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Walrus Oil founder and CEO Dave Darr and his team of 10 manufacture cutting board oil and other preservation products in a 10,000-square-foot factory in Ozark.
Sony Hocklander | SBJ
Walrus Oil founder and CEO Dave Darr and his team of 10 manufacture cutting board oil and other preservation products in a 10,000-square-foot factory in Ozark.

Efforts Big and Small: Companies take varied approaches to climate crisis

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On the other side of the planet from Springfield, heads of state and other representatives throughout the world have gathered to craft further strategies to address global climate change.

The meeting, scheduled for Nov. 6-18 in the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh, is the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference.

While the meeting is literally half a world away, it seems even more distant, with a focus on the threats rising ocean levels pose to countries like the South Pacific archipelago nation of Vanuatu.

But the climate change that is causing severe damage to Vanuatu’s coastal communities does relate to Springfield. Conference discussions center on transitioning to clean energy and the urgent need for innovative approaches to cutting carbon emissions and preserving natural resources.

Jack Stack, president and CEO of SRC Holdings Corp., has been quietly doing the work of preserving resources since he founded Springfield Remanufacturing Corp. in 1983, and even before. The SRC operations have amassed annual revenues in the $400 million-$500 million range.

Established much more recently, in 2017, Ozark-based Walrus Oil tallies less than a hundredth of SRC’s yearly revenue while manufacturing wood finishes and metal and leather care products. Dave Darr, the company’s founder and CEO, is taking a wholly different approach to living gently on the Earth.

Local efforts
Darr is passionate about the environment.

“I for sure believe in climate change, and I do think that a lot of it is human influenced,” he said. “There’s a responsibility for us as humanity to do our part to take care of the planet and at the very least keep it looking beautiful, healthy and habitable for future generations and our children.”

In the half-decade Walrus Oil has been in business, under the corporate name Dispatch Supply Co. LLC, Darr and his team have worked to reduce its carbon footprint. In 2020, the business first achieved certification by Climate Neutral, which shows the company has a net zero impact on the environment with its manufacturing operation.

The certification is based on practical targets, like this year’s goals of reducing emissions associated with the company’s work van by replacing it with an electric vehicle alternative or reducing emissions associated with energy usage at its new building.

Ongoing efforts include reducing emissions by cutting shipping distances and auditing its packaging, as well as auditing its supply chain to ensure the best environmental and human rights standards from producers.

“We will use our privilege to apply pressure to enact positive change or look to change suppliers/producers,” the company pledges on the Climate Neutral website.

By the end of the year, Walrus Oil projects it will have planted some 25,000 conifers through donations to the U.S. Forest Service.

“That’s just way extra for net carbon,” Darr said of the tree planting effort. “We’re pretty proud about that. Let’s get carbon neutral – let’s get carbon out of the air immediately, then plant trees as icing on the cake.”

Larger scale
Over at SRC, Stack chuckles when asked if he’s an environmentalist.

“We are not the type of people that beat our chest on doing the right thing,” he said.

But a corner of the SRC website titled “Sustainability” quietly attests, “Reman keeps material out of landfills, requires fewer natural resources and creates less air pollution compared to manufacturing new goods.”

SRC’s companies recover scrap material and recycle what is not usable, the website says, noting that the reman process saves 85% of energy, water and materials compared to new goods, and that 70 million pounds of material are saved annually by SRC.

According to the website, the reman process returns a previously worn-out product to like-new or better-than-new condition, giving old products a new life cycle and saving resources.

“Remanufacturing saves money, resources and our planet,” the website says.

It’s apparent from talking to Stack, a practical, no-frills figure, that a marketing person wrote the website copy.

“Years ago, they wanted to put the whole idea of green on everything we made, our industry,” Stack said. “I thought, why don’t you do things that are just the right things to do?”

Stack said SRC has never blatantly marketed its green initiatives to score sales.

“In the 1970s, we decided to get into the business of recycling at a more sophisticated level, which is called remanufacturing,” he said. “We’ve been very blessed to grow.”

The idea of reman is to cost 30%-50% less than new while having the same warranties and benefits, Stack added.

“What happens now is everybody’s beating themselves on the chest to say we’ve got to go with all kinds of sustainability programs,” he said.

SRC takes each component of the machines it remanufactures and recycles it, with the exception of some ingredients in an airbag, Stack said.

“If there’s copper, we sell it to a person who will reuse it. Aluminum, we send it back to somebody that reuses it in piston making. Big crank cases, we remanufacture every one of them – we remanufacture crankshafts,” he said.

“If you bring it back, you don’t have to spend money on new. If you do, it’s more energy, more water, more raw materials into a product line where there was nothing wrong with the old one.”

Suddenly, the rest of manufacturing has caught on, and Stack is amused.

“We’ve been hidden for like 50 years, and now all of a sudden we’re the hot topic,” he said.

Urgent need
Walrus Oil recently upsized into a 10,000-square-foot warehouse, and it sends its cutting board oil to 1,000 retailers nationally, including 325 Walmart stores. SRC does business internationally, and Stack said European companies are constantly reaching out to learn as much as they can about remanufacturing so they can meet their carbon-neutral goals.

Behind the efforts sits the potentially vanishing Vanuatu. Kiribati, Panama, Indonesia, Greenland, Bangladesh. Even the U.S. Florida Keys.

For Dan Chiles, former Springfield City Council member and avowed environmentalist, the international climate crisis is top of mind.

“I’m preoccupied about the challenges ahead,” he said. “My whole schtick right now is to be as optimistic as I can. Working with the culture that we have here, how do we make the best of the climate that we’re in?”

Chiles said local industry leaders are pretty complacent.

“I think the people that are running companies right now are largely old white guys, and they’re not going to change. There’s going to be progress, one funeral at a time,” he said.

Chiles said businesses that last will ultimately provide the solutions to the crisis.

“It’s hungry, smart, wily small businesses that are going to make a difference,” he said.

Chiles is looking to his children’s generation to solve the problem.

“The millennials are smart, hungry, tenacious, well-educated – they believe in science,” he said. “They’re tough men and tough women that go, ‘I’m going to have to be the problem solver.’”

Chiles said the younger generations will laugh at those who try to say there’s no such thing as climate change.

“It will be right there in front of them,” he said. “It’s as real as the sun coming up.”

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