Produce & Reduce program builds a culture of sustainability, cuts waste, boosts efficiency
Measure to Improve and Equitable Food Initiative partnered for the first time on a pilot program, bringing an innovative approach to building organizational capacity, improving waste management practices and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to three California agricultural facilities. The Produce & Reuse pilot program’s success is attributed to the open collaboration between the two industry leaders and three participating companies — Misionero, Good Farms and Windset Farms.
MTI and EFI worked together to establish program goals and developed an approach around the idea that the success of an organization-wide waste reduction program depends on the engagement of the entire workforce to effectively implement changes. As a result, the three companies established strong green teams from multiple departments, engaged in hands-on training, developed company-wide systems, and implemented waste reduction plans. Although each of the three companies represented different types of produce suppliers, they were able to share best practices and learn from one another. This program has now enabled MTI and EFI to create a case study and blueprint for other like-minded companies to achieve similar success.
“It was rewarding to see how far-reaching this program was,” said Nikki Cossio, CEO and founder of Measure to Improve LLC. “Members of these organizations prided themselves on sharing and educating their neighbors, families, and friends on placing materials in the proper containers. Everyone was doing their part to reduce the negative impacts food loss, and waste has on the environment. This waste reduction program was a perfect example of incorporating all three pillars of sustainability — people, planet and profitability — and how to approach sustainability initiatives moving forward.”
This three-year project provided significant and long-lasting results. Fifty employees were trained directly on this pilot project; however, the indirect number of trainees is more than 2,500 due to the commitment and culture created within these companies. That total commitment resulted in more than 144 tons of waste being diverted from landfills and a reduction of 435 tons of CO2 equivalent. MTI and EFI see the success of the Produce & Reuse pilot program as a positive example and model for other companies in the fresh produce industry and are hopeful it will have larger impacts beyond the pilot.
"Making improvements for waste reduction led to positive results from this project, but the element that will have lasting impacts on both the company and individual was the focus on creating a culture of sustainability," said Nicole Zapata, marketing director for Misionero. "The education and mindset shift we all experienced will ensure a lifelong commitment to environmental improvements both at work and home."
The Case Study developed from the commitment of these three companies is now documented and available to be shared with like-minded produce companies committed to waste reduction in their operations. The heaving lifting of these three participating companies will allow others to follow suit with a clear path.