Matthew instructed his drivers to break apart all empty cardboard boxes and return them to the distribution center. “We recycle 100 percent of our cardboard,” he said.
He then began applying the principle to other types of waste: vending machines, ink cartridges, telephones and printers. All scrap gets sent to a scrap yard.
Matthew also began offering container recycling bins to customers. He said most accounts that take the containers choose to manage their own recycling.
Alternative fuel vehicles
Even before gasoline prices began spiking in 2009, the Marshes investigated alternative fuels. They began buying Toyota Prius Hybrids for technicians, managers and supervisors. The self charging hybrids, rated by both the federal and state governments as among the cleanest vehicles available based on smog and toxic emissions, get around 50 miles per gallon in the city.
First Class Vending currently has 22 Priuses, which comprise 90 percent of the vehicles for technicians, managers and supervisors in all three operating facilities.
The company also uses satellite-based global positioning systems to manage vehicle use.
The Marshes have not yet found an alternative fuel for delivery trucks that they like, but they believe they will be available in the near future.
The brothers were also ahead of the curve in offering bottles made from 100 percent recycled materials. Two years ago, they began buying bottled water from Chameleon Beverage Co. Inc. in City of Commerce, Calif.
Pioneering solar energy
The $1.8 million solar energy project has been the most ambitious sustainability initiative to date. Solar panels have been installed to the roofs of four buildings, comprising a total 60,000 square feet. The project is one of the largest private sector solar energy installations in southern California.
“The solar industry is so new,” Matthew noted.
Solar power has been the most challenging initiative for Matthew in his entire career, not only financially but educationally. Solar energy is an evolving science. For people not experienced in either alternative energy or construction, it requires extensive research. Matthew spent seven months studying solar energy before hiring a construction team.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint and do what’s right for the environment,” said Matthew.
“We had four main motivations for going solar,” he explained. “First was financial. We’re facing rising energy costs throughout our operations and we’re trying to save as much as we can. Second, we want to meet the sustainability standards our clients set for themselves. Third, we want to reduce our carbon footprint and the impact we have on the grid. Finally, we’re facing rising gas prices in a mileage-intensive business, and we have to offset those rising costs by any means we can.”
After studying solar energy, Matthew asked four companies for bids to renovate his existing facility in Bell Gardens. All four companies came back with different proposals. At this point, he felt he needed help from someone more knowledgeable.
He turned to Howard Spunt and Gary Rochlin of Spears Construction, Inc. of Carlsbad, Calif., a full-service general contractor with over 35 years of construction experience to evaluate the bids.
Spears Construction recommended the Marshes hire DRI Energy, based in Irvine, Calif. The Marshes retained Spears Construction to oversee the project and act as prime contractor.
Recognizing that weight and seismic limitations on the existing roofs reduced their solar generating capacity, Spears Construction recommended the construction of solar structures to mount the solar panels to provide more electricity, offset more grid-supplied energy, and accelerate the payback period.
Spears then selected Campbell Certified steel contractors in Oceanside, Calif. to build two solar structures to attach the solar panels to.
The installation of the panels, which include a total of 1,296 solar modules, was completed in five months.
The total energy output of First Class Vending’s solar installation will exceed half a million kilowatt hours annually, offsetting more than 80 percent of the company’s annual load of grid-supplied electricity.