eco ramblings

a dialogue with an Eco Patriot

Archive for February, 2010

Meddling in Vancouver

Posted by Luke on February 27, 2010

With this year’s games having been the greenest ever, Eco-Products was proud to play a role.  Our cups, plates, utensils, and other products were widely used at the various venues.

Through the use of our products made from renewable resources and recycled materials, the event saved the equivalent of the following:

  • 16,216 gallons of gasoline, enough to drive a car from NYC to L.A. and back 44 times
  • 197,214 pounds of ozone-depleting greenhouse gases
  • 341 trees, approximately 2 acres of forest

Congratulations to the City of Vancouver and thanks for minimizing the event’s impact.

Posted in compostable products, event, foodservice, GHG, renewable resources, resources saved | Leave a Comment »

Becoming a “zero landfill company” is a journey

Posted by Luke on February 25, 2010

Being completely trash-free is a daunting task.  Even a company in the business of “green” with highly educated Eco Patriots is challenged by this.  Last week, Eco-Products reviewed our waste diversion results from 2009.  We strive to divert 100% of our waste from landfills – everything is either composted or recycled. 

Last year, we diverted 7 tons of compost/recyclable materials from the landfill out of total of 10.95 tons of waste – that’s a 64% diversion rate.  Honestly, it wasn’t as high as we had hoped.  We think some of the factors that may have contributed to our lower than expected % were:

  1. Moving to a larger building in which people were more spread out and couldn’t closely monitor each other’s disposal habits
  2. More employees which makes waste management more difficult
  3. Battling with illegal midnight dumping of construction debris in our dumpsters
  4. Bringing more waste into the building from the outside
  5. Not doing as much continual reinforcement and education with employees as in prior years. 

In a company meeting, we reaffirmed our commitment towards waste diversion and set a goal of achieving at least 80% in 2010.  At the meeting, our CEO made a great comment about how he views our work environment.  Since starting at the company 8 months ago, he has viewed the building as a campsite in which he tries to leave no trace.  Whatever he packs in he packs out.  What a great philosophy to make you think twice about the packaging you use/buy. 

Here are some steps we are going to take to achieve our goal this year:

  • Continue to only have trash bins in centralized locations, no bins in offices/cubes 
  • Make a more conscious effort to treat the building as a leave-no-trace zone.  Pack-in-pack-out mentality. 
  • Monitor our diversion rate quarterly instead of annually. 
  • Search for solutions to products we currently don’t recycle or compost.  For example, the wrapping on reams of paper can’t be recycled or composted due to their lining.
  • Be more diligent about recycling hard to recycle items such as plastic bags and block styrofoam.  Drop them off at a local hard-to-recycle facility.
  • Install locks on our dumpsters.
  • Educate, educate, educate.  We are inviting in a representative from Eco-Cycle, a local recycler, who can answer our recycling questions.
  • Tour a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) – a recycling center – to see first hand what is considered a contaminant.  I’ll be doing this in the middle of March.
  • Hang up more signage near our recycling/compost/trash bins

Shoot me an email if you’ve tried anything else in your company.  I’ll keep you updated on our progress.

Posted in composting, Eco-Products, Landiflls, recycling, zero waste | Leave a Comment »

Another BS call…

Posted by Luke on February 24, 2010

Hopefully this is my last BS call for a while…

An article on GreenUpGrader.com claimed that bioplastic cups might be bad for the environment because they drive up corn prices, don’t actually biodegrade, and cause issues in recycling facilities.  Below is my response to Becky (the writer) which was also submitted as a comment on the GreenUpGrader website.

The claims in this article are, plain and simple, inaccurate. PLA/bioplastics do not impact corn prices. I am involved in the industry and have seen the data. Stating otherwise is untrue. Also, bioplastics are not causing an issue in the recycling industry as of now because there isn’t enough in the recycling stream. I’m involved in recycling industry trade associations and know this first hand. Don’t make bioplastics out to be bad when they actually save resources, emit fewer greenhouse gases , and have a significantly better life cycle and carbon footprint than conventional products.

