PPP: Green Ideas

March 1, 2011
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Through the implementation of green programs, Paragon Industries saves money and time while helping the environment.

Kiln switch boxes are painted with blue, low-emission water-based paint.


To save on fuel costs, many operations are performed in-house, including silk-screening switch boxes.

Frances Darby, the late founder of Paragon Industries, lived through the Great Depression and abhorred waste. Decades ago, she started an energy-saving program that remains a Paragon factory tradition. Here are some "green" ideas that you may find useful in your own operation, whether you operate a factory or a small pottery studio.

A Four-Day Week

Frances Darby started a four-day work week at Paragon, which we have followed since the 1970s. The factory is open 40 hours per week from Monday through Thursday. In addition to saving gasoline and travel time, the four-day work week also cuts down on pollution. We avoid the worst hours of traffic by arriving at 7 a.m. and leaving at 5:30 p.m. Avoiding bumper-to-bumper traffic yields additional savings in gasoline and time.

One of the reasons we have very little employee turnover here is that having Fridays off is like taking a holiday every week. Forty-five percent of our factory work force has been here over 10 years; 20% has worked here for over 20 years. It does not take long to get used to the 10-hour days. After a few weeks, 10 hours seem like eight. Also, the factory overtime is on Fridays, which gives employees the weekend to make extra money with part-time work if they need it. The four-day week also allows parents to spend more time with their children on their Fridays off.

For many businesses, the four-day work week is definitely viable. It is possible to implement the four-day week without disrupting communications with customers. For example, we have a small staff in the office on Friday mornings to answer phone calls

Paper-Based Opportunities

Every Paragon office employee has a paper recycling box in which they toss scrap paper to be shredded into packing materials. Since 2002, we have shredded scrap paper and cardboard to make "spaghetti" packing for kiln furniture kits and our smaller UPS shipments. We have not purchased petroleum-based packing peanuts in years. The only peanuts we use are the ones we recycle from incoming shipments.

Another of Frances Darby's ideas was to print ruled lines on the blank backs of obsolete office forms and brochures for use in the office. We no longer print ruled lines, but Paragon employees still write on the back of scrap paper (such as letters and sales materials received in the mail).

The recycled paper can also be glued together to make notepads. The glue, also known as padding compound, can be purchased from a paper store. Carefully stack the paper and apply glue to one edge with a paintbrush. After the glue dries, slit the edge into pads with a knife. Right now, I have a 17-in.-tall stack of notepads that I made from recycled paper.

Eco-Friendly Processes

In 1997, the Paragon factory switched from oil-based spray paint to high-temperature water-based paint in order to reduce emissions. The oil-based paint emitted strong toxic fumes; the water-based paint fumes are comparatively mild. This is better for both our employees and the environment.

In 2008, we reduced energy consumption by converting the entire factory from mercury vapor to T8 fluorescent lighting. In areas of the factory where continuous lighting is unnecessary, such as storage areas, we have installed motion sensor lights. According to a consultant, the reduced pollution from the saved electricity is equivalent to planting 24 acres of trees annually.

We discovered that air compressors can be mounted outside to reduce the noise level in the building; providing power air tools throughout the kiln factory helps as well. We installed UV shades to protect the compressors from the hot Texas sun. This also saves electricity, because the compressors do not have to work as hard.

In another example, three spot welders (used to make kiln switch boxes) were previously cooled with running water. To conserve water, we designed cooling systems that recirculate the water.

As you can see, many "green" ideas can be implemented in the smallest operations. I hope that sharing our ideas has generated some of your own.

For additional information, contact Paragon Industries at 2011 S. Town E. Blvd., Mesquite, TX 75149; call (972) 288-7557; fax (972) 222-0646; e-mail info@paragonweb.com; or visit www.paragonweb.com.

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