Sustainable development in business: ups and downs on the road to zero waste

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Jess Maisel is the owner and operator of Green Source Missoula, LLC. You can visit their website at greensourcemissoula.com, or stop by the Higgins store for a fresh, zero-waste smoothie.

In December 2019, I was approached by two Zero Waste ambassadors from the City of Missoula Energy Corps to carry out a waste audit of my company., Green source. I was thrilled to be a part of this growing program that is recruiting companies to examine their waste streams and commit to getting as close to zero waste as possible.

I was also curious to see what would come out of the waste audit. Please note, I have an organic fruit juice bar and we serve fresh or frozen products in different ways, so I know my business is relatively smallimpact. We source locally as much as possible and have very little, where applicable, unused products.

Based on audit samples, our diversion rate with composting and the current recycling program is approximately 81.7%. This is only 8.3% of the 90% zero waste target set in the Zero by Fifty plan for the city of Missoula. It’s something I’m incredibly proud of.

This is made possible by many partners including my staff for being aware of what’s going on in the compost versus waste and Missoula Compost Collection for pickups. The fact that we are lucky enough to live in a city that promotes zero waste and has his Composting facility also helps.

Green Source debuted in 2014 as a one-woman show, Green Smoothie Delivery Service. It was a simple pre-order, prepayment situation. Every morning, Monday through Friday, I went to my commercial kitchen, myDe pre-ordered smoothies and book them.

I loved that there was no waste. I knew exactly how much to do each day. But in 2016, I jumped head first into opening a real restaurant and faced a steep learning curve. I knew I wanted to create as little waste as possible, so I made a menu where I could use almost anything in several ways to reduce waste.

For example, we use carrots and beets in salads, juices and smoothies. Greens in just about everything. This allows us to spendh tons (no kidding) of products while it’s as fresh as possible. I chose the juice bar business model for a brick and mortar because I wanted to use as much as possible of locally grown organic produce.

Having a positive impact on the bottom line of local farmers is a main driver for me as a business owner. My intention is to continue to cultivate farmers while promoting the health and vitality of my hometown. Fortunately, Missoulians literally eat it.

We are putting extra effort and investment into sourcing compostable packaging and bottling our juice in returnable and reusable glass bottles. We promise not to use any Disposable plastics. We have plenty of seating inside and also offer take out. These are the first steps to sustainability in business.

Fast forward again to March 2020. The situation with COVID19 made us lock our doors and only accept curbside pickups. Since then, every item that left our kitchen has had to be in packaging.

With the number of tourists exploding and the number of new people relocating to Missoula, we are producing more food than ever and buying more product packaging than ever before. It breaks my heart.

When it comes to sustainability and zero waste in business, I can’t ignore the fact that even though we use what is considered the best environmental option for packaging, it is still single-use packaging. It is still made in a resource-intensive factory and then trucked to Missoula. It may not be traditional plastic, but it is absolutely not “sustainable” or even environmentally friendly.

Take the example of PLA corn plastics: tGrowing corn uses more nitrogen fertilizers, more herbicides and more insecticides than any other American crop. TWatering practices contribute to soil erosion and water pollution as nitrogen flows from fields into streams and rivers.

I fear that the marketing by these companies of “green packaging” will haves makes people believe that they are making choices that have no impact on the environment. Our culture of convenience leads us to expect to get what we want when we want it and not to blame ourselves.

I’m in the position of trying to juggle to stay in business (convenience is great), make ethical choices, and be transparent about our waste streams. Single-use packaging – in whatever form – is waste. Just because this waste leaves Green Source in someone else’s hands that it’s not our problem, or out of our waste stream.

We have made a concerted effort to never stop striving to reduce waste at Green Source. We just switched to used paper grocery bags for our juice labels in place of the shiny, shiny plastic ones. Missoulians are loyal and conscious consumers and have supported all our efforts to reduce our impact.

As we continue to streamline our systems and waste streams, we still bang our heads against the stack of “green” single-use cups. What is the solution to this packaging crisis? Normalize it. Keep a bowl, mug, and cutlery in your car. Maybe keep extra jars or cups in the car in case you want to buy something for a friend. It’s not that hard. He just needs to feel important enough to do it.

This helps prevent unnecessary waste in the environment, reduces energy consumption for creating and moving packaging, and lowers business costs. Other than eating out, this is the only option I can think of that might work. I am open to suggestions and would like to start a community conversation. I think we all want to do better. Missoula is full of free thinkers… bring the ideas!

Jess Maisel is the owner and operator of Green Source Missoula, LLC. You can visit their website at greensourcemissoula.com, or stop by the Higgins store for a fresh, zero waste smoothie.

This sustainable Missoula column is brought to you – via the Missoula stream – every week by Climate smart missoula and Home ReSource.

Sustainable development

Here, we offer ideas on sustainable ways to stay involved in our community. To find out more, consider subscribing to the Climate Smart electronic newsletter here. And subscribe to Home ReSource eNews via their home page here.

November 27. Missoula WINTER Farmers Market continues into Southgate Shopping Center. Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Until April 23. Also Wednesdays from 4.30 p.m. to 7 p.m. until December 22. See also info on Bozeman Winter Market and Winter market in the Butte.

November 27. FreeCycles warehouse clearance sale. Great deals on ready-to-ride bikes and fixer-uppers. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 734 S. 1st St. W. in Missoula. If you would like to sponsor a bike for someone in need, donate to www.freecycles.org/donate

November 29-December 3. Montana Organic Association Conference will be virtual and on these new dates. It’s free, but we encourage you to join MOA to help offset some of the costs of changing plans. register here.

December 2. Evening Owl Walk with Owl Research Institute. Maclay Flat by Missoula, 4-6 p.m.

December 2. Flora and Fauna of the Canadian Arctic. 7 p.m. on Zoom. Parks Canada biologists offer this virtual tour of 7 Canadian parks. Hosted by MT Native Plant Society. register here to get the zoom link.

Material donations to Home Resource turns the wheels of reuse in our community; and remember that all you need to know about what to do with your unwanted items is to www.zerobyfiftymissoula.com.

Find more local activities and events on Missoulaevents.net and the Montana Environmental Information Center Retention schedule. And you too can help organize events – here is the 2021 Calendar of Environmental Awareness Days – month-by-month distribution of World Day campaigns.


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