A most FABulous way to Mainstream Being Green

In today's world, it just does not make sense to try and do everything for yourself, whether as a person or a business. Being an entrepreneur, I at first thought it a sign of deficiency if I and my company couldn't do everything ourselves. We prided ourselves on seat of our pants figuring out how to do X, bringing everything together in the nick of time. While exciting and satisfying, I've come to realize it's terribly inefficient, and that in order to make the kind of progress we want to make as a company, and need to make as a planet in making a more sustainable world, it's time to collaborate with other companies that do what we need to do, better. A recent example is FAB. FAB may not be a name you're familiar with, but it's a safe bet you, or more likely your children, own something made by them. FAB has licenses for a huge variety of today's biggest pop culture brands: Disney, Marvel, Sanrio (think Hello Kitty), Cartoon Network, and more. Both their licensing and ability to make quality products in high volume is impressive. You might think, reading all those brands, they're "the other," and why would we work with them? The answer is simple: We're great at getting post consumer "waste" via our public facing, product/category focused Brigades and they're extremely skilled and making quality product at low prices, an ideal sweet spot we seek to hit with everything we make. They'll be making messenger bags, backpacks, stationary, school supplies and home decor accessories for us, all out of what would otherwise now be sitting in a landfill somewhere.

The Sweeter Side of Sustainability - An Interview with Mars

As you may have read earlier, we recently partnered with Mars in our largest post industrial collection agreement. That means that packaging for more then 20 brands that were imperfect or no longer current will find new use and life, when they were otherwise done. Mars, you may be surprised to know, has made a deep commitment to being a sustainable company. I had the privilege of talking with Howard-Yana Shapiro, Global Director Plant Science and External Research at Mars and Foudner of Seeds of Changes, about their ambitious goal of 200,000 tons of sustainably certified cocoa by 2020, their open book mapping of tree genomes for non GMO improvement of trees in our changing climate, and a term I'd never heard of, agroecology. Learn from this Fulbright scholar why Mars is so focused on sustainability, how Seeds of Change was able to stay on track after it became a part of Mars, and how his expertise and focus on environmental responsibility is influencing one the world's largest food and beverage manufacturers. Tom Szaky: How will UTZ Certified insure that all cocoa is certified? Not just the source overall, but each actual ton? How frequently do they monitor the same place?

Making Sustainability Sustainable

When you think of socially responsible, sustainable food companies, which come to mind? Ben & Jerry's? Stonyfield Farm? New Belgium? How about Mars? Mars? You mean the company that makes Milky Way, Starburst, and 3 Musketeers, among others? Not likely top of mind for you. Yet. And I'd wager it just may be in the coming years. Why? Mars recently made two monumental commitments, with action and money to back it up. They encompass both what's in and outside the wrapper. And they could even serve as an example and even a resource to you. Yes, you, the perhaps-already-sustainable-in-many-ways company.

Who Is Responsible for How Responsible a Company Is?

We as a company take our role in reducing and reusing waste very seriously. But should others have to do the same? Is it a company's responsibility to be good corporate citizens on their own volition, or do we as consumers or the government have a role to play? How much? Basically, who is responsible for how responsible a company is? The answer may seem straightforward, but I don't see it that way. These and other thoughts have come to mind often, as we've partnered with various companies over the years, some with no other "green" qualities outside our supplying them with materials to make product for us. Are we, and other "green" companies that partner with ones that previously had no sustainable aspects to their company, enabling them to gain greed cred without actually doing anything different? Should we consider this a step forward, with more to be taken by those companies as they see the value of and sales as a result of producing "waste" products? Is this how you start to eliminate the idea of waste? Should these companies have been doing more of their own initiatives right from the start? Waste-Based Products Still In The Future I don't see, nor do I expect large producers to be turning completely over to waste based products companies any time soon. It's like asking a freighter the size of Rhode Island to make a sharp left, now. Not going to happen. Do I see them shifting incrementally more in Terracycle's direction? Perhaps.

Tom Szaky: Thinking In and Outside the Wrapper

When you think of socially responsible companies, Mars, the candy-focused food company is not likely to be the first one that comes to mind. And yet, perhaps it will, as they have recently made two monumental commitments, with action and money to back it up. They encompass both what’s in and outside the wrapper. 100 million tons of sustainably certified cocoa bean purchases by 2020 sounds impressive, but especially so when it’s with $10+ million a year being spent to enable the right conditions for there to be enough supply for such a goal. And this is not just for some niche candy lines, but all chocolate used in Mars products. UTZ Certified is who they’re working with on this initiative. While not as well known by you and I as, say, TransfairUSA, their work is of no less substance. Along with source sustainability certification and verification of supportive workplace practices, they actively reach out to farmers and those in the surrounding communities the viability of and market for sustainably grown cocoa. With the inclusion of a large player such as Mars, they could make the case to farmers with increasing confidence. As more farmers choose sustainable methods, it will also have the ripple of a greater supply for other current and yet-to-come chocolate brands.

Finding Sustainability in a Brave New World

Have you eaten a candy bar today? Look at the wrapper. If you're in North America, there's a high likelihood that it was made by Mars . And before you toss it out, with or without the knowledge that it's not recyclable, stop. Stop, because we just made a deal with them. What kind of deal? The largest diversion of post industrial waste ever. That's right, the bit of flexible film in your hand now holds the possibility of becoming something other than a resident in the landfill for eons.

How to Turn Unrecyclable Waste Into an Asset

How many billboards did you pass today? If you can even keep count, you're lucky. Most of those are made with vinyl. And most of them get thrown away. Over 3 million a year in the US alone. That's nearly 10,000 tons, or to give you a visual, about the weight of 2500 adult elephants. Once it makes it to the landfill, it's not going anywhere. Vinyl does not biodegrade. We thought something should be done about that. Starting this month, we are. Terracycle together with Yakpak will be turning those billboards into messenger bags, backpacks, and more. As a byproduct of those billboards being built to withstand the elements, these have a lifetime warranty. As Yakpak founder Stephen Holt put it to me, "The only way one of these bags will ever end up in a landfill is if someone chooses to throw it away."

Does Everybody Have a Waste Problem?

Subaru, a company that you may assume creates significant waste, recycles 97% of its manufacturing waste and reuses the rest to generate electricity. (Photo: Eric Castro on Flickr) I make products out of what would otherwise be garbage. That’s all we at TerraCycle do. So of course garbage is an issue that’s front of mind for us. But what about your company? What about any company? Does every company have a waste problem? Or turned around, a waste opportunity? Is there any company that doesn’t have a waste problem?