New Leaf Market’s Environmental Footprint
By Phil Valentine, Store Manager
Kermit the Frog said it best, “It’s not easy being green.” For Kermit, his challenge was being a green, awkward frog. For us, it’s balancing the demands of running a grocery store while being green, or environmentally-responsible.
New Leaf Market is mandated to be environmentally responsible by its owners who elect the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors, in turn, writes the Mission and Ends Statements. These statements lay out New Leaf Market’s core values. The management is responsible for upholding these values in the everyday operations of the store. What makes this possible is the incredibly caring staff that believes in the importance of creating and maintaining an environmentally-responsible business and their willingness to rise to the challenge.
Being a grocery store with climate control, coolers, stoves, etc., we do consume considerable electricity; however, steps are taken to reduce our carbon footprint. We purchase energy efficient equipment when possible, and replace old inefficient equipment that would otherwise continue to consume lots of energy. We conduct annual energy audits with the City to identify areas that could be improved. Lights and other equipment are turned off whenever possible, and offset our energy use, New Leaf Market purchases renewable energy credits.
In addition to a carbon footprint, businesses leave a chemical footprint. As a business that prepares and serves food, we must keep our facility clean and sanitary. In food prep areas, sanitizers must be used which meet Department of Agriculture regulations. In other areas of cleaning, we are able to use alternative products—vinegar and baking soda for cleaning the bathrooms and other surfaces, and neutral and biodegradable floor soap. Citra-solv, a citrus based all-natural cleaner, is used for tough jobs like cleaning shelves and coolers. The soap in the restrooms is green-certified.
We recycle as much as possible. The City now picks up plastic and metal containers. We choose to recycle glass as well, and transport it ourselves to a facility. You can help by placing your recyclables in the correct containers—one for glass, and one for plastic and metal. Paper waste is put in with our cardboard bales, which we sell to Newark Recycled Fibers, who sell it to companies that recycle it. We also return many of our ink cartridges to the manufacturers to be reused. Along with this effort, we choose as many green products as possible. Many of our paper products are made with recycled paper including our office paper, paper towels, toilet paper, napkins and paper bags. The plastic roll-bags in produce, bulk and meat are made from 100 percent recycled plastic.
On the note of reusing, we donate produce and juice-bar food waste to local farmers for composting. We are also very happy with the success of our reusable shopping bags. These bags are sold for cost in order to offer them at an affordable price. One of the biggest ways we “reuse” is by stretching the life of our equipment and fixtures by fixing instead of replacing them. We are proud of our maintenance and IT employees who are skilled in electronics repair, welding, metal fabrication, plumbing, and basic rigging skills. It is amazing how long some of our equipment stays alive because of these guys. When the time comes for us to replace equipment or fixtures, the items are usually donated to other co-ops, or stripped and the parts recycled.
The next time you are shopping, look around at all of the happy faces and know these folks are going to great lengths to make New Leaf Market green—they are green down to the heart.