An Inside Look at the LEED Silver Certified Frontier Natural Products Co-op Headquarters

As we told you in an earlier post, Frontier Co-op achieved LEED silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for the renovation of their original warehouse in 2010.

Areas considered in this certification are energy use, lighting, water and material use as well as a variety of other sustainable practices. By using less energy and water, LEED certified buildings save money for families, businesses and taxpayers; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.

Here’s a video that provides a visual of these upgrades and practices — and gives you an inside look at our headquarters.

ReUse Connection

Since one of our missions on this blog is to keep unraveling the puzzle of sustainability, we appreciate it when we come across recycling tips that make sense and as a bonus are fun, too. If you ever wonder what you can do with that mountain of Starburst wrappers on the floor of your car, this is your kind of site.

Since 2009, ReUse Connection has been using social media to promote the re-use of materials and items by providing a platform for people to share and discuss re-use examples. . . and by supporting eco-entrepreneurship.  It’s an inspiring use of Facebook in particular, with over 70,000 followers engaging in discussions and sharing tips for re-using materials in endlessly creative ways.

In the site’s own words:

“ReUse Connection sees ReUse as a much broader umbrella, including recycling, upcycling, some repurposing, etc. Our knowledge sharing purpose is to aid people in thinking outside the box. . .

At times, we focus on the “use” part of ReUse, seeing utility in items or materials otherwise destined for the landfill: for example, repurposing an item or material that has never been used or will never be used because it is expired or blemished.

While some of our content may not directly achieve the goal of reducing waste, our broader goal is to demonstrate what is possible and hopefully stimulate people to act on that imagination.

ReUse Connection aims to reduce waste and improve environmental health by:

1. providing knowledge sharing about ReUse, and

2. creating economic opportunity (with individuals, entrepreneurs, and corporations) by seeing value at the back end of the material stream.”

This is sustainability in action. They’re in the process of developing a website, and in the meantime have created a Facebook page that’s become a clearinghouse for ideas of all kinds.

A few of our recent favorites:

Beach bag made from mesh produce bags, courtesy the journals of giddy giddy

Striped cotton wrap around skirt size 6Y made of a man shirt, courtesy French Garderobe on Etsy

Tie bag from ReUse Picasa page

Ski rack idea/photo courtesy Orvis

Granted, some of the ideas may not appeal to everyone, but one of the things we most enjoy about the Facebook page is the give-and-take in the comments following the postings. Fans on this site aren’t shy about expressing their opinions on whether new ideas make the grade or not.

For more info on the genesis of ReUse Connection and its founder, Ian Moise, here’s an informative interview with him from the website Blue Planet, Green Living.

You may want to become a follower on this page; there’s certainly something new every day. Let us know if you try any of these ideas, or post your own!

Meet Liz Hopkins, chef at the Frontier Café

In a recent blog post about our LEED® Silver certificatied renovation, we showed you a photo of the beautiful café at Frontier’s Norway facility.

A real bonus for our café is its wonderful chef, Liz Hopkins. Liz creates the healthy organic lunch offerings our employees enjoy each day. Talk about an employee benefit you don’t find just anywhere! Besides being the chef at Frontier, Liz makes beautiful jewelry that we look forward to seeing at our employee craft fairs. She’s a dragon boat enthusiast too. Versatile gal.

Liz Hopkins, chef at Frontier café. Photo by Kathy Larson

Liz took time out from her duties in the Café kitchen to talk to us about her work at Frontier.

Tell us a bit about what you do at Frontier. What was your background that prepared you for this?

I’m the chef and café manager in the employee Café at the Norway facility.  When I was in my early 20s, I worked at a resort hotel in Arizona and was taught the basics of cooking, so that’s how I knew I could handle this.  A lot of what I do is also self-taught.

What are your favorite go-to spices when you work in the Café?

I really like Simply Organics Vegetable Seasoning, and basil is a favorite spice of mine.  Seriously, I use the Simply Organic Vegetable Seasoning in almost everything: grilled veggies, salad dressing, and salads.

What have you learned about spices from working in the Café that you can share with us?

I have learned to experiment with herbs and spices.  It’s important for people to remember you can add a small amount of a spice to your cooking, and then build on it. You can always add but never take out. Soon you’ll learn what you like.

Can you tell us a few quick tips that you use all the time? Any spices that match certain foods perfectly? (For example, we love the veggie seasoning on the fish you serve at the Café.)

Dill goes with fish.

Thyme goes with chicken.

Basil is always good with tomatoes.

Simply Organic Vegetable Seasoning goes with anything, and I use it on grilled veggies a lot.

For more savory flavor, use oregano or rosemary.

Also, I’ve learned that if food looks good, it usually is. People eat with their eyes! It’s really true.

Do you have any dishes you prepare that seem to be crowd favorites in the Café?

