Paul Bardinas: Setting an Example for the Environment
06/11/12 by Kathy Chaffin
Paul Bardinas is a man who walks his talk.
He talks passionately about his concerns for the environment and the importance of sustainability in everyday conversations and writes about them on Facebook. And he sets an example by implementing "green" initiatives in his company and the home and farm he shares with his wife, Carrie, and their three young sons.
As the fourth generation CEO and president of Freirich Foods Inc. in Salisbury – a premium meat company—Bardinas has ordered energy audits of the building which have resulted in more energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs.
Bardinas, who is 36, also started a companywide recycling program for everything from the corrugated cardboard that had been thrown into the landfill for years to aluminum cans and plastic bottles. What can't be recycled is sold or given away.
He is also seeking bids for a solar panel system for the plant. "We are hoping by the time we are done that we can offset one-tenth of our annual electrical use," he said.
Bardinas also implemented water conservation practices at Freirich Foods, resulting in 30 percent less water consumption. As for the estimated 100 employees, he said they seem to appreciate both the environmental and cost-saving reasons for implementing sustainable practices.
In an effort to cut down on fuel emissions and save money,
Bardinas has also attempted to reduce the number of trucks transporting Freirich Foods meats, the majority of which go up north. The company – known for its traditional corned beef, pastrami and roast beef –maintains a more than 40 percent market share in the New York Metro and New England areas.
Company Moves to Salisbury
Freirich Foods relocated from New York to Salisbury when Bardinas was a boy. His stepfather and step-grandfather had been looking for a new location when they saw the White Meat Packing Company and seven acres on West Kerr Street advertised for $150,000. "They couldn't believe it coming from New York," he said, "so they snatched it up."
Moving to Rowan County was a culture shock for an 11-year-old boy, but he adjusted quickly. After attending Salisbury High School for three years, Bardinas transferred to the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem to study visual arts, graduating in 1993.
After that, he attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating in 1998 with a degree in fine arts and returning to New York for a few years. "I did the rat race and that was not for me," he said.
Paul and Carrie Bardinas' Nissan Leafs, all-electric cars which produce no
tailpipe pollution or greenhouse gas emissions.
Bardinas returned to Salisbury to work in the family business, starting a two-year, post-baccalaureate program at Catawba College in 2002. That's when he took a basic environmental science class under Dr. John Wear, executive director of the Center for the Environment, located on the Catawba campus."It was very eye-opening," he said.
Bardinas was already environmentally conscious, focusing much of his artwork on politics and social concerns. During his time at Catawba, Bardinas became fascinated with the Center for the Environment facility, one of the first green buildings in the state of North Carolina.
"For me, the idea that you could build a facility using passive solar energy and capturing rainwater was pretty impressive," he said. "I think that more than anything really shaped what I'm trying to do now. I know it can be done."
Sustainable Environment a Priority
Bardinas graduated with a business administration degree in 2004, marrying Carrie Misenheimer, who grew up in Gold Hill and attended Pfeiffer College. When his stepfather, Jeff Freirich, passed away in 2007, and his mother, Digna Freirich, who still lives in Salisbury, retired, Bardinas took over the reins of the food company.
Carrie and Paul Bardinas live on a 10-acre farm in eastern Rowan County about a mile from the Faith town limits. When they started talking about having children, the Bardinases decided their No. 1 priority was to raise them in a sustainable environment.
"We wanted them to be in touch with nature, and we made a conscious decision to grow most of our own food," he said. "We can 60 percent of the fruits and vegetables that we eat year-round."
They also raise their own goats for milk and chickens for meat and eggs, selling what eggs they don't use. The Bardinases do their own composting and use it to fertilize their garden. "We don't use any pesticides or herbicides," he said. "It's basically all organic."
They've also done extensive work to the 1960s house on the farm to make it more energy-efficient, replacing old windows, upgrading the heating and air, adding insulation and are now in the process of installing solar panels to provide all the home's energy needs. The couple also replaced all the incandescent light bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescent lights (CFLs).
The Bardinases' organic garden.
Both drive all-electric Nissan Leafs, which will also be charged through the solar panels. "Again, this was one of those dreams that I had had forever and was waiting for someone to come out with them," he said. "Nissan finally pulled it off."
Before that, the Bardinases spent about $11,000 a year on gas. Paul still has a farm pickup, but now only spends about $800 a year to charge both Leafs.
They also recycle what little plastic makes its way into their home and use rain barrels to capture water to irrigate their garden. "It's amazing what you can do if you really put your mind to it," he said. "It gives you a good feeling at the end of the day."
Bardinas said he became aware of the dangers facing the environment in college. "But unfortunately, like so many Americans and college students, it really wasn't at the top of my list," he said.
It's not that people don't understand what's happening, Bardinas said, it's just that they don't think they can change it. "They think, 'What can I do? The problem is so vast, and there are 7 billion people on the planet.' "
"The benefits," he said, "include: less energy consumption, a smaller carbon footprint, healthier diet, more quality time spent with the family, and kids that grow up actually learning something about the natural world." Bardinas said he is determined to not only do his part but hopes to convince others to do the same.
Once the Bardinases had their first child, Noah, who is now 5, he said they realized they wouldn't be able to look into his eyes 10 years down the road if they didn't do everything they could to protect the environment and teach him to live a self-sufficient, sustainable lifestyle. Now they have two more reasons for doing what they do, 4-year-old Luke and 2-year-old Jacob.
"It is pretty amazing to think that in just a couple of generations, most Americans have completely lost the ability, skills and knowledge to truly provide for themselves," Bardinas said. "The greatest gift I can give my boys is to make sure they have those skills and knowledge for the future."