Decreasing Food Waste
As a business that produces prepared foods on a large scale, our Co-op is acutely aware of food waste. We are continually looking for solutions, big and small, to help reduce it. It’s long been our practice to donate any unsold food to the Gallatin Valley Food Bank. This helps divert a great deal of food from the landfill and helps feed people in our community.
We also make efforts to reduce waste before it is even produced and hits the shelves.
Our staff tracks and analyzes our waste data on a regular basis. We conduct frequent audits on foods sales and adjust our production as needed to avoid excessive waste. It is a constant balance of keeping the shelves full and abundant for our customers, while keeping our waste to a minimum.
Our food service staff also works closely with our produce department to make use of the “ugly produce.” When fruits and veggies are too ripe or have blemishes, we get creative and incorporate them into our prepared meals, baked goods and soups.
Beyond doing the right thing, reducing food waste makes good business sense. It lessens our shrink and generates revenue.
Composting Food Waste
Despite our best efforts, not all veggies scraps can be utilized in food production. For these, we rely on composting.
Every week, our food service operations, produce department and coffee bar generate approximately 2,000 pounds of organic food waste. This includes non-sellable veggie scraps, coffee grounds, bread scraps and egg shells.
Where does it all go? Instead of sending that food to our landfill, we partner with Happy Trash Can, a local business that provides curbside composting for both residential and commercial operations.
Happy Trash Can, owned by Ryan Green and Adrienne Huckabone, picks up food scraps from three of our locations: Co-op West Main, Co-op Downtown and the Co-op Central Kitchen and Bakery.
They bring it to Strike Farms, where owner Dylan Strike provides land to process the scraps into compost. The food scraps are mixed with wood shavings from Brander Design; these wood chips are used to help with decomposition.
Dylan then uses the finished product to plant his organically grown veggies (available seasonally in our produce department and in Co-op prepared foods).
Not only does composting improve soil health and structure but it also reduces carbon emissions. When dumped in a landfill, food quickly rots and becomes a significant source of methane gas.
Since the Co-op began working with Happy Trash Can in August 2016, we have composted more than 110,000 pounds of food.
Food Service Packaging
Food service packaging (and waste) is an aspect of our operation that we continually strive to improve and find better solutions for.
Currently, we offer the most environmentally friendly packaging available to us that also works for our operational needs. In considering any new packaging, we must also balance what recycling and composting services are offered in our community.
Because Bozeman offers recycling services on #1 and #2 plastics, we have prioritized those types of products for our “to go” containers. We use these types of plastic packaging for both our refrigerated pastry and savory items. We also use compostable paper containers for our soup cups, hot food boxes, compostable utensils and recycled napkins.
Unfortunately, Bozeman does not have a commercial facility that can break down compostable packaging. At this time, Happy Trash Can cannot compost it either. However, by supporting this company (or others like it), we can help them succeed. And with growth, perhaps they could expand their composting services in the future.
We are currently looking into the possibility of switching to compostable packaging, a better option if a commercial facility opens in Bozeman. Given the size of our operation, changing our packaging will be a large task requiring time to research and execute. Stay tuned.
Happy Trash Can provides composting to both residential and commercial customers. Learn more at Happy Trash Can.