"You can't afford not to be environmentally friendly," Coogan told her audience.
Coogan has spearheaded the sustainability efforts of Lafayette's Subaru of Indiana Automotive (SIA), which have been an overwhelming success. Not only has the plant achieved zero-landfill status since 2006, their green efforts have actually saved the company money. In 2008, the company's efforts saved it $2.3 million more than it cost.
Coogan credited Greencastle for its efforts in a similar direction.
"You guys are light years ahead of most communities. I applaud you for your efforts," she said.
SIA's achievements have come through a variety of methods, according to Coogan. One of the most basic of these is through the use of the "Three Rs" we have all heard of: reduce, reuse, recycle.
She said one key to this methodology is to remember the order of the three words. Reducing what is used is always the best way to limit waste. From there, though, reusing something is also a sustainable method. Recycling, while still much better than throwing something away, is used as almost a last resort in this model.
Coogan also said making a real difference with sustainability efforts is a function of changing the way people think and speak. Big changes can begin with minor changes in word choice.
"We never call our waste 'trash,'" she said. "Waste is just material that has not found its use yet."
The first step in SIA's efforts was to literally go dumpster diving and figure out what they were throwing away at various points in the production process. They then had to figure out ways to change this.
"What we do is not rocket science. It's very simple," she said. "It's about just making small changes in how we look at things and how we think of things."
She also said a true difference can be made only when people at all levels, from upper management to floor workers, are working together on the effort. In this way, the Greencastle Sustainability Commission fits the mold with its involvement of elected leaders, local businesses and average citizens. Coogan expressed a belief in SIA's employees that could also be said of the citizens of this city.
"99.9 percent of the people who walk through those doors every day want to do the right thing," she said.