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This Family Business Has Helped Clean Up Industry for Generations

This post is brought to you by GOOD, with support from UPS. We’ve teamed up to bring you the Small Business Collaborative, a series sharing...

This post celebrating a timeless small business is brought to you by GOOD, with support from UPS. We’ve teamed up to bring you the Small Business Collaborative, a series sharing stories about innovative small businesses that are changing business as usual for their communities and beyond. Learn how UPS is helping small businesses work better and more sustainably here.


Mindful consumption means things like buying local, finding goods made from recycled products, avoiding excess packaging. But when we consider the toll of human activity on the planet, our storeroom choices hardly stack up to the massive outputs of industry—how we produce power or run our factories. Our most powerful machines can discharge pollution, spray oil, and grind with a cacophony of noise that punishes those whose labor supports our economy. Yet in the context of such grand machinery, it’s the little things—filters, scrubbers and silencers—that can dramatically change impacts.

In the village of Itasca, Illinois, on the northwest outskirts of Chicago, there is a family business that has been cleaning up industry for generations. In 1966, Charlie “The Cheese” Solberg, Sr. was a salesman working a job selling electric motors. He realized that there was a market for an improved filter design and invented a filter silencer for air compressors. This launched what became Solberg Manufacturing, now a registered B Corp that produces blowers, fans, and ventilation systems that limit emissions potentially hazardous to both the environment and employees.

Today, Solberg Manufacturing’s product line spans multiple industries. A range of high-quality scrubbers, separators and filters improve the efficiency of natural gas compression equipment. According to Travis Solberg, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, the company does plenty of sales in the oil niche market, adapting crank-shafts or turbines that otherwise lose oil as exhaust. Now thanks to new governmental regulations, “companies are more attuned to their environmental impact. So companies will purchase products which will help collect 99 percent of the oil that would be emitted and actually recycles it back into the equipment.” That recycling of oil not only stems emissions, but saves Solberg’s customers money by allowing them to reuse what would otherwise be lost.

This is how regulations that protect the earth can spur new technologies, and as Solberg Manufacturing has seen over the years, that can be profitable. Brian Salerno, senior portfolio manager and creator of the EcoLogical portfolio at Huntington National Bank supports this notion, saying that “If there’s one thing we can gather from the past is that regulations get tougher and tougher and tougher over time, especially with regard to the environment. And that’s a good thing.” It’s good for the planet, but as Salerno points out, those who go above and beyond to clean up their businesses “are making an investment in their future that will protect them from future regulations, especially versus competition.”

Through its products, Solberg Manufacturing tries to balance industrial growth with environmental responsibility. As government incentives help grow the conversion of landfill gas to electricity, Solberg’s products remove particulates from gas so that it burns cleanly. One of the company’s biggest markets is power generation, supplying component parts for solar panels, and crankcase ventilation for gearboxes and turbines for the wind and hydroelectric industries. Solberg recently started supplying filters to the steel-making industry to eliminate discharge pollution, through a process that also substantially reduces operating costs. The company expects this market to double in sales this year.

But sales aren’t the company’s only metric. According to Travis Solberg, starting with his grandfather Charlie, it’s become part of the company’s ethos to consider how their products will affect future generations. Rather than holding the company accountable to a triple-bottom line, Solberg Manufacturing uses a P7 Tree: people, planet, power, product, philanthropy, property, and prosperity. Says Travis, “We use it every year now to measure our success.”

During the worst of the recession, most companies connected to manufacturing took their lumps, and Solberg Manufacturing was not untouched. Yet, notes Travis Solberg, “During the recession, we cut zero jobs, but once we started feeling something coming” the company temporarily eliminated overtime, some had reduced hours. “But,” Solberg repeats the point with an air of significance in his voice, “no one lost their jobs.”

It’s a company that seems to genuinely care about its staff. The company runs a garden club open to all employees, encouraged its workers to participate in an eight-week pedometer program, and dozens of employees participated in the company’s “Don’t Gain, Maintain” weight program over the holidays last year.

It’s also a mindful workplace. Each year, one percent of pre-tax sales are donated to charity. Last year, 90 percent of Solberg Manufacturing’s waste was diverted away from landfills, in part due to recycling and reusing wood crates and repurposing scrap parts. The company actually insists that if any company ships them crates, the wood must not be chemically treated so that employees who use wood burning stoves can take it home for personal use. All the power for the company’s two facilities is offset with renewable energy. The Energy Star headquarters has over three hundred solar panels and is being readied for LEED certification. With all those layers of care, Solberg Manufacturing has shown how one grandfather’s life philosophy can remain relevant, while their products demonstrate how small-scale components make machines more efficient and industry cleaner.

Image via Solberg Manufacturing. It shows a processing system that converts the methane gas in animal manure to electricity.

Articles
via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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Culture
via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Communities
via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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Politics
via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

Lifestyle

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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The Planet