I’m happy to go into more detail with anyone on this topic.

Posted in BS, compostable products, corn, cups, GHG, recycling | 1 Comment »

Time to call BS

Posted by Luke on February 23, 2010

It’s amazing how much crap is out there. I keep stumbling across articles that contain outright false information.  Wouldn’t an Information Police Force be nice?  Sadly, consumers have to be incredibly smart to know what is BS and what isn’t.  Well, I’m ready to start calling BS on ill informants.  

The latest BS I’m calling out relates to this article in the Washington Post that falsely stated that “biodegradable” cups emit methane gas in landfills.  There appears to be a huge misnomer that PLA (the corn plastic used to produce compostable cups) emits methane when disposed of in a landfill, thus some writers claim it’s worse for the environment than plastic made out of petroleum.  Politely, I’m calling Bullshit. 

(Sidenote: if you’re not a PLA nerd like me, PLA is made from corn and will turn back into dirt if composted in a commercial composting environment, of which there are too few, which means that most PLA products are disposed of landfills like the majority of conventional products.  As a result, there are some people who refuse to use the material unless it is composted.  This ignores the front-end benefit of PLA which is that it’s made from an annually harvested plant instead of oil, and it emits fewer greenhouse gases to produce than oil-based plastics – it has a smaller carbon footprint.) 

Plain and simple, PLA does not emit methane into the atmosphere if disposed of in a landfill.  I won’t bore you with the science, but you can read more details in this presentation.  Besides, the Clean Air Act requires landfills to capture their methane which would mean that if science were proven wrong and PLA broke down after several decades in that environment, the methane would be captured and wouldn’t be released into the atmosphere.  Also, if you want to read more about PLA not biodegrading in landfills, similar to how other conventional products don’t biodegrade in landfills, you can read more about it here.  I’ll talk more about my thoughts on the benefits of PLA in future posts.

Posted in BS, compostable products, cups, GHG, Landiflls | Leave a Comment »

The power of mentors

Posted by Luke on February 20, 2010

I recently came across an article on Inc. Magazine’s website that resonated with my feelings about mentors.  I’ve developed several mentoring relationships that have helped me tremendously in various aspects of my life – personally, professionally, as a husband and father, and as an executive.  The Inc. article states that Warren Buffet is Bill Gates’ mentor.  Interesting how one of the most successful people in the world is trying to continue to learn from others. 

Why mentors are important to me:

I define a mentor as a person with more experience in life, business, family, etc. who I want to learn from and who is willing to invest his/her time to help me become a better person.  He/she is committed to my development, coaches me in my thinking, and helps me overcome challenges.  A mentor could be a boss or it could be someone not associated with your job or profession.  In my case, I have mentors associated with Eco-Products and completely unassociated with the company.  I also feel extremely fortunate to have multiple mentors.

For me, each mentor relationship has a slightly different dynamic.  However, there are three themes consistent throughout. 

  1. They are built upon honesty, trust, and confidentiality.
  2. They all want to see me succeed – in business, in life, as a husband and father.  It’s an inspiring feeling knowing that. 
  3. I have a very high degree of respect for them.

How I found my mentors:

It can take time, years even, to find the type of mentor you might be looking for.  If the first Inc. article didn’t spur ideas on finding a mentor, here’s another article that might help.  I haven’t formally asked anyone to be my mentor.  I’ve just made it a point to solicit their guidance, genuinely try to learn from them, and keep in touch through lunches, beers, emails, cards, etc.  I have found my mentors through the following avenues, some of which are pretty unorthodox:

  • Professor
  • Guest speakers in my MBA classes (I was the annoying kiss-ass student who would go up and talk to the speakers after class)
  • A reference for a job applicant (he seemed like someone I wanted to learn from, and I had a perfect excuse to call him)
  • Bosses
  • Board members
  • Investors
  • Asking our corporate attorney to introduce me to some CEOs/executives around town
  • Family
  • Family friends
  • Referrals from people in my network

You can tell I’m a big believer in these types of relationships.  I can honestly say I wouldn’t be where I am today without the coaching and guidance from my circle of mentors.  So to those who have invested time and energy into me, thank you 1000 times over.  You have no idea the impact you have on my life.

