Inside a lab in St. Charles, employees of one of the largest mosquito control companies in the world place droplets of new chemicals on some of the most dangerous creatures in the world.
Mosquitoes deliver diseases like malaria, and kill up to 725,000 people a year, according to the World Health Organization. That's far more than snakes, dogs, sharks, crocodiles and lions combined.
But even as experiments that may one day save lives occur under three levels of security in the labs, an experiment of a different kind is underway in the hallways and parking lot.
Clarke has 17 offices around the globe, but it's using its new St. Charles headquarters on Sidwell Court to set a new environmentally friendly standard for the company.
Three years ago, the company made a new commitment to limit the impacts of its products and processes on the earth as much as possible.
That commitment extends to the new headquarters, which replaces its former offices on the upper floors of an old bank building in Roselle.
Now that they're in their new home, Clarke "really wants to be an asset to the community," said spokeswoman Laura McGowan.
That's a key goal for the company to gain local acceptance. Their building is nestled in an industrial pocket that sits right across the street from a residential neighborhood.
Step one was creating a campus St. Charles residents wouldn't mind having as a neighbor. With that in mind, the portion of the headquarters closest to residents will soon become a native prairie complete with an environment that encourages butterfly life. The traditional asphalt parking lot will be removed in favor of brick pavers, and the cars parked in the lot will have access to four electric charging stations. There already is one company electric car used by employees for carpooling.
On the opposite side of the campus, which borders other industrial neighbors, Clarke will have a small fruit tree orchard and a flower and vegetable garden. Those elements aren't just to look at. McGowan said employees are both expected and encouraged to make use of the fruit and veggies for lunch and snacks.
"This is a lifestyle," she said. "You're not going into an office where you're closed off from the world. These amenities give our employees opportunities to be integrated into the community."
Indeed, even the first footsteps inside the new headquarters contain a reminder to go outside and be visible. A row of bicycles is lined up for employees to use on lunch breaks. Rather than drive, or even carpool, employees can pedal to nearby restaurants.
The bikes are an extension of what many Clarke employees use in the field. Instead of using trucks that start and stop every few feet to spray street catch basins with mosquito larvicide, staffers use bikes and pedal power to travel to 78 percent of more than 480,000 catch basin sites.
Clarke gutted the bulk of the interior of the St. Charles building, ripping out hundreds of light fixtures, but preserving most of the original flooring and doors. Now the inside takes advantage of plentiful natural lighting. Where sun rays don't reach, Clarke minimized the use of electricity with low wattage, environmentally friendly bulbs that bounce off reflective surfaces to cover more area.
Recycling bins pepper the entire office area. That effort is an extension of the construction process that saw 95 percent of all the demolished materials diverted from landfills.
Director of Marketing Dave McLaughlin said employees are committed to getting close to having zero waste from the office go to a landfill.
"Everything that is put in for waste is repurposed, reused, recycled or resold if possible," McLaughlin said. "What's left is burned and turned into energy. Actual landfill trash is only about enough to fill a small dumpster every two months."
No potential trash is overlooked. Even a hallway water fountain is fitted to fill water bottles. It features a running counter for how many water bottles don't go to the landfill because of it. A recent count showed 1,300 water bottles saved.
Within about a year, a kitchen for employees with healthy food selections and an outdoor eating plaza will be added to the headquarters. McGowan said a green workplace is both what company leaders envisioned and what employees have found they really thrive in since the April move to the building.
"This building really started from the employees," she said. "We asked them what would be your dream workplace. And a lot of those ideas have been incorporated into what we have here now."