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Valley’s top green businesses

Rogue Creamery takes top spot, while other local businesses follow in Oregon Business Magazine’s 100 Best Green Workplaces for 2022
A crew member with S+B James Construction works Thursday on the new Rogue Credit Union South Services building at the corner of Garfield and Highway 99. The construction company made Oregon Business Magazine’s list of the 100 Best Green Workplaces in Oregon. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]
Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneMichael Wallace works Wednesday on a fender at Star Body Works in Medford. The company was ranked third on the list of 100 Best Green Workplaces in Oregon by Oregon Business Magazine.

A handful of Rogue Valley businesses and nonprofits made Oregon Business Magazine’s list of “100 Best Green Workplaces” in 2022.

Central Point-based cheesemaker Rogue Creamery took the No. 1 spot for the first time in the decade-plus that the world-renowned business has been on the list.

“I don’t think we’re head and shoulders above the rest. I think we stand proudly, side by side, with all of the green businesses who are recognized on the list. They’re all doing something unique,” said Marguerite Merritt, cheese emissary and marketing manager for Rogue Creamery. “I hope that another business — hopefully, someone from Southern Oregon — can claim that title next year.”

Star Body Works ranked third, while six other Rogue Valley entities made the top 100.

Oregon Business Magazine cited these and other businesses throughout the state for making “measurable efforts to reduce their environmental footprint and adopt more sustainable practices.”

The magazine also cited the companies’ sustainability efforts amid climate change.

1. Rogue Creamery

Rogue Creamery has been making cheddar and blue cheese for almost a century, and the company has proven its sustainability bonafides over the years.

“Honestly, it's more about mindset and a constant pursuit rather than any specific program,” Merritt said.

Sustainability initiatives at its dairy farms include planting pollinator-friendly native plants, re-purposing cow waste, and using robotic milkers.

On the product front, Rogue Creamery focuses on sustainability, too.

Plastic packaging has not been eliminated, but the company uses a “less environmentally intensive” poly-plastic vacuum shrink bag to hold its famous cheese wedges.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not the be-all, end-all solution, because we’re still creating waste by using plastic,” Merritt said. “Our ultimate goal is to figure out a way to remove plastic from the equation entirely.”

Rogue Creamery vets the vendors and products it sells in its small retail store in Central Point.

“In the store, you’ll see lots of t-shirts. They’re sourced from either organic cotton or with recycled poly material,” she said, citing one example.

3. Star Body Works

Mark Lamensdorf bought Star Body Works with his brother in 1990. The business that specializes in body paint and collision repair has four locations, including two in Josephine County.

The company’s journey toward sustainability has been years in the making, but it ramped up in 2007.

“I started down that journey years ago and said, ‘You know what? Let’s just go there,’ because I thought that’s where we were headed,” Lamensdorf said. “Now, it’s just part of our culture.”

All of the buildings include LED lights. On the automotive front, the spray boots recycle heat, and the oil, antifreeze, batteries, steel and aluminum are all recycled. What’s more, Star Body Works uses waterborne paint, which has significantly less solvent.

“This is not (an environmentally) friendly business, and if you don’t go the extra mile, it affects all of us,” he said. “It’s really important to us to be the best stewards we can.”

8. RHT Energy

The Medford-based firm has been providing consulting services in numerous engineering aspects, including energy savings, since 1999.

It made the list by doing the small things — recycling, turning off lights in rooms no one is using and doing the dishes, according to Becki Ray, office manager with RHT Energy.

“We practice what we preach,” Ray said, noting the building is well-insulated and uses solar panels.

RHT Energy has been listed for almost 10 years in Oregon Business Magazine.

“It’s very important for everyone to be energy-efficient in today’s time,” Ray said.

32. Rogue Valley Farm to School

The nonprofit that began as the Eagle Mill Farm Education Project and later restructured to become Rogue Valley Farm to School is the oldest program like it in the valley — educating children about fresh produce and helping schools with nutritional programs.

“The basis for all of this is building a culture of health … in the schools and then within our community by supporting the farmers and our local economy,” said Rebecca Slosberg, co-executive director of programs and staff.

The nonprofit boasts 12 employees, and everyone tries to model environmentally sustainable behavior in the office. Some ways include recycling, saving water, carpooling and purchasing local food.

“How we present ourselves out in the community is important, and so, internally, it’s modeling that same kind of behavior,” Slosberg said.

44. Mt. Ashland Association

Recognizing Mt. Ashland could have closed to tourists, the association felt that a sustainable future for the area meant a “more holistic approach to sustainability,” according to the nonprofit’s website.

To that end, the association started using a “kit” known as STOKES, specifically designed to help ski recreation facilities monitor their sustainability progress. Mt. Ashland Association’s STOKE rating is 77%, and it can credit that to several investments, including an 85-panel rooftop solar system, producing about 12% of the ski area’s energy needs, that was installed in 2016.

48. Dogs for Better Lives

The Central Point-based nonprofit is a provider of trained service dogs for people with disabilities or professionals who request them for their work.

Harvey Potts, vice president for development, said the business magazine’s recognition is not something the nonprofit sought out. Nevertheless, “we are honored and humbled.”

“We’re all about training and placing assistance dogs, here locally and across the country, and we do that at no cost to the eventual recipient,” Potts said. “We’re also doing it in a sustainable and mindful way when it comes to the environment.”

Employees recycle and use washable utensils, plates and cups in the office.

A 306-panel, 97.9 kW solar array produces more than 75% of the nonprofit’s energy needs, saving more than $28,000 each year.

54. S&B James Construction Management

S&B President Allen Purdy said whenever possible, his company works with clients to incorporate sustainable elements into projects — even if it costs more. However, these elements are increasingly becoming part of building codes, such as utilizing high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment and lighting and being “solar ready,” which has contractors making space available for the building owner to add solar equipment.

“Initially these requirements weren’t at the top of mind, but after 20-plus years of LEED and Green Globes setting the bar higher for everyone, the requirements are now just part of our day-to-day practices,” Purdy said.

S&B is environmentally friendly in its own offices, as well, with solar panels on the roof for about 15 years. The company utilizes pervious concrete in its parking areas, eliminating the need for retention ponds and other runoff collection methods, providing for more efficient land use.

80. Logos Charter School

Long before Logos Charter School was named as one of the most environmentally sustainable places to work, its staff was determined to become a green school.

In 2013, the Oregon Green Schools Association lauded Logos for its “outstanding efforts in waste reduction and resource conservation,” according to Executive Director Sheryl Zimmerer.

Now, three years after moving into a new building on Ross Lane, Logos was named one of the “best green businesses” by Oregon Business Magazine for the third year in a row.

“It’s a great reminder to our staff and our students that this is important to our school,” Zimmerer said. “It’s exciting to be in this beautiful location, to look out on our mountains, to see the gorgeousness of Oregon and realize that we need to make sure we’re keeping that around not just for these kids, but their kids.”

She explained school officials worked with Energy Trust of Oregon to maximize the ways the building could save energy. Features include LED lights that turn on or off based on occupancy, and an air conditioning system that utilizes the outside. The estimated savings in energy per year is 226,370 kilowatt hours, translating into $17,580.

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.