Badger Balm Sets Course for Net Zero with Solar Power
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For 25 years, the family-owned W.S. Badger Company, or “Badger,” known for their Badger Balm and other organic care products, has grown steadily with a deep commitment to environmental responsibility. Their latest success is the completion of a 525-kilowatt solar array that will provide a significant portion of their electricity, and save the company more than $3.5 million over the next 40 years while eliminating over 600,000 pounds of carbon pollution every year.
Badger began as a project of resilience – founder Bill Whyte was working as a carpenter and wanted to protect his hands during harsh winters – and now they are more resilient than ever with solar electricity insulating them from ever-rising utility rates.
Badger has gone solar at no upfront cost through a power puchase agreement (PPA) with ReVision, through which they will later have the opportunity to purchase the system outright for a much reduced cost, and then enjoy 25+ more years of clean energy.
This solar project is yet another milestone for a company that has taken many big steps. Founders Bill Whyte and Katie Schwerin grew the company to more than 100 products and 80+ employees, and then passed leadership on to their daughters Rebecca and Emily, who are now Badger’s co-CEOs: Collaborative Executive Officers. With “kindness as their compass,” Badger continually works hard to maintain a healthy community-minded business with ethical and charitable social principles. In 2011 they became a Certified B Corp to further the power of their business to that end.
At the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid, Badger, along with over 500 leading Certified B Corporations, announced their commitment to accelerate the reduction of their greenhouse gas emissions to reach a 1.5 degree trajectory leading to net zero by the year 2030 – 20 years ahead of the 2050 targets set in the Paris Agreement.
They wasted no time in getting moving. As Rebecca recalled, “We signed with ReVision the day after the announcement, so it was very exciting to get started right away.” Rebecca also spoke about the genesis of their modified timber frame facility in Gilsum, NH, sharing that solar was in the cards since day one.
“This is the first Badger manufacturing facility that we’ve built from the ground up. We started construction in 2011, and looked at a number of building techniques, like super-insulation, that would create an environmentally-friendly facility. We envisioned that it would eventually be solar powered.”
Now, with nearly 1,500 ground-mounted and rooftop solar panels, Badger has fulfilled their vision of largely offsetting their manufacturing electric needs with solar electricity, but they are not planning to stop there. “It’s a little bit daunting. Solar at our manufacturing facility is a huge step, but only gets us part of the way to net zero,” said Rebecca.
Many Approaches to a Better World
Badger’s dedication to the environment and diligent attention to detail led them to conduct baseline waste audits a few years ago. Rebecca described how when they found that one significant source of waste in the cleaning of their machinery, they reevaluated the process. “We started the Save Every Drop program, and now have a 97% diversion rate, where almost all material is either composted or incorporated back into products.”
Rigorous examination of their manufacturing process with the goal of “carbon insetting” in mind has also been key to their sustainability strategy. Carbon insetting is related to carbon offsetting, but is about much more than simply reducing a company’s carbon footprint. It is a collaborative effort to invest in the ecosystems their suppliers depend on – which broadens the reduction of carbon pollution while strengthening their supply chain.
Badger serves lunches daily to employees, prepared with vegetables and fruits from their organic garden in which they have utilized the innovative soil regeneration technique of bioreactor inoculation to bolster a healthy microbiome. Soil that is rich with bacteria, fungi, and nematodes is more resistant to erosion, and better at conserving water and breaking down pollutants. Research is also bringing to light that soil microbiomes have a direct connection to our health by communicating with our cells, and producing more nutrient-dense foods. Furthermore, a healthier soil can better capture and store atmospheric carbon — it suffices to say that proper care for our living soil has broad implications for the sustainability and prosperity of human life.
Because of these projects, and many other pursuits, Badger is a leader in the natural products industry and within the B Corp movement for social responsibility and environmental sustainability. As for how solar power fits into their vision as a profitable business, Rebecca concluded, “For companies considering going solar, it’s not a matter of whether or not, it’s when. There’s more support now than ever to help companies transition to solar. It’s rare that something offers the triple wins of being environmentally friendly and higher quality while saving money. It’s a no-brainer.”