People seem to like my potato pancakes, grilled tofu, roast beef w/smashed potatoes, grilled veggies, and garden burgers. Lots of varieties of sandwiches are popular.

Can you share one of your favorite recipes with us?


1 cup finely shredded carrots

3/4 cup of cooked brown rice

1/2 cup shredded cheese (what ever flavor you like)

1/4 cup finely chopped onion  (I use a green onion)

1/8 cup finely ground sunflower seeds

1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1/4  teaspoon ground ginger

1/4  teaspoon ground coriander

2 egg whites

1 tablespoon tamari

Mix carrots, rice, cheese, onion, sunflower seeds, bread crumbs, parsley, ginger and coriander together in large bowl. Mix well.

In another bowl, mix egg whites (beaten) with tamari.

Add this to dry ingredients and mix well.

Cover, place in refrigerator for one hour.

Scoop into patties and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 min.

What do you like to cook or bake at home for your family?

We like Mexican dishes, and I make a rhubarb crisp we like. To be honest, I cook more at work than I do at home!

Frontier Awarded LEED® Silver Certification

Our renovation included our building facade, while using 100 percent of the existing building’s skin, roofing, and flooring.

Frontier is proud to announce that we’ve been awarded LEED® Silver certification for a major renovation at our manufacturing facility. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the nation’s preeminent program for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. LEED certification is established by the U.S. Green Building Council and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI).

We achieved LEED certification for energy use, lighting, water and material use as well as a variety of other sustainable practices.

By using less energy and water, LEED certified buildings save money for families, businesses and taxpayers; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.

“We’re honored to achieve this level of LEED certification, as it truly represents our ongoing commitment to sustainable operations,” stated Tony Bedard, our CEO. “It also gives our employees and customers a benchmark for what Frontier has accomplished up to this point and identifies opportunities where we can continue to improve in the future.”

“The green building movement addresses global climate change, dependence on non-sustainable and expensive sources of energy and threats to human health,” said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair of the U.S. Green Building Council, which established LEED certification. “The work of innovative building projects such as Frontier’s facility is a fundamental driving force in the green building movement,” Fedrizzi added.

LEED certification of Frontier’s manufacturing facility was based on a number of green design and construction features. Here are some highlights:

  • We completely renovated 7,200 square feet of existing warehouse space with a focus on where energy and/or mechanical systems could be best optimized, including plumbing, HVAC, lighting, and a re-finished concrete floor.  Frontier was able to use minimal resources to establish native landscaping, avoiding the need for a permanent irrigation system. Inside, flush and flow fixtures in restrooms cumulatively achieve 35 percent water efficiency compared to conventional building flush and flow fixtures.
  • We specified energy-efficient envelope lighting, HVAC (water-source heat pumps and commercial RTUs), carbon dioxide sensors and two on-demand water heaters. Altogether, Frontier’s energy efficiency measures will conserve more than 77,000 kilowatt hours compared to a similar conventional building. That’s equal to 55 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Frontier's new employee cafe, featuring a re-finished concrete floor.

  • In addition, Frontier purchases renewable energy certificates (RECs) to offset 100 percent of its facility’s energy requirements and carbon offsets to offset 100% of our product shipping. Frontier’s REC portfolio includes renewable energy generated from wind farms located in Iowa.
  • With a goal to minimize materials and resources as much as possible, Frontier’s renovation reused 100 percent of the existing building’s skin, roofing, and flooring. The renovated interiors promote indoor environmental quality and include low- or no volatile organic compound adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings, cabinetry and surfaces.
  • Frontier installed a rapidly renewable bamboo-plank stairway and used cradle-to-cradle (C2C) certified furniture in Frontier’s boardroom, meeting room and offices.

The renovation takes advantage of the natural light flooding our atrium.

  • Frontier’s renovation of existing employee and visitor parking areas maintained parking capacity while protecting and restoring 63 percent of the site with native and adaptive plant material. In addition to designed bio-swales, detention basins, and an on-site wetland, the engineered slope and grade of the employee parking area removes 100 percent of solids in runoff by capturing and filtering more than 90 percent of average annual rainfall on-site.
  • Frontier also created preferred parking spots for 11 low-emissions vehicles and 12 carpools plus added 11 secure bicycle racks with nearby shower and changing facilities. Altogether, the parking program’s goal is to lower greenhouse gasses from employee commuting by 135 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

This award is the culmination of hours of work and dedication on the part of many teams here at Frontier. The job was interrupted at one point by the devastating Iowa floods in the spring of 2008, which took most of the crew away to work on other emergencies.

Each time we gather in our beautiful new test kitchen, we celebrate the achievement!

MORE PHOTOS HERE.    Click “show info” on the slideshow for details.

All photos by Kitty Sheehan.