The Durabrique Story
The answer to reducing Duratherm’s dependence on fossil fuels landed on our doorstep like a sack of potatoes.
Duratherm uses the world’s ultimate woods and materials for its windows and doors. Our company creates large quantities of high-quality, kiln-dried sawdust in the process of making the finest custom hardwood windows in the world. Our customers love the windows and doors, but until the Durabrique initiative, our sawdust was a problem. It added about 400 tons to the company’s waste stream, and it always seemed to be a terrible waste of a potentially useful byproduct. The solution came from a machinery consultant who has been a trusted vendor for many years. We were modernizing our production equipment and our consultant was in the middle of a multiple-appointment day. He had just come from a sawmill operation where they were attempting to turn their sawdust into wood bricks the shape of soup cans. Our consultant had a machine that could make the sawdust-to-brick conversion for them, but the soft pine that the mill uses was too green – too much moisture. So the process didn’t really work. They were very disappointed.
But Duratherm’s sawdust was already kiln-dried – perfect for the process. With the addition of a grinder we could begin creating hardwood sawdust bricks from all of our production waste. Our philosophy of prudent stewardship and sustainability blended perfectly with the Durabrique innovation. We were very excited.
But there was still one more obstacle to overcome.
Duratherm has a long history of community involvement, so naturally we wanted to share this new renewable and sustainable fuel resource with our neighbors. Having achieved this remarkable improvement in recycling and energy efficiency, we knew that the packaging of the Durabriques in plastic, which is common, was just not an option for us. We had always referred to the size and shape of the Durabrique as “soup can shaped,” but a Mainer friend of ours from the County said they reminded him of potatoes. It was a “lightbulb” moment. Why not use the time-tested and well-loved historic Maine potato bags? This suggestion turned out to be a perfect solution. Free of plastics or resins, the potato bags were made locally, easy to handle, and safe to store. Best of all, the bricks could be thrown into the fire, and then the bag could go in too! (NOTE: Some customers recycle the bags and bring them in for refills.) A local farmer (a neighbor) who had the “potato bagger” machine also had a stitching attachment, so we bought the whole system and brought it to our production facility in Vassalboro. Durabriques were then available in eight-pound or 35-pound bags, and we began delivering the extras to our community. Actually, it was our president, Timothy Downing, who began delivering them, including 24-hour emergency response. He says, “It gets me out of the office, and it gives me a chance to meet the neighbors and explain what we do at Duratherm. It’s great to be out there in the winter helping people in our community.”
Durabriques are very popular, and for good reason: they burn cleanly and efficiently with little smoke, no creosote buildup, no insects, and no mess at all. Identifying an unmet need in the community, Duratherm chose to offer free delivery and service to senior citizens including stacking the delivered bags. Durabriques are great for old-fashioned woodstoves or the new airtight ones as well. They work great in multi-fuel boilers. Best of all, several interesting things have developed:
- We save over 10,000 gallons of fuel oil each heating season.
- We use all of our crate material instead of sending it to landfills.
- We provide emergency assistance to those who run out of fuel during the harsh Maine winters.
- Our company-wide sustainabilty program has surged ahead on the Durabrique wave to include composting, recycling cardboard, all office paper, magazines, and newspapers, as well as all glass and metals.
- Durabriques now supply 35 percent of our entire energy requirements and still supply 200 tons of non-fossil fuel to the central Maine wood-burning community.
- New sustainability opportunities come along every year because our company’s ever growing environmental awareness.
From the sawdust and wood scraps of our production line, a victory for a cleaner world has been won. Those Durabriques stacked on our doorstep may look like bags of potatoes, but we know inside they are pure gold.