Embodying Zero Waste with Follow Your Heart

by Abigail Stevens

This week (7-11 September) is Zero Waste Week, a week to raise awareness of the impact our throwaway culture has on the environment. It challenges participants to live a ‘zero’ or minimal waste lifestyle, focusing on reusing and recycling packaging, lowering food waste, abstaining from fast fashion, and cutting out single use packaging entirely. The goal is noble, to lower our carbon footprint as consumers by forming better habits and making better choices. But how does this ethos extend to an entire business? What makes a business sustainable? 

We decided to look to champions of sustainability, Follow Your Heart, for answers. Ever since their beginnings as a soup and sandwich counter in the 1970’s, sustainability has been an integral part of what they do at Follow Your Heart. They are continually striving to find new ways to decrease their impact on the earth, believing sustainability is simply an important part of being a responsible business in today’s world. VP and Head of Marketing Katherine Franklin explains how they achieve this.

“Our sustainability initiatives include the elimination of waste, using alternate sources of energy, choosing responsible ingredients and packaging, and community involvement. Follow Your Heart is also an inherently sustainable company in the first instance as all products are plant-based, meaning we are allowing consumers to cut down on animal products and reduce their carbon footprint. These reflect the global climate agenda by minimising use of resources, energy and reducing waste.

We became a Zero Waste Gold Certified facility in 2016 through the Zero Waste Business Council (now GBCI) and in 2019 upgraded our certification from Gold to Platinum Level. In the last 24 months we have been diverting 98% of our waste from the landfill through recycling, composting and re-purposing of materials.

Looking at the long term, our goal is to reduce plastic packing by 20% by 2021 with packaging reduction or changes. As well as identify mixed materials packaging and evaluate where we can make changes for increased recyclability.

We’re a new member of EPA’s WasteWise, a programme that encourages organisations and businesses to achieve sustainability in their practices, reduce select industrial waste, and reuse materials more productively over their entire lifecycles.”

However it’s not all about packaging, the manufacturing of their products has been considered too.

“Running our manufacturing with sustainable processes, was at the forefront of our minds when we moved into our current facilities in 2003. Our first project was installing over 750 solar panels on our roof, as solar power is a 100% clean and renewable energy source. At the time our solar panels generated about 100 kilowatt-hours (kWH) of green energy per year. Since 2003, our facilities have increased and with each one, we cover the roof with solar panels. Today we have over 2,000 panels generating over 315,000 kWH of green energy per year.”

And they don’t stop there, as their business extends beyond providing retail products and catering packs for foodservice. They also have a Café a short trip from their manufacturing facility where they serve up healthy plant-based cuisine. 

“We’ve also created a garden on our grounds named Earth Garden, to further connect our employees to the earth. The garden is a 224-square foot growing space which yields over 1,000 pounds of fresh produce.  We grow a variety of crops seasonally, including cucumber, basil, eggplant and tomatoes in the summer and kale, beets, radishes and onions in the winter. The produce is used in our Market & Café, where patrons and employees alike can purchase healthy meals.”

We applaud this company-wide approach to sustainability, which should be at the forefront of every business’ mind. What sustainable businesses are you impressed with? We’d love to hear them in the comments section below.

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