Article contributed by Casey Heigl
Before 1940, nearly all North Americans understood the concept of Farm-to-Table. The majority of North Americans raised their food, harvested it and preserved it in their homes. They ate what they grew. The diet was heavy in fruits, vegetables and grains. It was lighter on animal products as they cost a lot more to produce.
Since 1940, our relationship with food has moved to trusting someone else to provide it for us at a local supermarket or restaurant. Decades later, the results have been far less healthy for a multitude of reasons.
How commercial food is managed is of importance to every living being. Due to so many changes in recent years, agencies are looking at ways to overcome some of the changes in our environment, which includes how food is handled. That’s where the LEED program comes in.
The Genesis of the LEED program
Worldwide weather patterns make it harder to plan what crops will grow, when they are harvested, how they are stored, what is processed and how it is distributed. Many agricultural areas have experienced hotter summer seasons or colder winters with more flooding or excessive droughts. This is harmful to agricultural businesses. Most scientists agree that one piece of evidence of changing weather patterns is melting icecaps.
Rising oceans along the Gulf of Mexico have already affected thousands of people in Louisiana in an area as large as Delaware. The locals who have resided there the longest come from similar cultural backgrounds. The weather changes have harmed their ability to grow the crops that are a part of their heritage.
The LEED program is dedicated to positive modification to defeating how climate change is affecting our day-to-day lives. Although the range of emotions related to this topic varies a great deal among scientists, politicians, business people or your friends, in general, it is evident that our worldwide weather patterns have been less reliable in recent years.
What is LEED?
LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. What it means in its original form is a green building design system that is used worldwide. As LEED has evolved, so too have the LEED specifications for green buildings based on the type of facility and other criteria. As we close out the year 2018, however, there is no LEED certification for food manufacturing.
Because meeting LEED specifications is so costly, many small businesses would have to choose to shut down if meeting LEED standards was immediately mandatory. That includes either new construction or retrofitting. There are several levels of compliance: (1) Certified, (2) Silver, (3) Gold and (4) Platinum.
Each level covers specific aspects of buildings in a manner that is less toxic to humans, animals, manufactured products and our environment. Each level is globally acknowledged.
This makes implementation of LEED a slow, building type by building type process.
What types of buildings does LEED pertain to now?
A quick look at this link will show that LEED standards have been established for commercial buildings, neighborhood development, homes, volume supplement and city and community redesigns. Points are given for various considerations inside and outside the facility.
When planning a new building, picking a “Sustainable Site” or “Location and Transportation” factor can give a plan up to 26 points on a LEED scorecard or halfway to LEED Silver.
LEED certification for food manufacturing
Some of the considerations for a LEED certification for food manufacturing plants include:
What is in the surrounding area
If the space is new construction, then before even stepping inside, considerations for employees include access to public transportation, a smaller than usual parking lot, coming to work in low-emission vehicles, roadway construction materials, options for employees to be eating nearby, appropriate landscaping to serve local living critters, well-planned irrigation options and buying a previously used lot. The goal is high points but for the lowest possible cost while maintaining existing processing standards.
Existing recycled equipment might be a better option than new purchases even if the power use on older equipment is a little higher. The administration can modify heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) as well as lighting and other utility infrastructure to LEED suggestions. Additionally, there are non-toxic products, like the Camie 410 Food Grade Spray Silicone Lubricant, that is perfect to use on recycled equipment for food manufacturing.
Carbon footprint and employee benefits
Grabbing natural light with skylights both reduces energy use and makes for a better working environment for employees, as does painting the roof a light color. Place bicycle racks outside the building or use other ways of encouraging employees to ride bicycles or to walk to work.
Daylight harvesting is a LEED term; the facility installs sensors that toggle lights on and off depending on how much natural light is available inside the building during the day. Thermal comfort works the same way with a variation in temperature controls inside the building. Using green cleaning supplies, buying supplies sold close to the construction site and building with low-VOC (volatile organic compound) materials are other ways to increase LEED points related to a carbon footprint.
Food freshness and safety
Regardless of where the food is grown or how (GMO, organic or traditional), freshly harvested or butchered, food is perishable. One of the primary reasons to modify fresh food into processed food is to create a longer shelf life with the addition of chemicals, dehydrating, freeze drying or other means. However, in the meantime, the refrigeration or other means to capture and maintain freshness should be as low energy use as possible.
Food safety is always the first consideration for employees in the plant and the final consumer. The means to reduce any contamination is vital to staying in business. Although standards for rat residue and the like are a part of the food manufacturing regulations, any LEED facility will want to fall far below those maximum allowable codes.
Food handler training and health
Any person who works in food service should expect to be initially trained and to have follow-up training at intervals. There is a multitude of factors related to every step of the way in food processing. A slight variation in handling can contaminate an entire batch of food in a few minutes. Food manufacturing employees under LEED will no doubt be required to have interval training.
It is utterly irresponsible not to take every precaution with food manufacturing when it comes to the health of any employee near the food. Typically, a chest x-ray will be done to identify if a prospective employee has tuberculosis (TB). However, every day in the food manufacturing plant must also be a day when the employee is in good health. Supervisors in a LEED facility are likely to be trained to spot employees who are not healthy enough to be working near food and send them home.
Outgassing and other harmful effects from food storage containers are a real danger. It is vital to make sure that whatever is used to hold the food all along the assembly line is appropriate for food storage. In most cases, glass or sanitary paper is the best choice, but the cost can be prohibitive.
Casey Heigl is a packaging industry insider. As the Marketing Manager for Hotmelt.com and Gluegun.com she has extensive knowledge of hot melt applications, vendors, and industry trends. Casey enjoys sharing her unique perspective with her blog writing. When she isn’t researching and writing articles she is spending time with her family and crafting with professional glue guns!