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Engaging Employees to Reduce Water Use and Impacts

Gerber Products Company, a producer of baby foods, discovered that employee education and involvement related to water management at its Fremont, Michigan plant can yield significant returns. Gerber is a business unit of Novartis Consumer Health, Inc. In January 2000, the plant’s Water Team kicked off a year-long effort to cut water consumption. By year’s end, they had saved 67.5 million gallons of water compared to 1999.

The Water Team worked with all areas of the plant to survey water use, collect water conservation suggestions from employees, and identify specific opportunities. Numerous projects emerged from the plant’s water conservation initiatives, including:

  • Installation of new equipment that uses 30% less water to cool jars of hot baby food
  • Recycling of wastewater to wash down the plant’s floors, gutters, and drains
  • Recycling of wastewater to irrigate corn, oats, and alfalfa grown for animal feed on a 420-acre farm owned by Gerber four miles down the road

Gerber health, safety and environment personnel found that employee education was key to the plant’s success, making wise water use a habit. The Water Team produced a video to increase employees’ awareness of water issues and plant water use. Among other topics, the video encourages employees to routinely check for leaks and drips to reduce wasted water. Employee involvement with Water Team activities, combined with the video and other awareness raising efforts, has helped to change employees’ water management behaviors while enlisting them in company efforts to continually improve the plant’s water-related performance.

Module 4