Grow a Green Team

West Star Aviation shapes sustainability by cultivating a green culture amongst employees


Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day neither was West Star Aviation’s sustainability program. There are no short cuts to sustainability, explains Kraig Meyer, director of Environment, Health and Safety at West Star Aviation, a national aircraft maintenance and overhaul firm that has facilities in East Alton, Ill., Grand Junction, Colo., and Columbia, SC. In addition, West Star also runs the maintenance operations at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport in Aspen, Colo., and at Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield, Mo. West Star also provides complete FBO services from its East Alton, Ill., and Grand Junction, Colo., facilities.

“We continue to build upon our sustainability program annually,” Meyer says. “Sometimes we take a small bite, other times we take a large one, but we continue to grow it every single year.”

Over the years the company, which embarked on its green journey in 2007, has successfully cultivated a culture of sustainability that resonates with every employee and permeates every facet of the business.

Its core commitment to sustainability has helped the company save green as it has gone green. In fact, where West Star Aviation once spent approximately $50,000 per quarter to ship 28 different waste streams offsite, its average quarterly spend for the same service today is around $16,000 because recycling has cut its waste streams to 17.

And that’s just the beginning.

 

Ripe for the Picking

“We grabbed the low-hanging fruit first,” says Meyer, about West Star Aviation’s sustainability program.

In other words, the company, in business since 1947, tackled the simple things first—the disposal of batteries, rubber tires, used fuel and outdated electronics. “These were all things we were already collecting, managing and paying to ship out as waste,” Meyers says.

The company first identified local vendors for its electronics waste and over time added partnerships to recycle aluminum, rubber, cardboard, paper and even office supplies. “We now recycle light bulbs, paper products, wood and more,” he says. “We do it all onsite and we always work with local vendors, which reduces our fuel and shipping costs, and helps build the economy at home.”

These efforts have had measurable results. To date, West Star’s recycling programs have kept 1,000 pounds of e-waste; 6,100 pounds of lead acid, alkaline, lithium and NiCad aircraft batteries; and 9,200 pounds of automotive tires from clogging landfills.

 

No Free Lunch

“There’s an impact on business to do this; it’s not cheap and it’s not free,” stresses Meyer.

West Star Aviation GJT is 360 employees strong, and for any sustainability program to be successful, all of these employees had to support it. It took an investment in capital to educate employees about sustainability and its importance. “I don’t know that there were a lot of employees on board with this when we first started,” says Meyer. “But now it’s something our employees are proud of.”

Dave Krogman, general manager at West Star Aviation GJT, agrees the program initially met with some resistance, but says most employees are “pretty vested in the company” and “passionate about its success.” As a result, once they fully understood the program’s purpose, they became its biggest champions.

Meyer recalls how when the company first formed an in-house safety committee to champion its sustainability program, it was set up as what he terms a “volun-told” program, where members were told they had to participate. Fast-forward five years, and being part of the 12-member committee is a sought-after position. “I typically have 50 to 60 people wanting to be part of the program, and half of its members want to extend their time in it,” says Meyer.

 

Cultivate the Culture

West Star Aviation presents a safety award, which is tied to both safety and environmental initiatives, to two employees annually. It’s an award that’s driven many valuable improvements as employees compete for the honor.

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