Food for a Sustainable Future

It can sometimes feel like Earth Day, April 22, gets overlooked or pushed aside, and yet the day is extremely important, especially for a sustainable future. Here at Harmons, Kate Whitbeck, director of sustainability, thinks about the earth every day, and pretty much all day.

Her job at Harmons is to help us reach our goals as a sustainable company, keeping in mind all the ways we do take steps to be earth-friendly, and bringing up places where we can do better.

Harmons Believes in Being Green

Harmons has always focused on being green, creating a cardboard recycling program in 2000; a food waste diversion program in 2008; and a food rescue program in 2010, among other things. In 2020 we recycled 3,270 tons of cardboard. That means 55,590 trees didn’t have to die.

We also have a food rescue program, donating edible food to the Utah Food Bank. Unlike many other grocers, Harmons pulls fresh food from the shelf before its expiration date, so that it won’t be sold close to its expiration, and will offer fresher nutrient content for all the Utah families it feeds.

Through our food waste diversion program we send tons of food—around 2725 tons a year—to an animal feed operation, or an anaerobic digester that turns the waste into pipeline grade natural gas.

Kate Whitbeck checks out food waste headed to an anaerobic digester that will turn it into natural gas. 

Solar Panels, LED Lighting, Compostable Packaging and More

Kate talks about other ways we are working for a green, sustainable future, such as using LED lighting in our new stores and solar panels on the roof of our Santa Clara store, which provides 40 percent of the store’s electricity. Our Mountain View and Traverse Mountain stores have sky lights to take advantage of natural light, which means less electricity is used.

With today’s knowledge on the troubles with plastics in landfills and oceans, it’s good to know that Harmons is looking for a way to use compostable packaging whenever possible. We even use bowls made from fiber-based sugarcane in our Kitchen, and paper straws in our cafés.

We are also planning for the future, as we plan to put charging stations at our stores that will quickly charge electric cars and other forms of electric transportation. We currently have one at our City Creek location, and seven more are planned to be installed this summer.

Reusable Bags

One way that everyone can help reduce our impact on the earth is to use reusable bags for your grocery shopping, and in April, in celebration of Earth Day and Earth Month, Foodie Club members are rewarded for bringing in their reusable bags, receiving 10 points every time they use a reusable bag. In addition, from April 18-24, 2021, all the proceeds from every reusable bag purchased will be donated to UCAIR, an organization that focuses on improving Utah’s air.

On the left, Bob Harmon shows off one of our canvas reusable bags.

One program that is near and dear to Kate’s heart is B-Corp, a certification program that evaluates businesses according to the highest standard of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. You can find over 500 B-Corp certified products in Harmons, and the knowledge can help you to shop responsibly. All you have to do is look for the B-Corp logo.

Kate goes into a lot more detail in the podcast, explaining the differences green efforts make in very relatable terms.

We hope you listen to blog and find new ways to reduce your carbon footprint and ensure a safe and healthy future for all.

Kate Whitbeck

Kate Whitbeck is Harmons’ director of sustainability. She is a profound believer in the powers of the plant-based diet as a solution to climate change. Unfortunately, her bacon habit continues to thwart her ability to embrace plants for every meal.

If you enjoyed this podcast, you’ll want to listen to our other episodes. You can find them here. Recent episodes include Eating a Plant-Based Diet with Chef Callyn Graf and The Science of Bread with Jason Lindsey.

At Harmons, we’re lucky to have incredibly talented artists at each store, and we’re sure you’ve seen their amazing chalk art as you wander throughout every location. We’re excited to be able to feature some of their work as the featured art on our podcast blog. This art is the work of James Bennion, the artist at our Bangerter Crossing location. 

“B” the Change with B-Corp

We all have our pet issues and causes. But do you put your money where your mouth is? Do you shop your values? As Harmons’ sustainability director, my focus tends to be on the environment. It turns out, I am not alone. “Seventy-five percent of Americans consider the environment when they shop, and more than a quarter of consumers rely on certifications to help them make their decisions about what and where to purchase.”[1]

It hasn’t always been easy to vet companies and get a good understanding of whether they are an ethical company, committed to sustainability and fair employment practices. It can be hard to stay on top of the various certificationsorganic, fair-trade, humane, dolphin safe, non-GMO, Rainforest Alliance, etc. You can’t always tell which is a legitimate certification program and which is greenwashing.

