Our Impact Lead, Katey Ford, breaks down how to use the waste hierarchy effectively, and how we’re addressing that at MUIR Energy. Hint: It involves a partnership with Food2Soil, a local composting company!
We have ALL heard the mantra - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Whether it be from Jack Johnson lyrics, or signs at the bins, it seems the waste hierarchy marketing team hit it out of the park.
Well, maybe a double, certainly not a home run.
Compared to the widespread nature of the jingle, not many know that it’s actually a strongly suggested order of operations.
How does the waste hierarchy work?
The first component of the waste hierarchy comes even before you step into the store.
Before buying something in single-use containers, do your absolute best to audit your usage.
Reduce your single-use plastics consumption to the best of your abilities by analyzing your pantry and shopping list.
Take a look at the containers in your refrigerator, can you potentially make and store these items from scratch, eliminating buying them and their packaging from the store? Perhaps you can graduate to the bulk bin area of your favorite store and start using your own containers?
There are SMALL, SIMPLE ways to make a change to reduce your waste that will eventually snowball into stronger habits.
Next, they suggest taking a second look at the container that you might have an automatic response to tossing to the recycle bin: Can you Reuse it??
If yes, do it! Can you use it more than once? You’d be surprised how many times a milk jug can assist in cleaning a bicycle!
Finally, after you’ve taken careful thought about your consumption, you’ve reduced your hummus tub purchasing and started making it from scratch (way yummier), you’ve reused the Tahini jars you’ve emptied to store said hummus, and now comes the time where you can no longer find a use for the other jars of tahini you’ve consumed in your hummus quest, after all this, it’s time to Recycle them.
Goal: Create an Awareness in Consumption
The point of the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mantra is to create an awareness in consumption. There are infinite ways you can alter your habits, but this little tool can act as a reminder of priority.
So what does this have to do with MUIR?
This hierarchy has influenced our decision-making around our consumption.
Coming off our Climate Neutral certification we have been brainstorming and implementing new ways to improve our operations. We have embraced the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mindset to help guide our actions.
It’s helped us reduce our shipping.
So far, we have reduced our shipping frequencies for inbound ingredient and supply shipments to receive more quantities, in less frequent cadences, which ultimately cuts down on our operational GHG profile.
And inspired a partnership with local composting company, Food2Soil.
We now look to reuse - where solutions have been a bit more subtle and took some networking and creativity to discover.
We began with our Kitchen operations and found that our largest waste offender was the 5-gallon buckets in which our seed/nut butters were housed.
Through a lot of Googling, phone calls, and emails to various experts in the recycling world, we found an incredible local solution: Food2Soil.
What is Food2Soil?
Food2Soil is a local, San Diego not-for-profit organization that facilitates food scrap composting for local individuals and businesses.
Through neighborhood compost sites, they transform food scraps into soil, jobs and community.
How Food2Soil Works:1. Bucket Distribution
First, they distribute 5-gallon buckets to participants to store their organic waste.
2. Empty & Rinse & Repeat
The buckets then get emptied at neighborhood drop-off hubs, rinsed, and taken home, along with a mulch bin, to repeat the process.
Plus, they make membership super easy.
They conveniently offer a pay-per-drop-off option, as well as a subscription membership.
And they offer educational resources around composting.
For example, their awesome Composting 101 courses where you can learn the science and practical side of composting.
You can also dive into a wealth of info on the Food2Soil YouTube channel.
How MUIR Energy is involved with Food2Soil: Our 5-gallon buckets
After a few emails, and phone calls, Food2Soil extraordinaire Sarah Boltwala-Mesina confirmed that the 5-gallon buckets we once had to throw away would be compatible for their programs. They would be thrilled to develop an ongoing relationship with MUIR.
The buckets that were once waste to us now have an extended lifetime in the composting realm.
Composting for an energy gel company is not intuitive, so we’re especially stoked on this partnership and hope it inspires others to think audaciously for the sake of the planet.
As an energy gel company, getting involved with a composting company is not a natural relationship; but through a bit of creativity and persistence we were able to address a major environmental problem within our organization.
We’re proud of this partnership and are going to ride this momentum to face our next problems. There may not always be an obvious solution, but it is always there if you’re willing to stand up for what you believe in and put in that hard work to find it.
Okay, we’ve Audited, Reduced, and Reused, but what about our Recycling habits at MUIR?
The last, and possibly most well known, R in the waste hierarchy, is Recycle.
Luckily, we don’t generate an exorbitant amount of waste. Plus, we take care to sort our recycling from cardboard to plastics.
It would seem that we’re in the green when it comes to recycling...
But the elephant in the room has not been addressed: our pouches.
By the nature of our portable on-the-go pouch, we create plastic waste in packaging MUIR Energy.
Unfortunately, the pouch can’t be avoided.
Materials science has not yet reached a point where we have a food-safe and planet safe option quite yet.
Until technology offers a solution to a planet & food safe packaging material, we’re focusing our attention on recycling the pouches.
Until the technology arrives which offers an environmentally friendly packaging option for food manufacturers, our goal is to find an innovative recycling solution.
This is our most pressing impact goal right now.
And the future for pouch recycling is looking especially bright.
We have a few promising leads and we’re excited to lead MUIR Energy as the cleanest energy gel company in the world.