Posted in Mentors | Leave a Comment »

What shade of green are you?

Posted by Luke on February 18, 2010

I’ve learned that my shade of green fluctuates.  For several years, I used a manual, gas-free push mower to cut my lawn (shade: dark green).  I felt like a real Eco Patriot as neighbors walked by complimenting me on my eco-bravery and I threw out my back plowing through overgrown grass.  Then, two years ago a friend was moving and offered to give me her gas-powered mower for free.  Regretfully (from an eco-standpoint), I gave it a home and haven’t used my manual push mower since (shade: not as dark).  I have since made other changes that have improved my greenness, but I’ve learned there is always some degree of ebb and flow with my personal shade of green.

I’ve also learned that no matter how dark green a company is there will always be skeptics who don’t think the company is green enough.  I read an interesting article on this topic the other day that talks about how it’s okay to go green one step at a  time.  Some consumers expect a company to go green overnight.  And their definition (or shade) of “green” is very different from the company’s definition (and shade).  “Green” is a relative term. 

If you’re “going green” for the right reasons, I commend you.  But be careful bragging about how green you are if you aren’t as dark as your peers and if you aren’t prepared to be compared to the darkest of dark green companies.  We, as consumers, are getting better at seeing through green marketing ploys, and consumer expectations for sustainability are at an all time high.  Be honest with yourself and the public.  Tactfully and quietly executing sustainability initiatives can often lead to a darker, more powerful shade of green in the long run.

So, what shade of green are you?

Posted in greenwashing, marketing | Leave a Comment »

A Breakthrough in Cup Innovation

Posted by Luke on February 14, 2010

I want to take a minute to share a pretty big innovation Eco-Products just announced.  We successfully developed a line of a clear plastic cups made from 50% post-consumer bottles – more than two times the amount of recycled content of any cup on the market.  It’s been challenging to find the right level of post-consumer plastic while still balancing quality and price, but we think we did it. 

New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins who is known for their sustainability efforts is one of our launch partners.  Forbes, Recycling Today, and some other noteworthy sources picked up the press release about New Belgium and Eco-Products.

Posted in foodservice, manufacturing, recycled products, RPET | Leave a Comment »

The greenest (and best) burger around

Posted by Luke on February 12, 2010

I had a meeting with the manager of Larkburger today in Boulder to talk about product design (Eco-Products tries to involve our customers in our product design process).  Larkburger is a fantastic example of how zero waste is possible in quick-casual and fast food.  They compost virtually everything.  The only thing that gets thrown away are the condiment packets which are typically taken out of the restaurant anyway.  Not to mention they use organic food and have the best burgers and shakes around.  They are expanding rapidly throughout Colorado and other states.  Green is part of their brand and mission and it has really paid off for them. 

Time for dinner…

Posted in compostable products, foodservice, zero waste | Leave a Comment »

Why didn’t I think of that?

Posted by Luke on February 8, 2010

If you ship products across the ocean by cargo ship, you’re going to say to yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that?” when you read this article

A dutch company called Cargoshell invented a collapsible shipping container.  It takes one person only 30 seconds to break it down and it occupies 1/4 of the space of a normal steel container.  It’s also much lighter which means if you’re inland you can stack several of these on top of one another and truck them back to the port in a much more fuel efficient manner.  Their composite material provides better insulation in hot temperatures, and they are equipped with floatable bags on the side if a ship ever capsizes – they will float instead of sinking your cargo to the bottom of the ocean.  If that isn’t enough bells and whistles, they come with GPS.

Posted in China, GHG, logistics, shipping | Leave a Comment »

Building recycling programs locally

Posted by Luke on February 5, 2010

Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers staffers Keefe Harrison and Elizabeth Bedard co-authored an article that outlines an effective approach for working with public officials to develop recycling programs.  The article discusses the importance of local recycling, how to get an audience with elected officials, what to say when you have the audience, and how to build a long-term relationship.

Posted in recycling | Leave a Comment »

 
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