Welcome to Planet Zingerman’s!

We are a group of Zingerman’s employees that work together on sustainability issues and environmental initiatives for our Community of Businesses. Our committee’s work is guided by our organization’s 2020 Vision for Sustainability, our committee goals, and the unique sustainability goals from each of our individual businesses. We interact with like-minded businesses, non-profit organizations and governmental departments in our community. We have created this website to track progress towards our goals, as a resource for your own initiatives, and to facilitate communication with our committee.

Currently, we see our goals and interests defined by five very broad categories:

Our businesses struggle every day to make the right or best decision. Our world is complicated and interconnected—progress towards one goal can often raise an issue to address somewhere else. There tend to never be simple solutions that are really clear choices of what is best for the planet. We have made some very exciting progress over the years. The Zingerman’s crew have made some great changes that have reduced our waste, in addition to saving our company money. I encourage you to check out some of our past annual reports, which detail some of these success stories.

We hope you find something here that sparks your interest or conversation. If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Rodger Bowser
Chef and Managing Partner, Zingerman’s Delicatessen
Chair, Planet Zingerman’s Committee
[email protected]
(734) 663-DELI(3354)

Planet Zingerman’s members:
Craig Rominski, Zingerman’s Service Network
Andrew Wilhelme, Zingerman’s Deli
Jennifer Hall, Zingerman’s Deli
Kristin Beckett, Zingerman’s Roadhouse
Gary Mazzeo, Zingerman’s Service Network
Mike Lucas, Zingerman’s Bakehouse
Hailey Schurr, Zingerman’s Bakehouse
Sean Abercrombie, Zingerman’s Mail Order
Jamie Gray, Zingerman’s Cornman Farms

Food Choices

From sauerkraut for reubens, goats milk for cheese, to flour for bread, and much, much more, Zingerman’s buys a lot food. In one year alone the Deli will buy almost 13,000 pounds of sauerkraut, the Creamery 16,000 gallons of goats milk, and the Bakehouse 20,000 lbs. of bread flour. Each of these purchases offers an opportunity to live our principles and invest in our values: to interact meaningfully with businesses, our community, and the world. When we source each ingredient we aim to make thoughtful and purposeful choices, keeping our environment, energy usage, and ethics in mind.

This Food Choice wish list addresses environmental sustainability by looking for ingredients that use ecologically sound growing practices, minimize food waste, and reduce food miles. These choices prioritize transparent relationships with producers who emphasize diversity, and use fair labor practices and pricing at every step in the supply chain. Luckily, these elements usually correlate nicely with another high priority: flavor. Where, how, when, and by whom something is grown are all part of its terroir; what is sustainable and what is delicious often have some serious overlap.

Zingerman’s commitment to sustainable food takes many shapes, ranging from the local and seasonal fare central to special dinners at Miss Kim’s, to the Coffee Company’s focus on close relationships with far-away producers. Our sourcing is not based on buzzwords, but on serving our guests and the world in ways that acknowledge the sustainability of our ingredients, celebrate the closeness of relationships rather than just physical closeness, certifications, or labels, while always prioritizing flavor.

Stop by to learn more about our food choices and chat with staff, check out some of our beautiful sourcing maps (like at the Coffee Company and Roadhouse), and perusing our websites and blog posts.

Waste Stream

As we said in our section on Lean, we look for waste and take advantage of opportunities to eliminate it wherever we can. We use the term “waste” to mean more than just garbage. However, managing our actual garbage from the back of our businesses is still a very important focus of our work. Zero Waste is one of our Guiding Principles.

To achieve Zero Waste, we must rely on our own systems of collection and separation. We have focused on training our staff to ensure proper separation and to avoid contamination. We have added signage to our guest areas to educate about our desire to put as little into the landfill as possible. We know making purchasing decisions about what we’re buying and how we’re buying makes the biggest difference in what ends up in the landfill. For example, the Deli has asked some of our producers to delivery vegetables in reusable plastic totes, instead of cardboard boxes. The Creamery has changed to reusable lids for their bulk gelato containers. The Deli has reduced in house to go containers by 30% this past year.

We rely on our local municipalities as well as private haulers to collect our garbage, recycling and compost. Changes in how and what these entities collect can have a big impact on the success of our waste management efforts. The Committee has been talking with the City of Ann Arbor for years about expanding compost collection to year round, which would save the need for a private hauler in the winter months.

Zingermans Mail Order has, for years, been composting all of the food scraps from our employee meal program, leftover “jazzpack”—a recycled paper material which we use to pack gift boxes—and paper and crumbs from our bread tent, which preps all the bread going out through the mail. These are all combined on site to create some abundantly rich compost that feeds our gardens to produce thousands of pounds of food which in turn is used in the kitchen to feed all of our employees.

Responsible Packaging

We’ve taken a critical eye to look into all aspects of the waste that we create—not just foods, but the materials we’re using to deliver that food to our guests. Zingerman’s Deli has been working on changing to all reusable containers for in-house dining, along with compostable wrappings for sandwiches. Zingerman’s Mail Order recently changed the non-sustainable styrofoam used to ship foods that needed more temperature regulation to natural jute packaging that is not only recyclable and compostable, but also does a better job of keeping food at a stable temperature. To stem issues of plastics ending up in our watershed, Zingerman’s Roadhouse has spearheaded an effort to eliminate our plastic straw usage, with emphasis put on other sustainable straw options being available for those who need them. As an organization, we’re constantly looking at innovative solutions to plastic packaging.Deli and Candy Company are both using compostable package made from rice for some of our house-made products.

Lean Culture

Zingerman’s Mail Order began practicing Lean Production methods in 2003 with great success, and has been a leader and advocate for Lean culture ever since. “Lean” is a term for the methodology of eliminating waste in many different forms, but its philosophy is centered around continuous improvement, and respect for people. Also known as the ‘Toyota Production System’, the heart of Lean is giving employees “the opportunity to find problems in [their] own way of working, to solve them and to make improvements.” (Satoshi Hino)

Adopting a culture of Lean was a relatively easy change for us, as the (Zingerman’s Guiding Principles that have inspired our work for many years already had much in common with those of Lean. We challenge the status quo. Just because it’s always been that way doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do it. For example, the Deli is leading the fight for year-round compost pick up, the Roadhouse just went Strawless, and all the business are working on implementing a Ride Sharing program (fewer cars, more biking and carpooling!)

Out of respect for the world we live in, we feel we have a responsibility to reduce our environmental impact whenever we can. From switching disposables to reusables whenever possible, to growing gardens for employee meals, Lean tools have been used to reduce waste across all the Zingerman’s businesses.

Facilities Management

Zingerman’s strives to manage our buildings and properties in a way that minimizes our environmental footprint. We try to make sustainable choices in our building materials and supplies, equipment choices, service contracts, and cleaning supplies. Whenever possible, we replace old equipment or systems with more sustainable choices that not only save us energy, but also save us money. We measure our energy production each month in each business so we can see the results of our investments and share the information across our businesses to help each other improve. Our businesses have invested in LED lighting, improved HVAC systems, repurposed equipment, and considered solar energy. The Delicatessen is a GOLD LEED certified green building and has an edible garden landscape around their campus. Mail Order has invested in onsite gardens to grow food for their staff kitchen, and the rain gardens have been recognized by the Washtenaw County Environmental Excellence Program. We will continue to look for ways to improve our buildings and our energy footprint in all of our businesses.

An illustration of a man hugging the Deli building.