Digging the planet: How a quarry operator became a climate leader

by Ellen Maremont Silver

A bedrock of The Climate Center’s Theory of Change for its Climate-Safe California campaign is organizing a growing body of advocates– including businesses– who will exert pressure on lawmakers to implement the bold policies needed to address the climate crisis and usher in an equitable climate-safe economy. Below is an interview with one of The Climate Center’s Businesses for Clean Energy members who are committed to a climate-safe future. With COVID-19 decimating many businesses in California and throughout the world, it is more important than ever to support businesses like Soiland Company who are doing their part to build a healthy and vibrant economy.

Founded by Marv Soiland in 1962, Soiland Company is a Sonoma County-based family business that manufactures and sells aggregate rock, soil, compost, and mulch products.

Today, company president Mark Soiland, one of Marv’s sons, credits much of the company’s sustainable focus to his sister Marlene Soiland, “a trendsetting history maker. She helped convince our father early on that choosing a better future, not out of greed but out of care for the planet and the ongoing beauty of our community was paramount.”

In 2009, Mark announced that Soiland would flip their business model. “Up until that point, 20% of our products were recycled, and 80% (mining in Stony Point Rock Quarry) were not. We switched to 20% mining, and now everything else is recycled or upcycled.”

For example, in September of that year, when Grab N’ Grow joined Soiland, “we began recycling grape pomace, using herbicide-free animal manures, and using huge amounts” of completely renewable “green debris.” In the past five years alone, Stony Point Rock Quarry and Soils Plus have diverted over 500,000 tons of recyclable rubble materials from landfills, and Grab N’ Grow has recycled over 180,000 cubic yards of brush and yard waste.

Soiland Company’s sustainability initiatives include an extensive solar system at Stony Point Quarry that generates more than 400,000 kWh per year of renewable energy, plus water conservation, stormwater control, and use of electric vehicles. “I’m especially proud of our mining reclamation plan. It combines wildlife habitat with a small lake, a riparian edge, marsh and wetland areas, all optimized for amphibians, birds, and other wildlife,” Mark said.

Soiland Company joined The Climate Center (then called the Climate Protection Campaign) because “we were looking for advocacy, networking, and helping the whole community see and learn who we are. It fit with our company culture, goals, and objectives. We wanted to explore lots of connections– besides construction, landscaping, and development– like school gardens, slow food, and local compost programs,” Mark explained.  

Mark calls The Climate Center “a group and a movement that’s helping to enact change.” He cites many examples: continued program growth, strong impact in Sacramento with Community Choice Energy, electric vehicles, net-zero energy homes, carbon sequestration, and The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California Campaign. “The goals are lofty,” Mark says. “But we must be bold. Let’s take our foot off the gas with dinosaurs and put our foot on the accelerator with renewables.”

Mark believes that “when we come together collectively we have a louder, broader voice for change. That’s why we became a Platinum-level sponsor with The Climate Center.”

This dedicated community member and father has his own lofty and achievable goals: “I want to have a smaller footprint so I can leave the most natural beauty for future generations, including my two sons.”

It’s a values-based, smart, and optimistic approach to business. “I think it’s important to continue using technology to clean air and water. I have hopes that we can reverse natural and human impacts on the climate. Working on all of these ideas and more, it’s possible to reverse the trend of the last 100 years. The planet, wildlife, and plant species have a tremendous capacity to regenerate if humanity will let them. I hope that we will.”