Sustainable Business in Cleveland- Part III: Leading by Example

Back in 2014, Sustainable Cleveland launched the “I am Sustainable, Clevelandposter campaign to highlight how local businesses and organizations are serving as sustainability leaders. For our third installment in the Sustainable Business in Cleveland series, we revisit some of those leaders and feature many new faces, each of whom are embedding sustainability into their operations. 



1. Bicycle-Friendly Businesses: Law firm Squire Patton Boggs has developed a sustainability standard for their offices around the world, focusing on reducing waste and energy, sustainable transportation, following LEED building standards, and community engagement. In 2013, the Cleveland office became the fourth Ohio business to get a silver ranking from the League of American Bicyclists. Squire Patton Boggs was The Bike Rack sponsors, Cleveland’s first full service bicycle parking and commuter center in Downtown Cleveland. Click here to learn how your business can become bicycle-friendly. 


2. Community: Glenville is one of four neighborhoods working to implement the Cleveland Climate Resilience & Urban Opportunity Plan. Famicos Foundation, which services the Glenville neighborhood, makes it easy for residents to take climate action by regularly hosting park, creek, and neighborhood clean-ups, rain barrel workshops, health challenges, and maintaining a list of community gardens that are providing food to residents. 


In the Kinsman neighborhood, climate action and economic development have been on the rise for several years.  Led by Burten, Bell, Carr Development, Inc. (BBC), and several local partners, 28 acres of vacant land dubbed the “Urban Agriculture Innovation Zone,” provide stormwater management and outdoor educational programming for neighborhood residents. 


3. Healthcare: University Hospitals follows third-party best-practice guides, including the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Performance Rating and Healthcare Without Harm’s Green Guide for Healthcare. To meet these standards, UH targets waste reduction, energy efficiency, water stewardship, use of safer chemicals, and sustainable transportation to reduce their carbon footprint. University Hospitals’ Ahuja Medical Center and Seidman Cancer Center house solar rooftop panels from locally owned worker cooperative Evergreen Energy Solutions. And of course, they are the lead sponsor of UHBikes, Cleveland’s bike share system.  


The Cleveland Clinic is a member of Practice Greenhealth and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). All new projects follow LEED standards, with LEED Silver certification as a minimum target. The Clinic’s sustainability efforts are led by caregiver green teams under the Office for a Healthy Environment, which focuses heavily on waste reduction through source reduction, re-purposing, and donating materials to in-need populations. The Clinic is also committed to energy conservation, reaching 15 percent reduction in energy demand in 2016, with an overall goal of reducing energy intensity by 20 percent by 2020. Last year, the Clinic established the largest Green Revolving Fund (GRF) in healthcare as a catalyst for this goal. The GRF commits $7.5 million annually to invest in energy efficiency projects to reduce energy consumption while reinvesting the money saved into future projects.  


4. Green Venues: Cleveland is bursting at the seams with green venues. In 2007, the Cleveland Indians’ Progressive Field was the first American League ballpark to go solar and remains one of the greenest baseball franchises through their "Our Tribe is Green" campaign. This season, be on the lookout for the Indians Green Team, a group of local volunteers who will engage fans and promote stadium recycling practices.


Quicken Loans Arena has also made some big leaps in their sustainability efforts in recent years including their Clean Plate Club compost initiative, while the Cavaliers plant one tree for every three pointer made during regular season home games through the Trees for Threes program.


5. Food: Mitchell's Homemade Ice Cream is well-worth intense brain freeze. A lesser known side effect of eating Mitchell’s ice cream is that you’re supporting a business that buys from local suppliers, purchases ingredients from organic and sustainable family farming, and donates to other local organizations. Their shop and kitchen operations are energy efficient and employees take steps to reuse and recycle when possible. Additionally, the West 25th store features an underground cistern to capture stormwater for reuse around the facility. We’ll take two scoops, please. 



Up the street, the patriarch of the Cleveland beer community, Great Lakes Brewery, follows a broad range of sustainable practices, from their zero waste mantra to donating 1% of all sales to community organizations and non-profits with a large focus on environmental causes. Make that two scoops of ice cream and a Dortmunder Gold!


Check out the other Certified Green Restaurants in Cleveland here and learn how to get certified here.




