How Can Local Businesses go Zero Waste?

Zero Waste Humboldt logoHumboldt County is lucky to be home to a huge amount of local businesses, many of which incorporate sustainability into their practices. It is important not only for individuals, but also for business owners and shoppers to consider the waste resulting from their products and purchases.

Many businesses in Humboldt are doing just that. All around Humboldt, we see individuals and businesses composting, encouraging reusables, rejecting plastics, and buying local. Beachcomber Café in Trinidad and Bayside doesn’t give out single-use coffee cups and instead allows patrons to purchase mason jars. The Minor Theater has started using reusable popcorn bowls. Alchemy Distillery donates spent mash to local farmers and uses stale Los Bagels products in their fermenting process. Kernan Construction and Alves Inc recycle construction and demolition waste, allowing for the diversion of hundreds of pounds of bulk waste.

A customer at the Beachcomber Cafe uses a reusable mug to reduce waste. Photo: Emma Held.
A customer at the Beachcomber Cafe uses a reusable mug to reduce waste. Photo: Emma Held.

“We don’t have much push-back at all…in general, it’s been really positive,” says Six River Brewery’s owner Meredith Maier, who has helped lead their Zero Waste initiatives. “It’s more about just bulk buying and paying attention to packaging.” Maier also reflected on how switching to compostable products saved them money, stating “they’re a little more expensive, but the immediate decrease in landfill allowed us to go to only one waste pick up a week”, which reduces their waste services expenses.

Northtown Coffee had similar takes on their Zero Waste strides. “‘I think customers, for the most part, respond really well,” says Holly Ameline, manager at Northtown Coffee. “We’re on our route to not offering single-use cups…we try not to purchase cups and to reuse. We don’t really buy any type of bulk mug.”

So, what can your business do? It’s often best to start with a waste audit.  These can allow you to reflect on what is being thrown away, where it is going, and what is preventable. Once an organization has an idea of where the waste is coming from, it can choose a food or vendor based on what will prevent the most waste.

Buying local products is always preferable and often allows you to work with the vendor directly to suit your needs. Good signage and communication with the customer is essential to prevent confusion or frustration. Training staff and employees is another way to ensure that proper waste-sorting and customer communication is occurring. Stores can also choose to sell products with minimal-to-no packaging, or that don’t use plastic at all.

As a customer, you can choose to support the businesses that are taking steps toward Zero Waste. Choose to vote with your dollars, and use them wisely. Next time you stop by your favorite local business, tell them Zero Waste matters to you, and encourage them to make a difference.



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