4 Ideas to Try for New Approaches to Recycling and Waste Reduction

Zero waste is becoming ever-present goal in companies around the world, meaning those companies are trying to find new and innovative ways to recycle. In a recent GreenBiz webinar presented by John Davies, the topic was just that: innovative approaches to recycling and waste reduction. The speakers from the webinar included Tom Carpenter, John Bradburn, and David Walter, who each focused on what their companies are doing to help reach the goal of zero waste through new means of recycling and waste reduction.

Below are the tips we've gathered from watching the webinar:

1.       Think of ways to reuse your waste

  • If you’re faced with excess material and waste, don’t just disregard it; think about what it can become.
  • For instance, General Motors took leftover engine crates and turned them into raised urban gardens that grew food for the local community.

2.       Separate your various waste streams

  • Instead of placing all of your waste into one stream, separate out what you can to potentially identify certain waste that can be recycled in a non-traditional manner or even reused.

3.       Look upstream for ideas

  • If you could potentially fix the problem at its source, wouldn't you at least try? Start by looking at where the waste originated from and see if you could potentially design that item to have less waste.

4.       Don’t be afraid to reach out for help

  • Sometimes you need a fresh set of eyes: reach out to a third party or look at supply chain partners for new ideas on how to recycle your material.
  • DuPont used this approach in their recycling campaign and by 2011 they achieved their goal of zero waste.

Do you have any tips on what works well for recycling in your company? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Book Review: A Culture of Purpose

Right off the bat in Christoph Lueneburger’s new book, A Culture of Purpose, you get a sense of how important sustainability is for businesses (hint: it’s really important). While the title and tag line of the book – “how to choose the right people and make the right people choose you” – might not indicate that the book will revolve around sustainability, but the book certainly does, and that in no way diminishes the power of the book. Lueneburger’s mission throughout the book is to show that sustainability holds the key to having a more resilient business.

Structured in four parts, A Culture of Purpose starts off at the core of a business: placing leaders with a purpose at the center. Then the book focuses on making sure that your company is acquiring the right talent. From there, Lueneburger goes on to discuss how to translate a culture of purpose into your organization, with the final section dedicated to moving forward and taking action.

In order to better communicate the message of sustainability in businesses, Lueneburger uses a multitude of anecdotes and in-depth interviews from CEOs to board members to chief sustainability officers. Herein lies the book’s greatest strength: it moves beyond the “what” and “how” of many business books to show you the “who.”

Sometimes an example Lueneburger uses in A Culture of Purpose does not have a direct correlation to sustainability. In fact, one of the first examples in the book was about a captain in the navy who used change leadership to bring his ship from one of the worst performing fleets in the navy to the most efficient. This is just one of many ways Lueneburger demonstrates that you do not have to be directly involved with sustainability to use sustainable principles to have your business thrive.

Despite being a business book, A Culture of Purpose reads more like a story. All too often business books can be dry from just giving you the “what” and “how,” or rather telling you what should be done. But with Lueneburger bringing the insight from professionals to the forefront, the “who” really makes the book not only informational, but enjoyable to read as well.

Featured B Corp of the Month: Vermont Creamery and Why Sustainability is a Necessity

©Tim Calabro, courtesy of Vermont Creamery

©Tim Calabro, courtesy of Vermont Creamery

We’re big supporters of the principles behind the B Corp movement, but we want to do more than just "spread the love" about it, we want to share the sustainability success stories from other B Corps!  Each month we’ll be publishing an interview with a sustainability champion of a B Corp – and this month we are featuring Vermont Creamery!

In 2014, Vermont Creamery, became B Corp Certified and joined over 1,000 companies that have met rigorous standards of transparency as well as social and environmental performance.  For 30 years, they have produced award-winning fresh and aged goat cheeses, crème fraîche and cultured butters in Websterville, Vermont.  We recently had the opportunity to talk with Creamery co-founders Allison Hooper and Bob Reese about their business and sustainability.

What made your company decide that sustainability was a priority?

Bob: Sustainability was never an option for us – it was a necessity. Without our farms, employees and community support from the very beginning, we would not be where we are today.

What is your company's greatest sustainability accomplishment to date?

Allison: As a business, we’ve been vocal about sustainability from the perspective of public policy – we speak out about the tensions between business interests and what’s good for employees, the environment and communities.  These viewpoints often differ from those of other businesses, but it’s important that our voice is heard.

How do you engage employees in sustainability issues? 

Bob: We have a long way to go to realize total employee engagement. While we have always tried to be a family-oriented, employee caring organization, it has taken a lot of work on part of the management team to empower our employees and provide opportunities for their continued engagement.  

Allison: I’d say we lead by example – if we seek to engage employees around issues of sustainability, we need to model responsible decision-making.  It may be as simple as riding a bike to work or carpooling, but these are the small things that offer our employees access to thinking about the larger concepts of sustainability and environmental stewardship. 

What is the biggest sustainability challenge facing your industry today?

Bob: Sourcing raw materials is one of the biggest challenges we face today. Farming is not a wildly profitable business, even when you are doing it well. We work with 15 independently-owned, family farms - we would like to help them lower costs, increase efficiency and promote sustainability - but we do not control these decisions, they do. We work everyday to lower our Creamery costs so that we can be in a position to pass these cost savings to our farmers as milk price increases.

Allison: I’d also add that most manufacturing has a high-environmental impact – as an industry, manufacturing businesses need to figure out ways to reduce this impact and to use natural resources in a sustainable and responsible way.

How are you addressing sustainability issues in your supply chain? 

Allison & Bob: A few things come to mind:

  • We have nearly completed the installation of a 572 panel solar array on the roof of the goat barn at Ayers Brook Goat Dairy.  This array will be the largest roof-mounted array in the state and will generate enough electricity to power the farm and a portion of our cheese making at the Creamery. 
  • We are planning for a bio-digester at the Creamery that will convert whey (a byproduct of cheesemaking) into energy.  We hope this will help us replace the propane we currently use for heating.
  •  We are actively researching non-GMO feed for our animals and hope to define a clear way forward on this particular issue.

How important is sustainability to your customers, and how do you tell them your sustainability story?

Allison: Our customers are highly educated and care about these issues – they are very concerned with climate change and the environment – if we were not operating with sustainability in mind, our customers would move on to brands that are. 

How do you stay on top of emerging sustainability issues?

Bob: Ayers Brook Goat Dairy, our demonstration farm, provides a venue for us to experiment and determine best practices. Currently, we are doing feed trials to lower costs while increasing milk protein and yield and focusing on improving our herd genetics down the road. We aim to pass our knowledge on to our other suppliers – in hopes of improving the quality of milk we have access to and improving the profitability of these family farms.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your sustainability journey?

Allison: If you make sustainability part of your mission, you will eventually get there.  We set big goals knowing that they will not happen overnight.  The small changes we make accumulate and, over time, we are able to turn these small changes into big ones.

Five years from now, what sustainability goals do you hope will be accomplished?

Allison: Two come to mind: 

  1. We would hope to see the bio-digester actively offsetting our propane purchases.
  2. Ayers Brook will be a viable goat dairy enterprise actively developing additional farms and preserving more working landscape in Vermont.

Who or what inspires your company in its sustainability journey? 

Allison: I have always been conscious of the fact that we are a manufacturer and believe we have a responsibility to be a good example, for our employees and the public at large.  I don’t think it’s right for corporations to use resources without consideration for the impact.  Producers need to do so in a responsible and thoughtful way. Bob and I have always pursued this ideal for Vermont Creamery and know it’s a journey, not a destination.

You can read June's "Featured B Corp" interview here.