Businesses rewarded for implementing greener ways
The Utah Recycling Alliance encompasses all the Rs—reducing, reusing, refurbishing, repurposing…and when all those avenues have been traveled, finally recycling. Their mission is to “empower people, organizations and communities statewide to create a Zero Waste culture by building successful models and encouraging practices that promote reuse, recycling and resource conservation.”
The organization was a founder of the Intermountain Sustainability Summit at Weber State, and organized the first Bag the Bag Campaign for Utah. They conduct CHaRMs (collecting hard-to-recycle materials) and Fix-It Clinics around the valley. And each November they present awards to businesses that have improved their “R” skills over the past year.
Meet this year’s winners!
Hello! Bulk Markets
Zero Waste (Or Pretty Darn Close)
If you’ve ever found yourself contemplating the plastic garbage island floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean after walking down your local grocery store’s aisles, this revolutionary Salt Lake City shop may be your breath of fresh air. At last, in the city where cashiers still ask you, “paper or plastic?” as if both were equally costless, there is a haven where packaging and plastic baggage have been cancelled.
Hello! Bulk Markets took home what was perhaps the flashiest of the Zero Waste Awards, a recognition for having achieved a 90% or higher waste diversion rate. This means that practically all of the waste that the market accumulates is either repurposed, donated, composted or recycled—that is, diverted from the landfill.
Hello! Bulk Markets is our city’s first package-free market, housing nearly 300 products from nuts, beans and baking products to fresh salsa, body care, household cleaning and more. The concept originated from founder Jamaica Trinnaman who had worked for many years in health food grocery stores and had fallen in love with the self-serve dispensers in the bulk aisle. Slowly, though, Jamaica began to realize that the business model of major corporate grocers was not set up for sustaining the brilliance of bulk. She watched her own workplace (Wild Oats Market and Whole Foods) trim down their bulk offerings while simultaneously increasing packaging in non-bulk items. As package-free markets began to spring up in other states, Jamaica knew what she had to do and trusted her community to support her.
From warehouse to small starter shop, to now being on the precipice of opening a second location in the 9th and 9th area, Hello! Bulk’s impact continues to reach new levels while staying true to a zero-waste model. Hello! Bulk avoids packaging by always purchasing products locally to be delivered in drums via a methodical bin rotation system, cutting transportation costs while avoiding the buildup of one-gallon containers for each product. Jamaica goes out of her way to find reuse opportunities for the drums and other plastic waste through community partnerships with organizations such as Renewlogy. What can’t be reused is meticulously sorted so as to maximize recycling potential. Additionally, Hello! Bulk holds regular community workshops focused on sustainability and has been increasingly acting as a distributor to local restaurants who want to source sustainably.
“As a company we are based on the premise that we all have enough containers— we just need a place to reuse them,” Jamaica explained. “We’re always saying, reduce, REFILL, recycle.”
According to most recent data from the EPA, containers and packaging make up a whopping 30% of total municipal solid waste. Jamaica and Hello! Bulk Markets challenge this number through their unique business model that is pioneering a package-free Salt Lake City while supporting the like-minded local makers of our community.
— Emily Spacek
Hello! Bulk Market, 355 N 500 W. Mon.-Sat., 10am-7pm. Sun., 12-4pm. www.hellobulkmarkets.com
Innovative Path to Zero Award
Utah Recycling Alliance gives this award to an organization or business that is actively moving toward zero waste and has taken an innovative approach in repurposing materials or has uncovered unique end-users for a particular waste stream. Kiitos Brewing, located in downtown Salt Lake, has captured all three elements of the award criterion.
Actively moving towards zero waste: As Kiitos owner Andrew Dasenbrock takes a minute out of his long days to breathe, looking out over the loading dock in the back of his facility, he’s not sitting idle. Gazing over the large dumpster and off into the distance of the train tracks just west of 600 West, he’s thinking about how he can reduce the items they throw away. He gauges that by how often he has to call for a trash pickup. It used to be once a week. Now it’s every three months or so. His goal is to make it once a year.
He’s moving toward his goal in a number of ways. He has commissioned a designer to make an interlocking stackable tray system for transporting the beer, eliminating the need for cardboard as well as the thin single-use plastic wrapping which currently holds the layers of cases on top of one another.
One element of beer production that troubled Dasenbrock was buying all his grain, as everyone does, in 5-lb. bags made from a non-recyclable woven plastic polymer. Dasenbrock invested in a $80,000 grain silo on the corner of his property. In addition to eliminating the grain bag waste, he’s cutting his costs on grain by buying his grain in bulk. He expects offset the cost of the grain silo in less than 18 months.
Kiitos utilizes a High Efficiency Brewing (HEB) system, cutting brewing time for multiple batches almost in half. This system requires 40% less water and 20% less grain to begin with. “That means a lot when you look at the amount of water and energy it takes to produce and transport the grain. Most of that ordinarily goes to waste,” Dasenbrock points out to me during a tour of the brewery. He’s also setting up a compost system within the tap room, which will be soon be serving food.
