including a Greenerpalooza Award in 2010 presented by the N.H. Business Resource Center.

Hamm said it’s important for the company to make a strong effort to reach out to the community. “Interacting peacefully with the community and the environment is what we strive for,” she said.

Veasey said the paper mill is part of an industry that has a reputation for taking an environmental toll, but the company has gone out of its way to look for environmentally friendly means of producing products.

“They’re constantly looking for ways to reduce environmental impact and ways to improve the paper business,” Veasey said.

There are roughly 165 employees at the paper mill — a number that has remained pretty constant over the past few years, despite challenges brought on by overseas competition and lower competitor prices.

Vice President of Human Resources Joe Fletcher said in a phone interview Wednesday that the company is also constantly trying to find a new niche, like its “un-plastic” renewable wood fiber alternative to PVC card materials.

“We’re pretty heavily involved in ways to replace plastic with paper,” Fletcher said.

The business that opened back in 1819 and is the oldest continually operating mill in the U.S. makes conscious efforts to keep up with the latest in environmentally friendly practices, such as manufacturing 100 percent carbon-neutral printing and packaging papers.

“It just shows that you can teach an old dog new tricks,” Hamm said.

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