deli-treeWe have a strategy for growth that is about the long-term economic health of our Community of Businesses and our local economy. When we talk about “great service” we refer not only to our customers, our community and each other, but also to our planet; we push ourselves to go beyond basic compliance on environmental issues.

Zingerman’s Community of Businesses 2020 Vision

We believe that learning to grow our businesses within the natural capacity of our environment will prepare us for a long and prosperous future, provide meaningful service to our community, make us smarter, stronger, healthier and happier.

Zero Waste
The foundation of Zingerman’s environmental stewardship

Zero Waste has been incorporated into our guiding principles. It is the backbone of our commitment to positive environmental stewardship. As our North Star, it orients our point of view and is a goal we pursue continuously. We see waste in all forms as an untapped opportunity. Waste can be as clear to see as the garbage from unused food or packaging. Or it can slightly hidden, like the excessive use of energy, fossil fuels and CO2 emissions. It can also be very subtle, like the waste of missing opportunities to be of service, or to grow our own skills and talents. We look for waste and take advantage of opportunities to eliminate it wherever we can. The challenge is invigorating. It has resulted in redesigning our days, our systems for delivery, our production lines, our purchasing. Our SOPs, DORs, passports, and training have all been transformed. Wasted: Zero Waste at Zingerman’s is a hugely popular class and is the source of intellectual capital for how we weave the ideas of Zero Waste through our work. Zero Waste has benefited all three bottom lines, improving operations and finances while raising our level of service and food across the organization.

Strong Food Relationships
Sustainably produced agriculture is flourishing

Our agricultural choices play a large part in the health of our world, both locally and globally. We have cultivated stronger relationships with the agricultural community so they can provide an abundance of products to the Zingerman’s community. We know and care about all of our vendors, whether in Tecumseh or Tunisia. We buy locally when local is best, and we work to make local best. By building partnerships with producers that engage in an ecologically balanced, holistic approach to farming, we have seen measurable results in energy savings and waste reduction in our supply chain. The strong and mutually beneficial bond created with our network of producers has increased our sales, which have increased the demand for food produced in our community.

Better Choices Build Better Connections
Staff and guests feel they are making a good environmental choice when they shop, eat and work at Zingerman’s businesses.

Our passion and enthusiasm for sustainability is contagious. Our successes have given rise to an inspiring partnership between vendors, customers and employees. The staff have become informed advocates for sustainability, engaging customers and vendors in the process. Our vendors are more proud than ever to have us represent their product under the umbrella of greater environmental stewardship. Customers are proud to shop with us for our food, our service, and our commitment to our community and for our ever-clearer commitment to leading environmental practices.

More Green = More Green
Environmental sustainability generates economic growth

Our approach to environmental stewardship is entrepreneurial. We have cultivated an abundance mentality that seeks out creative win-win solutions for living within our planetary means. Our sustainability work is a profit center, not a cost center with no impact on the price of a sandwich or a loaf of bread. Our environmental practices give us a competitive edge. We are able to sustain our growth momentum through price, resource and climate volatility that have other businesses scrambling. Our sustainability efforts have fostered product innovation, a new ZingTrain seminar, and at least one emerging Zingerman’s business. Our growth is neither relentless nor limitless. We grow smart; we grow within our natural limits; we are here for the long haul.

Hi Tech, Low Tech, Green Tech

We use technology wherever we can to support our efforts in environmental sustainability. When we evaluate our work and its environmental impact, we always stop to think, “Is there a way we can use technology to save time, energy or materials?” We use technology to minimize our use of paper, to share rides, to share purchases, and, with virtual meetings, to eliminate unnecessary cross-town travel. We use an online knowledge base and social media to show what works in our businesses and learn what’s being tried in the world outside of the ZCoB. We embrace new technologies, experimental technologies and old technologies — we love to try anything and we take risks on technology all the time.

Use Less
Paper and packaging reductions throughout the ZCoB

Packaging is one of the public faces of our commitment to positive environmental stewardship. We have significantly and measurably reduced the amount of paper and packaging materials we consume in daily operations. We reuse what we can, and what can’t be reused is composted or recycled. The crew knows the full cost of paper and packaging products—from tree to landfill—and are motivated and empowered to reduce consumption of them. Our landmark paper and packaging programs celebrate our progress to serve, educate and motivate our community.

Clean Fleets
Transportation waste is approached from many angles

Vehicles are another public face of our commitment to environmental stewardship. We have invested in high-mileage, low emission vehicles for our delivery fleet. Behind the scenes, we have also applied Zero-Waste and Lean Principles to evaluate and improve efficiency of our routes, delivery times, load sizes, driving techniques, and maintenance SOP’s. We do a number of other things to keep our total transportation imprint low, including seeking vehicles with the most current technology; on-site alternative fuel pumping and battery charging stations and incentives for guests and staff to commute to our businesses sans emissions.

Green and Gray Thumbs
Each business has a garden with a gray or rain water recapture system

Green Thumb and Gray Thumb environmental leaders work throughout the ZCoB. They work together to create gardens large and small at each business to provide beauty, food, education and inspiration. Recaptured water and compost feed these gardens, showing how closed loop systems can generate abundance and offset green house gas emissions at the same time. Our staff members jump at opportunities to participate in our business gardens, special Green and Gray thumb projects and green roof tours. This work has demonstrated our commitment to and passion for environmentally sound practices, and helped them become a strong part of our systems and culture.

We make our own

Each business has successfully identified the best options for generating and recapturing its own energy. Our solutions are not one-size-fits-all; they are right-sized, integrated designs, customized to best serve each situation. We measure our energy production; we share the information; and we are able to show a net positive ROI on our renewable energy investments. A ZCoB Green Energy Capital Fund has made it easier for businesses to invest in green technologies. We are committed to reaching a net zero carbon footprint through our own energy efficiency and production.

We educate ourselves and others

We share what we have learned. Environmental sustainability is the focus of a U of Z degree program and a new ZingTrain seminar. We have partnered with local environmental organizations and engaged expert citizens to enrich our knowledge. We have developed a curriculum that is both pragmatic and positive, showing that a sustainable business model and commitment to environmental stewardship can contribute tremendously to the health and vitality of a business.

Keeping Score
Environmental sustainability scorecard

Ask any ZCoBber about the sustainability at their business, and they will quickly reply with a number or two that accurately describes current initiatives. The sustainability score card keeps the baseline and provides input lines for each business’ DOR boards. This data is also used to calculate that business’s GHG emissions and credits, producing a number that is easily understood by anyone in the ZCoB. This number is a hot topic at Huddles and front line staff are eager to participate in games and projects, while managers and partners are able to easily track their progress and plan for the future. Everyone is thrilled by how much their efforts are reflected in the the shrinking carbon footprint number on the DOR board at PG.

We properly value People and Planet
We have discovered many fruitful paths to positive environmental stewardship. Each has brought benefits for our businesses, our vendors, our community and for us as individuals. The path has not been straight or easy. In facing the threat of climate change we have learned that it’s possible to address even our greatest fears with positive action. With many small steps, we have broken free of habitual patterns and developed new awareness. Each day we know our work contributes to the greater good of our entire community and helps to secure our best possible future.