As you can imagine, the grocery business is an energy-intensive proposition. What with refrigeration, heating and cooling, technology, and extensive cooking, we do require significant resources to run our store. But we have worked very hard over the last few years in particular to decrease our landfill contributions, and to offer you ways to reduce waste in purchasing your produce and bulk products.
End #4: The BFC exists to meet its shareholders’ collective need for a regenerative business with a net positive environmental impact.
One of the main ways that we impact our footprint is in the large amount of local and organic food that we purchase. Clearly, this product has fewer miles to travel, and in the case of organically grown product, soil health is enhanced over time. We expend quite a few resources to access, order, receive, and market these products due to our commitment to our community and our goal to participate in a sustainable economy, and our local business also serves our energy-focused End above.
In our landfill-diversion process, we saw that rate reduced in fiscal year 2018 from 175.8 tons to 171.7, despite simultaneously growing sales another $700,000, to $21.2 million.
This is due to implementing plastic recycling, more food used in the commissary, and composting. In general, raising awareness as well as providing updated systems to support staff in finding better ways to deal with waste has paid off.
Our utility costs rose slightly in fiscal 2018, partly due to a hike in electricity costs, and partly due to more cold days last year. We also saw a slight decrease in power generated from our solar panels on the roof, presumably from snowfall and relative lack of sunshine.
Overall, however, this End means that we pay special attention to a wide variety of issues related to environmental impacts. We have begun to pressure some of our distributors and vendors on packaging choices that they are making, which impede consumers’ ability to recycle their packages. We are also researching alternative products for some of the foodservice items that we use.
Speaking of foodservice items, we have been researching the use of PFAS (per- or poly-fluoroalkyl substances used to repel grease, water, and stains) in food packaging, since a Bloomberg article appeared just before Christmas targeting some items in use at Whole Foods Market. As with many items in our world, “short-chain” PFAS were thought to be a safer alternative—and they continue to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in food packaging—yet recent studies indicate that long-term use of “short-chain” PFAS may also be harmful to human health. With the help of the National Co-op Grocers (NCG), who lined up branded Co-op packaging for national use through local suppliers, and our other foodservice supply vendors, we are identifying the products that may contain some of these substances. As of early February, after taking inventory, the only items that we have concerns about are the Co-op bulk coffee bags and the Co-op waxed boxes used for takeout in the Deli. These products use these chemicals on the outside of the bag or box, so away from food contact, but we are actively seeking replacements, as are our suppliers. By the time you read this, we will likely have switched to new packaging that is certified PFAS-free. As this is new information regarding a packaging additive, the Biodegradable Products Institute, which certifies NCG-contracted compostable packaging as biodegradable, will require testing for PFAS in all of its 7000 BPI-certified products as of March 2019.
Please let us know if you have any questions, and if you wish to participate in researching alternative recycling options for some of the packaging that is used in the grocery industry. In the meantime, consider another plug for sustainable shopping practices: bring in your bulk containers, use re-useable mesh bags for your produce, and generally be mindful of all the ways you can impact the use of packaging in your grocery habits. I’ll see you in the aisles!
By Sabine Rhyne, General Manager
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