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NRRI business partner shines as leader in green manufacturing

By Greg Benson, owner, Loll Designs and Epicurean

Greg Benson Greg Benson, owner, Loll Designs and Epicurean

As the owner of Loll Designs and Epicurean I am often asked why we strive to be a sustainable company and what does that mean to me. We take a very holistic approach to this. Environmental health, a healthy exterior and interior work space, energy efficiency, manufacturing process efficiencies to reduce waste in all forms, especially pollution, are all considered. The core principals of sustainability are profit, environmental consciousness, and a commitment to bettering our community.

Profit simply means the business is economically viable. Profit allows us to invest back into the company and continue to grow which in turn allows us to hire more employees. Profit also enables us to invest in projects that help our community and employee welfare. Loll Designs and Epicurean have an inherent dedication to creating local jobs. Being based in West Duluth, we draw employees from as far up the shore as Two Harbors, into Northwestern Wisconsin, and of course the Duluth metro area. Creating jobs stimulates our local economy which helps to build a stronger community. Most of our products are sold outside of the local area so we bring money into our local economy that can be spent here by our employees.

Our environmental commitment is at the center of what we do. We built a new office and manufacturing facility in 2005 that we call Hawks Boots Sustainable Manufacturing Facility. Our mission was to create a modern, sustainable manufacturing plant from an existing brownfield building — an abandoned industrial facility. Our goals on the project were clear; low impact land use, energy efficient design and construction, reduced water consumption, reduce all forms of pollution, and it was very important that we do this with community support. Our approach to this project was simply a mind set on how we approach our business. Our entire business model has been to make products from what most people see as waste. I would like to think that Hawks Boots offers a sound model for forward-looking industries in our community.

When I speak about bettering our community I include our employees since we are all part of it together, whether at work or not. Continuing to offer better benefits and higher pay will directly have a positive impact on our employees and, in turn, help the community. We focus locally by donating money to environmental organizations based in Duluth and Minnesota. We have also donated a considerable amount of products each year for educational fund raisers in our community. This "give back" model has helped us in so many ways as a business, as a powerful recruitment tool, and a cohesive marketing strategy. It also gives our company stability and efficiency that gives Loll Designs and Epicurean staying power in a global economy that has a lot of competition.