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Preserving Critical Resources

Coulter Wood, Kelly Braaten | April 20, 2018


Conservation tips from Coulter Wood, senior staff engineer

This Earth Day, we asked Coulter Wood, a senior staff engineer at Hormel Foods who is responsible for the company’s energy management, to share some of his favorite tips — things people can do in their own lives to help preserve the Earth’s resources. Check out his thoughts and learn more about Coulter and his role at the company below!

From the Desk of Coulter Wood

When it comes to each of us doing our part, I think that it is really easy to look to big industry and expect the most impact to be had there. It is easy to feel like our efforts are dwarfed by those of big business. But the reality is that it is going to take all of us working together to see a reversal of climate change before it’s too late. The recently passed Stephen Hawking said, “We cannot remain looking inwards at ourselves on a small and increasingly polluted and overcrowded planet.” I couldn’t agree with him more. We have to see the bigger picture and do our part. We are a special species with great responsibility, and taking care of our home for our children and theirs must become a priority. And, these things are becoming financially beneficial to people in the same way that there’s a real business value for a company.


A major source of global pollution is plastic. Of the 300 million tons produced every year globally, eight million tons ends up in our oceans. In our landfills, plastics make up a huge portion of the waste streams. As plastics break down, they infiltrate our air and water supply.

300 Million Tons Of Plastic
produced every year globally

Here are some ways that you can reduce the amount of plastic you use:

  • Use your own shopping bags, or at the very least, request paper, which biodegrades more easily without the level of environmental contamination seen with plastic bags.
  • Carry a reusable water bottle and stop using plastic bottles.
  • Pack lunches in reusable containers — plastic bags are unnecessary wastes.
  • Say no to disposable cutlery and plastic straws. Stainless steel options exist for all, including stainless steel straws for use at home.
  • Use glass containers for leftovers. They usually work better, are microwave- and oven-safe, and are much more environmentally friendly than plastic storage containers.
  • Dine in at restaurants or eat at home more often. Plastic and Styrofoam to-go containers are a major source of plastic pollution.
  • Swap toiletries stored in plastic bottles for bar soap or glass containers.
  • Avoid synthetic clothing. Plastic fibers in the water discharged from our laundry machines are piling up in our nation’s water ways.
  • Finally, at the very least, recycle the plastic that you do use. Only a small portion of the plastic we use actually gets recycled as opposed to hitting the landfills.


Saving water is another hugely important step we can take as global citizens, as many scientists believe the struggle for clean, sustainable water resources is the most important issue we face today.

Clean & Sustainable Water
is the most important issue we face

A couple of things we do at my house related to water savings is use low-flow toilets and low-flow shower heads. We’re even in the habit of counting the seconds that we keep the faucets on for things like rinsing dishes after dinner, or cleaning out recyclables.


Speaking of water, another way to save energy is to reduce the amount of energy used to heat your home’s water supply.

Energy Award
Reduce Energy Use

A couple of tips for reducing the amount of energy you use to heat water include using cold water to wash laundry, and reducing the temperature of your water heater. You can even use a specially-designed insulating blanket to wrap your water heater and retain the heat. Make sure it is installed properly and made for your specific water heater. Please note that it is important to include at least one or two hot water cycles in your laundry machine every year to help flush the soaps that can clog your drain pipes. And don’t forget to turn up your water heater if you’re expecting guests – just set a reminder to turn it back down after they’re gone again!

Another great tip related to washing machines: Use your laundry machine and dishwashers at night! Using these appliances at night will help keep the house cooler, reduce strain on your municipality’s power grid during peak hours, and maybe most importantly, it reduces the chance of an emergency. If you have a water emergency in your home while you’re away, the damage can quickly escalate.

Do you know that the proper use of ceiling fans will allow a four degree adjustment on your thermostat? In the summer, make sure your fans are running only when the rooms are occupied. The correct setting for the rotation of your fans in the summer is counter-clockwise. This is because a slight breeze is generated and the evaporative effects make you feel cooler. In the winter, the correct rotation is clockwise. A clockwise rotation will circulate the warm air trapped near the ceiling, which will warm the rooms you’re occupying.

Meet Coulter

Coulter grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and graduated with a degree in geology from the University of Iowa, which is where his passion was fostered for the environment and sustainability. A career in environmental consulting is what eventually led him to explore working for a manufacturer.

“I felt as though I could be useful working for a company that places a high priority on environmental stewardship and sustainability. I joined the Hormel Foods environmental engineering team eight years ago,” Coulter said.

Coulter’s current position is in energy management, where his focus is on both the demand side and supply side. In this role, his goal is to make sure that Hormel Foods is paying the best price for its energy resources (electricity and natural gas), and is also using it as efficiently as possible. He also looks for projects that provide Hormel Foods with an opportunity to reduce its reliance on nonrenewable energy, while bringing positive financial, marketing and sustainability benefits to the company.

“What I’m most proud about is that Hormel Foods is committed to operating in a sustainable fashion. I have the support of our most senior management to accomplish some really great things in the renewable energy field, and we’re getting there. Our dedication to solar power has been proven through several projects such as the Hormel® Natural Choice® community solar garden in Kansas, and we’re working on some really exciting opportunities that could be transformational for the company,” Coulter said.

As anyone who has spent time with Coulter knows, he is passionate about conservation and sustainability. “I take my career with Hormel Foods very seriously because I have a great opportunity with a wonderful company to achieve incredible progress, and I’m extremely thankful for that,” Coulter concluded.

Hormel Foods Conservation Efforts

Hormel Foods has goals in place to reduce water use, nonrenewable energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and solid waste sent to landfills by 10 percent by 2020.

Reduce Product Packaging
by 25 million pounds by 2020
239 Million Gallons Of Water
reduced in 2016
Energy Award
157,000+ MMBtu Energy
reduction in 2016
For more information about the company’s corporate responsibility efforts, please visit
CR Report