Sustainability. Something that’s been on the minds of many companies, businesses, and organizations, especially in recent years. Many have even set 5- and 10-year goals to reduce energy consumption or to make their packaging completely environmentally-friendly. And while setting goals is the first step towards a healthier planet and sustainable business, it’s achieving those goals that some companies struggle with. You can find environmental problems in nearly every nook and cranny of the business model, especially in industries like restaurants, manufacturing, and energy. If you’re struggling with goals you’ve set, or you don’t know what type of goals you should be setting but want to be more environmentally friendly, then UrthPact is here to help.
Sustainability goals vary by industry. Many are focused on energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions, or packaging solutions. Setting your sustainability goals is a team-wide effort. And, even a small goal can make a big difference over a long period of time. If you exceed your goal early, you can always reset it even higher! You can break down corporate sustainability initiatives into six areas: pollution prevention, resource conservation, zero waste to landfill, waste reduction/minimization, zero discharge, and reduce carbon footprint/zero emissions.
Let’s start with pollution prevention categorized goals. Pollution can occur in a variety of different environmental areas, including air, water, soil, and others as well. These types of sustainability goals aim to eliminate waste at the source. Things like reducing carbon emissions and waste reduction fall under this broader umbrella of pollution prevention. These goals can be achieved in a few different ways. Choosing less toxic materials in the manufacturing sector, or modifying production processes to emit less waste and emissions are great ways to reduce greenhouse gases or physical polluting waste. Along similar lines, conservation techniques can be implemented in parallel with eliminating waste. The classic reduce, reuse, and recycle method also applies here for physical components like packaging and supplies as well.
Next, we have resource conservation goals. Many organizations look to reduce water, electricity or energy, and raw materials. Simple things like optimizing water efficiency and utilizing automatic shut-off lights and energy-efficient bulbs can be easy changes that make a big difference. Innovation in production can also help to reduce scrap material as well, or to reuse it in new products. A great example of resource conservation comes from Bosch, who has a 6-pronged set of sustainability goals that cover a wide variety of fields, including energy, climate, health, globalization, water, and urbanization.
Zero waste to landfill. This goal is a lofty one and looks to eliminate ALL of an organization’s waste that would normally be taken to landfill. This is a specific component of a zero-waste goal, not the equivalent overall of zero waste. Zero waste to landfill indicates that absolutely no manufacturing waste is headed for landfills. Some companies try to cheat this type of goal by incinerating their waste, but this usually creates ash that then must be landfilled. A variety of cities in the US have zero waste goals, including New York, Minneapolis, Washington DC, Washington state, San Francisco, San Diego, Dallas, and Austin. Even large food and beverage organizations like Nestle have committed to reaching 100% zero waste by 2030.
The next area of sustainability goals is waste minimization and waste reduction. These are the stepping stones towards implementing a zero waste to landfill goal. Essentially, if zero waste is too lofty a goal, or would take a very long time to achieve that it’s not a realistic goal to set, this is the next best thing. And, after achieving waste reduction and minimization, goals for zero waste can be set for the future. Some methods include source material reduction, or utilizing environmentally-sound recycling methods for materials, energy, and other resources. Amcor has committed to making 100% of their packaging either recyclable or reusable by 2025, and to utilizing more recycled materials as well.
Moving forward, we have zero discharge sustainability goals. This means to eliminate discharge pollutants from a point source (like a manufacturing or processing plant), especially into local waterways. Some organizations go for total discharge elimination, while some focus on specific (and usually more toxic) pollutants. These goals also require organizations to be good water stewards, in which the company is aware of and understands their water usage and water governance in their areas. One of the most common methodologies is to recycle industrial wastewater by treating it and transferring pollutants to a solid waste sludge. Levi Strauss & Co works to preserve fresh water for drinking and other uses through water recycling.
Finally, we have zero emissions goals. This is your classic reduction of the carbon dioxide emissions goal. Using energy-efficient machinery, as well as EPA tracking systems that will help measure and regulate carbon emissions are some of the simplest methodologies to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Investing in renewable energy and utilizing electric or fuel-efficient fleet vehicles are also great ways to reduce emissions. Some great real-world examples are GM (working towards a zero-emissions future) and Ball Corp (looking to cut the carbon footprint of their beverage cans by 25%).
So how can UrthPact play into all of these sustainability goals? We believe in creating a world where consumption leaves no footprint, and therefore everything we do is to create a more sustainable world. Our main focus is on the plastic pollution problem. Single-use plastics are one of the biggest pollutants in today’s world, and our goal is to eliminate 25 billion plastic pieces from oceans and landfills by 2028. We focus on three main product lines to help companies reduce their amount of plastic usage: coffee packaging (pods and valves), single-use cutlery, and single-use straws.
All of our products are made from compostable bioplastic or recycled-content materials. Our coffee packaging and cutlery are currently made from an industrially compostable bioplastic called PLA. Products made from PLA have a completely circular lifecycle, meaning they allow you to have pollution prevention, lowered emissions, and conserve natural resources. Industrially compostable products fit into sustainability goals surrounding packaging. These types of goals usually require that all packaging be reusable, compostable, or recyclable (in practice). While compostables are difficult to implement in a variety of applications, single-use products are the perfect niche for this type of product. As long as you manage waste and ensure there is a practicing composter in your area, this type of product is the perfect solution.
Our straws are the special exception. While our cutlery and coffee packaging are industrially compostable our straws are home compostable, meaning that they can break down anywhere on Earth in under a year. By partnering with us on straws (we do white-label and private-label solutions), you can eliminate a huge piece of the single-use problem within your business. It allows you to reduce waste, and the straws can be easily disposed of with compostable food waste. And should they end up in landfills, they will still biodegrade completely to innocuous elements in under a year. So while there is still waste to landfill, that waste will not sit in the landfill for hundreds of years like its plastic counterparts would. And that’s the difference. On top of all that, our straws are also marine-degradable, meaning they’ll completely biodegrade in the ocean, should they accidentally get there. This makes our straws the best of every world. Plus, we guarantee customer satisfaction. All the functionality you’d expect from plastic with none of the environmental guilt.
Compostables are a niche product. But they cover more areas of sustainability than you may think. For example, because compostable bioplastics are made from cornstarch, sugar cane, or canola, they actually pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. On the other hand, traditional plastics release carbon dioxide that was sequestered away for millions of years. Overall, compostables pull carbon while petro-based adds carbon. Differences like these allow compostables to cover a variety of sustainability initiatives within your business.
So, to sum it all up: UrthPact compostables provide a great opportunity to help achieve your sustainability goals, especially when those goals are centered around waste and packaging. We encourage any organization to set some kind of sustainability goal, even if it’s a small one. If everyone just takes one small step forward in the field of sustainability, we can end up taking a giant leap as a society. The planet is depending on us to protect it; it’s time we stepped up.