6. Public Sector: Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) has taken huge strides to become a sustainable organization over the past 15 years. In recent years, CLE has replaced over a thousand lights with LED fixtures and motion sensors in its terminals, concourses, garages, and more; diverted over 2 million tons from landfill disposal by reusing construction and demolition debris; and improved water quality by recycling propylene glycol used to de-ice planes, allowing the Central Deicing Pad & Deicing Disposal Facility to collect and manage over 401,000 gallons of impacted stormwater from the 2016 deicing season. CLE also recycled or composted about 500,000 pounds in 2016 that would otherwise go to the landfill. And in 2017, they are installing a green roof!


Cuyahoga County is also taking strides to operate sustainably. In 2015, the County opened their new LEED certified headquarters downtown and, in partnership with Cleveland Public Power, will install a solar array to power 17 County buildings. The County encourages their employees to go solar on their own homes while also utilizing sustainable transportation through subsidized RTA passes.


The RTA, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, and other quasi-public are also leading the way in integrating sustainability into their own operations. 


7. Universities: Cleveland State University (CSU), Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), and Tri-C are instilling sustainability into their everyday operations while also educating students. Tri-C’s sustainable operations include a number of green buildings, a 28,000 gallon cistern that captures stormwater for irrigation and rain garden maintenance, a solar array, and electric vehicle charging stations. CWRU is striving to be a carbon-neutral campus focusing on high performance/green buildings, energy efficiency, and greening campus events. CWRU’s Sun Farm, associated with the CWRU School of Engineering’s Solar Durability and Lifetime Extension Center, is dedicated to the research and improvement of solar cells and solar electricity systems through better engineering. Finally, CSU recently hired a Director of Sustainability and launched their new sustainability website, As an EPA Green Power Partner, CSU purchased 18 million kilowatt-hours of green power, earning the title of Individual Conference Champion in the 2016-17 College & University Green Power Challenge. CSU has also invested $52 million in energy conservation measures such as LED lighting, high efficiency fume hoods, and HVAC upgrades, resulting in a 32% reduction in energy consumption.


8. Service: There’s a wide range of service companies focusing on sustainability, including Cleveland’s banking leaders. Key Bank is a national leader in clean energy, investing $3.1 billion in solar, wind, and other renewables since 2007. Since 2002, PNC has been applying U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) standards to all newly-constructed and renovated buildings, and even trademarked the term “Green Branch” to represent all PNC retail locations that are LEED-certified. Finally, Third Federal Bank has sponsored several community development initiatives over the years, including a recent tree planting event in Slavic Village to celebrate Earth Day. But don’t forget about the lawyers – the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association has a Green Initiative Committee that supports and celebrates a variety of law firms leading in sustainability.


9. Manufacturers: When people think Cleveland manufacturing, they often first think of steel. ArcelorMittal Cleveland is a Better Plants Program partner with the U.S. Department of Energy, and serves as one of the most productive and efficient integrated steel facilities in the world.  EZ Brite uses natural, vegetable oil-based soaps, food grade-based brightening agents, and micro abrasive minerals to make their cleaning products. Aside from producing eco-friendly cleaning products, EZ Brite celebrated 25 years as a zero waste manufacturer in 2015. Talan Products is also striving to be zero waste by capturing 100% of its daily in-plant and office paper, cardboard, plastic, metal, and electronics waste. Parker Hannifin focuses on reducing its energy use while Fairmount Santrol and its CEO, Chuck Fowler, have made it clear that “Sustainability pays; it doesn’t cost.” 


10. Third-Party Certifications: Cleveland has about 100 LEED-certified buildings, thanks in part to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Ohio and Cleveland 2030 District. You can see a full list of Northeast Ohio businesses and institutions that transparently report on sustainability through third-party organizations, including Global Reporting Initiative, Green Plus, Dine Green, and the Carbon Disclosure Project.   


These organizations represent just a sample of the businesses and organizations leading by example in sustainability. Share info about additional business leaders here or in the comments section below.


*The City of Cleveland does not endorse or recommend any commercial products or services offered by the businesses featured in this blog post. Therefore, mention of commercial products or services on the Sustainable Cleveland website,, cannot be construed as an endorsement or recommendation. These businesses were featured as examples of Cleveland’s growing sustainable economy. 


Photo credit (top to bottom)

Photo 1- The West Side Market, Photo 2- Great Lakes Brewing Company, Photo 3- Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Photo 4- Case Western Reserve University, Thumbnail photo credit: Water Pollution Control 


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