Earl’s Organic Produce on the San Francisco terminal market always has done business with sustainability in mind, but the company recently launched a formal sustainability program and has a goal of wiping out all waste by 2020.
Katherine Vining has been promoted to sustainability and vendor compliance manager and is charged with the task of showing all employees how to minimize the environmental impact of the company’s business operations.
All employees are required to attend a 45-minute training class during which Vining tells them how to determine what materials go into which container in the company’s five-bin waste system.
She also teaches what it means to compost and recycle, what the company’s sustainability goals are and how to implement their own waste-reduction programs at home.
Besides the typical compost, recycling, and landfill bins, Earl’s has added two bins for gloves and film plastics, such as pallet wrap.
The company also has established programs for cardboard box and pallet reuse as well as ink pen and e-waste recycling.
Earl’s seems to be making significant progress in its goal to reduce waste.
It already has an 89% waste diversion rate, Vining said, which compares favorably to San Francisco’s 80% diversion rate, which, the company says, is the highest rate for any city in the nation.
The city also has a goal of zero waste by 2020.
Besides training workers how to dispose of materials that come into the facility, Earl’s continues to work with suppliers, encouraging them to evaluate the amount and type of packaging they use.
The project began informally about 18 months ago when Earl’s partnered with the New Castle, Va.-based Sustainable Food Trade Association, which works with organic producers, processors, manufacturers, distributors and retailers to develop sustainable business practices, Vining said.
The sustainability program formally was launched last year, and after some “visioning and goal setting” the company kicked off its waste reduction project in early April, Vining said.
“For us, (the program) is a thorough integration into our mission statement,” said Earl Herrick, the company’s owner, president and founder. “It’s taking the next step and walking our talk.”
Vining did not yet have official figures, but she said a visual check of the amount of waste going to landfills had dropped significantly after the first couple of weeks of the program.
Cost of implementing the program was minimal, she said — mostly training and buying color-coded bins. Long term, Vining expects to see a cost reduction in the form of discounts from the company that hauls off the company’s waste.