Operations

We know the environmental impacts of our products are much larger than those of our operations. However, all of our impacts matter. In addition, we can directly address our operations in a way we can’t impact our upstream and downstream value chain. Incorporating sustainability into how we operate also builds our culture and helps make Eco-Products, Eco-Products.

Materials

Given how much we talk about waste diversion, it makes sense for us to use our headquarters as a model for what a zero waste operation should look like. That is why we set a goal to increase our office waste diversion to 90% by 2017. We chose 90% since that is the minimum rate of diversion required for a company to become certified by the US Zero Waste Business Council.

Just a quick note about our word choice. “Waste” implies no value. This is inaccurate when talking about recyclable or compostable materials. Those materials have a lot of value, and if we keep calling them “waste,” we will keep treating them like waste. We applaud EPA’s recent shift to rename their “Municipal Solid Waste Report” as their “Sustainable Materials Management Report.” So, we’ll still talk about “waste diversion” from landfills and “zero waste” since materials ARE waste when they go to a landfill. However, outside of that context, we aim to use the word “materials.” Will you join us?

In 2015, we conducted our second annual materials audit in partnership with Eco-Cycle. It was a good news/bad news kind of situation. The good news is that we generated less material per employee, and our employees are getting better at putting the right stuff in the right bin. This is important, because if a recyclable can or a compostable apple core end up in the landfill bin, guess what? They end up at a landfill. We’d like to think our improvement is partially due to the sorting exercise we did with HQ employees. We dumped a bunch of stuff on a table, and had teams guess if each item was destined for the composting facility, the recycling center, or the landfill. It was a fun and eye-opening exercise.

The bad news is that we both generated more materials in total and sent proportionally more materials to the landfill. We went from an 81% diversion rate to a 75% diversion rate, year over year. This is really hard stuff, even for a company like Eco-Products.

So, what are we going to do about this? For one, we are going to do audits more frequently in 2016 and beyond. The audits capture just one week of data. More frequent audits will give us a better handle on where we’re really at. Also, we are going to invite all employees to participate in a materials audit. There’s nothing like sorting through bins to hammer home the importance of minimizing waste!

Eco-Products 2016 Waste Diversion Graphs

Travel

Eco-Products No Fly Zone Honor Roll
Employees and business partners join our No Fly Zone when they avoid air travel and rely on technology to meet virtually.

Air travel is a necessary evil for building relationships and growing the business. . . while expanding our carbon footprint. Measuring our operational impacts has made us aware that air travel is the largest part of our operational carbon footprint, and we know a significant portion of our air travel is done by our sales team.

In 2015, we asked each sales rep to participate in at least one meeting virtually, to which they would otherwise travel.

Thanks to web meetings, conference calls, and relying on brokers to represent us when appropriate, our sales reps got to spend a little less time with TSA, and our carbon footprint got a little relief. Our “No Fly Zone” board filled up with many happy non-travelers.

In fact, we beat our goal of decreasing total miles flown per $1,000 of sales by 5%, by clocking in an 11% reduction in this metric. We can attribute some of our stellar performance to changes in the business that were expected to grow sales without a commensurate amount of air travel, but still. We were psyched.

We recognize that by setting a goal normalized to sales, we can show improvements in travel efficiency while allowing overall travel to increase. Obviously, Mother Nature only cares about the total amount of carbon she absorbs, not the amount of carbon per $1,000 of Eco-Products sales. However, because of expected growth in the business and other activity that necessitates air travel, we are committing to a normalized goal for 2016: another 5% reduction in air travel per $1,000 of sales. Improving our travel efficiency is still an improvement.

In addition, for the first time we are setting a goal about our reimbursed miles for vehicle travel. We’ve managed an absolute reduction for the past several years, so we are aiming for a 5% reduction in absolute reimbursed miles driven in 2016.

Finally, in Q4 2015 we challenged our employees to use more alternative transportation. Skip to the Employee section of this report for information on our Alternative Transportation Challenge and our reduction in solo vehicle commuting miles.

HQ Energy and Water

Eco-Products Water & Electricity Graphs
Click image to zoom

One of the joys of leasing your office building is that you can call the landlord to address certain things. Unfortunately, upgrades to HVAC equipment and water fixtures are not included on that list, according to our lease.

Over the past several years, we have invested in energy efficient lighting, lighting motion sensors, and faucet aerators. We have gotten quotes for HVAC equipment, water efficient toilets, and building envelope improvements. We even chased down a solar company willing to put a couple more panels on our roof. (The take-away? Our roof is basically already maximized with solar but if we really wanted to, we could plop down a lot more money to squeeze a few more panels up there.)

We are at a point where, in order to make significant improvements in our energy and water efficiency, we need to invest in projects with a high initial cost and long payback. This is tough to justify when we have two years left on our lease and don’t know which office we’ll call home after that. Rest assured, building efficiency is a high priority, and we will remain dedicated to achieving our goals.



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2015 Goals:

  • In 2015, decrease our total miles flown per $1,000 of sales by 5% relative to 2014 travel
  • In 2015, In 2015, each member of the sales department will participate in at least one meeting virtually, to which they would otherwise travel
  • By 2017, increase HQ waste diversion to 90%
  • By 2017, reduce HQ water consumption by 10%; restore the balance every year through high quality water restoration certificates
  • Achieve a net zero electricity HQ. Until we get there, invest in high quality offsets to balance our emissions

2016 Goals:

  • In 2016, decrease total vehicle miles reimbursed by 5% relative to 2015 travel
  • By 2017, increase HQ waste diversion to 90%
  • By 2017, reduce HQ water consumption by 10%; restore the balance every year through high quality water restoration certificates
  • Achieve a net zero electricity HQ. Until we get there, invest in high quality offsets to balance our emissions

Offsetting What We Can't Reduce

We aim to reduce our environmental impacts as much as possible, but we haven’t yet been able to get to zero. . . or ideally, regenerative. In the meantime, we are investing in projects that offset the impacts we did not avoid.

Carbon Offsets

Renewable Choice Logo

We are continuing to work with our neighboring company, Renewable Choice Energy, to buy carbon offsets to balance the greenhouse gas emissions from our headquarters’ electricity and natural gas consumption, business travel, employee commuting, paper consumption, and landfilling/recycling/composting. Like last year, we purchased offsets that support the Larimer County Landfills capture of methane gas and generation of electricity. Our purchase of 284 metric tons of offsets was the equivalent to taking nearly 60 passenger vehicles off the roads for a year.

Water Restoration Credits

Bonneville Environmental Foundation Logo

We continue to support the Bonneville Environmental Foundation’s water restoration projects. We purchased 172,000 gallons of water restoration credits to balance our 2015 headquarters’ water consumption. Like last year, we supported a project to restore water to the drought-threatened Yampa River near Winter Park, Colorado. You may learn more about this cool initiative at b-e-f.org