You can’t really see it from the road, but Earth Friendly Products on South Rohlwing Road, in Addison, is covered with solar panels. And on a good day, 100 percent of its energy needs come from the roof.
In business for 43 years -- 20 of them in green -- Vice President Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks said the last few years have been especially good for her company,
"This has been a very exciting time for us at Earth Friendly Products. We’ve seen it go from all the natural stores to all the mainstream markets. In the last three years we’ve quadrupled our business," she said.
It's a unique statement in tough economic times, and one that also allowed the company to go even greener. It now hosts the largest commercial solar array in the state of Illinois,
“We want to always produce the most sustainable products possible. We really want to walk the talk," said Vlahakis-Hanks.
Sourcing local companies for installation was another green step EFP took when planning the solar panel project. They used neighboring Addison company Sun Heat Solar.
President Garrett Schweikhofer was ecstatic to be part of the project.
"This was a huge job for us. It reduces the cost of energy for them and reduces their greenhouse emissions and they get a return on investment," he said.
The 312 panels produce up to 67 kilowatts per hour, which, according to Schweikhofer, is the equivalent of 67 microwaves running at the same time. Since the installation in May 2010 almost 53,000-kilowatt hours have been produced. And when the factory is not in use, the energy goes back into the grid to be shared with others.
EFP has already seen the benefits of getting even greener in the solar world, said Vlahakis-Hanks.
"It’s a win-win situation. We’ve had it now in our California facility for over a year. The reduction in bills is amazing. It's taken care of 95 percent of all of our energy needs there."
Walking the production line with EFP General Manager Mike Marrese, one gets the sense that the solar energy produced on the roof is certainly not their only pride and joy.
"We recycle more than 95 percent of our waste from this facility," said Vlahakis. "We have five geographically diverse facilities because buying local is a big part of being sustainable. Plus we want to cut down on expense of shipping. Value is the most important thing we want people to be able to go in the stores and get a great value price point."