Secretary van der Vaart visits NC greenhouse that is a leader in sustainability

Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - 12:00am

Secretary van der Vaart recently visited Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville, N.C., to learn about the successful sustainable practices the owners have implemented.

Metrolina Greenhouses is the largest single-site greenhouse in the United States, with 162 acres under one roof. During their peak season, they ship more than 180 trailer loads of product each day. To keep such a large operation going, the greenhouse requires a large amount of water and energy for heating. By making sustainability a key focus of the business, Metrolina Greenhouses has become a leader in the industry and has seen the positive effects on their bottom line.

Thomas and Michael VanWingerden, whose father founded Metrolina Greenhouses in 1972, explained that as a grower of live goods, they use more than 500,000 gallons of water per day. 100% of the water they use is reclaimed and recycled from their own retention ponds on the property, providing an entirely sustainable system through rainwater capture.

The VanWingerdens also showed Secretary van der Vaart their wood-burning boilers, which allow them to heat the 6,400,000-square-foot facility using 100% biomass energy. Each year, Metrolina uses more than 40,000 tons of wood in their four burners – with 70% of it being waste wood and 30% being pallet scrap wood.

The company also implemented a system that allows customers can return their plastic trays and containers to the store they were purchased from, who then return them to Metrolina for recycling. This initiative recovers five million pounds of plastic annually that otherwise would have gone in landfills and reduces the cost and amount of plastic the company purchases each year.

As the largest greenhouse in the U.S., Metrolina serves as a mentor for other greenhouses across the nation, and DEQ commends them for their innovative approach to making their business environmentally-friendly.