Finding an innovative approach to repurposing materials: Kiitos donates certain used materials to 2nd Hand Coast, a company that uses waste products to making coasters, candles and magnets. Kiitos also partners with Clever Octopus for making sculptures from aluminum cans. The Kiitos staff encourages customers to bring back their can tops, tabs, cardboard cases and the plastic 6-pack holders so the brewery can reuse them.
Finding a unique end user for a particular waste stream: Dasenbrock has a relationship with the International Rescue Committee’s Goat project, which distributes Kiitos’ spent grain to refugee farmers for animal feed and fertilizer.
The Utah Recycling Alliance award is the first public acknowledgement Kiitos has received since they began their operations about two years ago. “Reducing your impact on the planet doesn’t always have to be altruistic,” he says. Over time he’ll be looking at a better bottom line in terms of cost in comparison to the up-front investments he’s willing to make to be more sustainable. Being as sustainable as possible has always been a part of who he is, he says. Since cramming all of his recycling into his Prius to drop off himself because his condo tower didn’t recycle to becoming a business owner, he understands that there are dual benefits to saving on cost, and saving the planet.
Zero to Zero Award for the most progress in the last year
Adobe Utah’s site in Lehi was designed with sustainability in mind. Passive heating, cooling and lighting are critical elements of the 280,000-square-foot award-winning architectural design by WRNS San Francisco. For example, their servers are housed in the basement of the building, and the heat coming off the servers travels through coils that warm the floor of the large airplane hangar-like cafeteria area, saving 500,000 kwh of energy each year. Almost all of the offices in the building have windows, which saves energy on artificial lighting.
However, building design can only do so much. The more human aspects of the day-to-day energy conservation efforts at an office this size—waste reduction and diversion––have recently made some serious strides in both practice and goal-setting.
The Adobe Utah site that sees a population of 1,500 daily now diverts all organic waste to the anaerobic digester at Wasatch Resource Recovery in North Salt Lake, which turns their waste into fuel. They also continue to conduct waste reduction training for employees and waste audits on the building to assess diversion rates and identify more areas for improvement. Currently at 70%, their goal is a 90% waste diversion rate. Additionally, the new expansion currently under construction will have solar panels that produce 40% of its energy needs.
While the Lehi site has made progress, it still has to compare itself to other Adobe sites in the nation, many of which are in cities with far more robust waste reduction infrastructures and in cultures more mindful toward waste. Thus, their sustainability committee leaves no room for complacency.
“I’m happy, but not content,” said Mark Apker, Sustainability Lead on the Utah Site Council, when he accepted the award for Adobe Utah. About 80 employees serve on Adobe’s Sustainability committee.
Apker, who grew up in rural Oregon where recycling and waste reduction were a part of daily life, remembers picking plastic water bottles out of a garbage can to recycle when he first moved to Utah. He says increasing employee knowledge is a hugely important part of his team’s efforts to improve Adobe Utah’s waste diversion rate. URA Executive Director Ericka Wells has conducted recycling trainings for all Adobe employees.
Pondering the future, Apker says he is aiming for carbon neutral. In addition, he is working on bringing other major employers in Utah together to pledge to sustainable practices around alternative transportation, waste reduction and alternative energy.
From one perspective it’s been a big year for a big company like Adobe Utah with such large potential for the impact they can make on a broader level. For others, like Apker––they’re only getting started.
Innovative path to Zero (Honorable Mention)
The Innovative Path to Zero award recognizes an exceptional business or organization that is taking significant steps in its waste diversion efforts. Kiitos Brewing took the award, but the team decided that the runner-up, Animalia, couldn’t go without recognition.
The small shop opened its doors last year on the corner of 3rd East and 9th South and has become a charming, hip spot offering zero waste essentials as well as artistic, eco-friendly craft work. At Animalia you can expect to find a small selection of quality goods ranging from jewelry and incense to reusable totes, reusable coffee filters, eco menstrual products, vintage clothing and bulk bodycare products.
The shop’s zero waste efforts include their refillable bulk bar, second-hand clothing rack, alternatives to single-use items and packaging that can be easily recycled or composted. Shop owner Abby Muse also hosts second-hand clothing markets and informational gatherings at her shop.
What really makes Animalia special, though, is Abby’s dedication to her specific mission: Changing consumption habits through encouraging consumers to reconsider the value we assign to the objects we buy. Animalia is all about stocking its shelves with items that are meaningful and ecologically responsible— products “with a backbone in kindness” is how Abby puts it. Abby started Animalia with the concept that all of the objects in her store must have a meaningful story; they must be products that buyers will cherish instead of dispose of carelessly; and they must be products that are kind to the people who design them, kind to the people who make them, kind to the animals and kind to the planet.
“I’d like the zero-waste movement to be approachable and fun… I’d like to continue encouraging a more mindful approach to consumption not just in regard to buying no-waste items, but by supporting small, thoughtful brands who create with the planet and everyone on it in mind. Animalia is what I want consumerism to be,” Abby says.
— Emily Spacek
Animalia, 280 E 900 S, SLC.