Inboden’s Receives 2018 P.R.I.D.E. Award

Talking sustainability is “second nature” to Northern Illinois University graduate Jessica Fliginger of Inboden’s Gourmet Meats and Specialty Foods, which recently won an award for its energy-saving efforts.

Fliginger, 28, manager of environmental impact and sustainability at Inboden’s, 1106 N. First St. in DeKalb, worked at the grocery and deli shop while attending NIU and earning her bachelor’s degree in environmental studies. Since graduating in 2013, she’s been working with owner Tom Inboden and the rest of the staff to evolve how the shop uses energy, reduces food waste and improves its carbon footprint.

On Feb. 4, Inboden’s was awarded a People Responsible for Improving DeKalb’s Environment award by the city of DeKalb. As part of her job, Fliginger works with her alma mater to give tours to students in NIU’s College of Sustainability.

And it’s apparent she knows what she’s talking about.

“When you think about an environmental award, you wouldn’t really think about your local meat shop,” Fliginger said in a phone interview. “Because most meat shops don’t really follow our philosophy and try to incorporate these practices into their businesses. It helps set a great example.”

Although Fliginger has been with Inboden’s for years, Inboden has been on a mission to make his shop more environmentally friendly for much longer.

“He’s just always been looking for the most energy-efficient way to do things and in ways that would benefit the company,” Fliginger said.

“We are always working toward initiatives that reduce our impact,” Inboden said Monday. He employs 55 people at his shop, which was founded in 1962.

In the past year, Fliginger and her team at Inboden’s have worked tirelessly to replace all existing lights in the coolers, freezers, storage and general store area with LED bulbs. The refrigerators also have electrical magnetic motors, which use less energy because they aren’t running constantly.

“We’ve reduced our electrical consumption by 20 percent, which is an expenditure of about $25,000,” Fliginger said.

As part of the 1989 Kyoto Protocol – an international agreement made by countries across the world to reduce major greenhouse gases by at least 5 percent by 2012 – Fliginger said the store is outfitted with a Hussman Protocol Closed Loop, Co-Share Refrigeration System that uses the maximum efficiency of electrical consumption by allowing all refrigerators to co-share a compressor, therefore reducing the overall amount of compressors needed for the facility. “Basically, it has a significantly smaller refrigerant charge, so it uses 50 percent to 80 percent less refrigerant and reduces the amount of hydrofluorocarbons in the air, which is a major greenhouse gas emitter.”

For the container-conscious consumer, customers at Inboden’s also can use glass bottles at the olive and deli stations instead of other containers. They can fill them with bulk-purchase oils and vinegars, bring them back when they’re ready to buy more and save $1 each time.

The shop also has a zero-tolerance throwaway policy for meat and produce.

“Most stores follow an easy-to-maintain philosophy that ‘your first loss is your best loss,’ meaning throwing out old food and replacing it with fresh food,” Fliginger said. “We repurpose produce by cutting it up and freezing it, and using it in soups and entrées.”

She said ”The meat department also turns under utilized meat pieces into beef sausages, hamburger. Product that is wholesome and nutritious, but needs a certified sausage maker to create award winning sausages and therefore preventing us from throwing the product away, 100% Utilization. No different then if we took flattened and bruised tomatoes, and cut of the flawed parts and used the rest for homemade spaghetti sauce, green peppers, onions, etc, etc.”

For another example, Inboden’s catering team is given free rein to repurpose conventionally unattractive produce such as “unsightly” sweet potatoes, and turn it into a roasted sweet potato dish to serve.

“In every department, we really try and utilize everything,” she said.

Though Fliginger can throw around the science terms with the best of them, she says she also just likes working for Inboden’s because of its quaint atmosphere.

“It’s a small mom-and-pop shop and I like to support small business,” she said. “I really enjoy all the people I meet because a lot of our customers are regulars.”

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