One of the tools that I have been using to help me vet companies is B-Corp, a certification program that evaluates businesses according to the highest standard of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. Certified businesses strive to balance profit and purpose.

B-Corp looks at how a company’s operations and business model impacts its workers, community, environment, and customersfrom its supply chain and input materials to its charitable giving and employee benefits.

A few of the B-Corp items we carry on display at our City Creek location

Grocery Items

I look for the B-Corp seal in a number of Harmons’ departments when I shop. When it comes to food items, King Arthur Flour is one of my favorites. Not only do they provide high-quality products, but they are an employee-owned company that has been around since 1790. They use only non-GMO wheat from American farms in all their signature flours (unbleached) and baking products.

Yogi Tea is another favorite. I like to start my day with their Super Antioxidant Green Tea. Yogi Tea’s mission is to support quality, sustainability and social responsibility on a local, national and global level when sourcing the 125 botanicals they use from around the world. They support education, reforestation, access to medical care, and community identified infrastructure projects in communities where they work.

Divine Chocolate is a recent discovery of mine. The chocolate industry has long struggled with an exploitative relationship with cocoa producers. Divine Chocolate is a global, farmer-owned chocolate company sourcing cocoa from Ghana and Sao Tome. Part of their mission is to empower women by helping them develop the skills and confidence to grow better cocoa, build better communities, and thrive in business.

Cleaning Products

When it comes to cleaning products, there are a number of B-Corps that I stock up on regularly. Ecos, Seventh Generation, Dr. Bronner and Boulder Clean are a few of my favorites.

Ecos is manufactured in the US using 100% renewable energy in carbon neutral, water neutral and zero waste certified facilities. They support their employees by paying a $17 per hour minimum wage and provide exceptional healthcare and paid family leave. On top of that, you can feel good knowing their products will clean your home without harming your family’s health.  I especially like their stainless-steel cleaner which keeps my fridge and dishwasher smudge-free.

Seventh Generation based their name on an ancient Iroquois philosophy which instructs that “in our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.”

This translates into ingredient transparency and safe, plant-based formulas (petroleum-free) that outperform their conventional competitors. On top of their health and safety merits, they actively advocate for change on issues related to their mission – transparency (ingredient disclosure), renewable energy and the climate movement. The Seventh Generation Foundation is their grant-making arm that supports organizations that promote and improve environmental conservation, the sustainable use of natural resources, and human health and social welfare. 

Personal Care Products

When it comes to personal care products, I try to make sure that any product that comes in contact with my skin or hair is safe and free of any ingredients that could irritate or cause harm.

All Good is a brand anyone can feel good about. I particularly like their sunscreens and deodorant. In addition to great products, they have achieved carbon neutrality by measuring, reducing, insetting and offsetting emissions. They shut down their offices to march for climate. They support environmental organizations locally and globally. It is their philosophy that in the same way that their products are good for the people, it’s important that their business is good for the community, their customers, vendors, and the land from which they are sourced. On top of being reef-friendly and cruelty-free, they offer some products in completely plastic-free packaging. To top it all off, they are a member of 1% for the Planet (FTP) whose members donate 1% of all total salesnot just proceeds or profitsto environmental causes.

Hi-Bar is an intriguing new product founded on the idea of providing salon-quality shampoo and conditioner without the plastic bottle. Their packaging is either compostable or easily recyclable or both. Even their shipping packaging is 100% plastic-free (no bubble wrap or plastic tape). You can imagine the potential impact when in 2021, Americans will discard over half a billion shampoo bottles. Because there is zero liquid, it is lightweight which means lower shipping costs and a smaller carbon footprint. They use only cruelty-free, safe, sustainable ingredients. They have thought through every detail. Unlike regular bar soap, the shape is easy to hold, saves space in the shower, and sheds moisture quickly. On top of all that, it performs like a high-end salon product. What’s not to like?

April is Earth month so take a minute to think about how you can shop for the planet. Remember to look for the B-Corp seal and know these are companies you can feel confident supporting.

[1] Source: GroceryDive referencing 11th annual EcoFocus Worldwide US Trends Survey

Kate Whitbeck is Harmons’ director of sustainability. She is a profound believer in the powers of the plant-based diet as a solution to climate change. Unfortunately, her bacon habit continues to thwart her ability to embrace plants for every meal.