Chicago produce firm runs earth-friendly operation

March 2, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Testa Produce recently constructed a new warehouse that takes green innovation to a platinum level.

You've probably seen the blue Testa Produce trucks on the street dozens of times, but you probably didn't know they all run on bio-diesel fuel, which is old cooking oil, instead of gas. That won't seem so surprising once you see what the company has done at its Back of the Yards headquarters in order to "live green."

If you're traveling on the city's Southwest Side and trying to find Testa produce, 4555 S. Racine, just look up.

"The barreled green roof and the turbine are my two biggest accomplishments," said Testa Produce President Peter Testa.

The company is the proud owner of the first free-standing wind turbine in Chicago. It is 238-feet tall with 70 foot long blades. Company president Peter Testa says the electricity it produces will save him as much as $80,000 a year.

"It does 30 percent of the building's power, which is a huge number," Testa said.

The building also is surrounded by solar trees and boasts a barreled green roof. It is one of only a few green roofs in the city that can be viewed from the ground.

But there also is a practical use.

"That helps us to collect any rainwater from the roof and actually use it in the building. So we use it for non-potable things, flushing toilets and things of that nature. We also have a solar hot water system. So we're heating 100 percent of our hot water system on-site through solar energy," said Angela Bader, marketing coordinator for Testa Produce.

Testa Produce serves as the foodservice middleman between farmers who grow food and the grocers, hotels and other businesses who need it. The company has also implemented a long list of operational changes to reduce waste -- including switching to reusable mesh pallet wraps from disposable plastic and recycling all cardboard.

The company's efforts have earned platinum certification -- the highest status granted for leadership in energy and environmental design.

Testa says since his entire supply is sourced by the planet. He feels it is his job to protect it. It also makes business sense.

"Even if you just take one or two things and put them in, it'll save you money on energy. It'll save you money on water. It's putting money back in your pocket if you are a commercial establishment. Why would you not?" said Testa.

Testa Produce offers tours to the public. All you have to do is ask. They say they want to set an example, so even if you can't make as many changes as they did, you might get inspiration to make a small change that could have a big impact.

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