Big Earth Day News! We believe in the power of community to create a more sustainable future. As part of our ongoing efforts to reduce waste, we’ve eliminated single-use bottles of still water from our stores on Earth Day, April 22, 2021. Together, we’ll remove almost 200,000 single-use plastic, aluminum, fiber and glass bottles from our planet this year.
New Seasons Market was founded to connect our communities through good food. More than 20 years later, we’re on a mission to be the sustainability leader in the most climate-friendly community in the nation. From transparent and sustainable business operations, and local partnerships with responsible producers and community nonprofits, to empowering our customers and staff to join us in taking care of our planet, New Seasons Market is steadfastly committed to sustainability.
As a neighborhood grocery store focused on local partnerships, we have a unique opportunity to improve our environmental impact from our products and operations and throughout our supply chain. Our sustainability objectives are threefold: to prevent food waste, reduce single-use packaging, and mitigate climate change by integrating sustainability into all elements of our business. Learn more about our ongoing sustainability initiatives below.
Preventing Food Waste
If food waste were a country, the United Nations estimates it would be the third-largest contributor of greenhouse gases globally after the US and China. As a grocery store, we know that reducing food waste is the place where we can make the biggest difference for the climate. That’s why we committed to reducing our food waste 50% by 2030 and joined other cities, states and retailers in the Pacific Coast Collaborative to help scale our efforts in our region.
We are implementing technology and changes to our operations to reduce the amount of excess food first. Then we donate excess food to local partners ending hunger in our communities. We are taking a holistic approach to this problem and keeping the EPA food waste hierarchy in mind for each step. Our aim is not just to divert the final disposal of a product, but positively impact the full life-cycle of the food — from production, processing and transportation mitigation, to product packaging to prevent the wasting of food.
• We partner with over 50 hunger relief organizations, including Urban Gleaners and Oregon Food Bank, who are committed to providing quality food to those experiencing hunger in our communities.
• As part of our ongoing commitment to our communities, every store partners with a local organization that helps eliminate hunger. Each year we hold a Hunger Match weekend event where we match the first $1,000 donated at each of our stores.
New Seasons Market is serious about reducing single-use waste, and we are committed to finding better packaging solutions throughout our stores while creating opportunities for customers to shop with us without generating harmful single-use waste. Packaging is a complex environmental problem because of the tradeoffs required to ensure food preservation while limiting unnecessary excess and waste. As part of our mission to reduce waste, we are shifting to environmentally preferable packaging options and actively working to make packaging decisions based on the best possible science and data available. We track the environmental benefits of this initiative through the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and single-use waste.
• Our Bag it Forward community donation program lets you donate a 5 cent reusable shopping bag refund to one of three nonprofits in your local store’s neighborhood.
• Our Neighbor Rewards program offers environmental incentives, including e-receipts and bonus points when you shop with reusable bags.
• We’ve eliminated single-use service ware and straws in all our stores, offering only reusable utensils to prevent waste before it starts.
• As a partner of Portland’s own GO Box, we currently offer reusable takeout containers in all Portland area stores. With GO Box, customers can take their food in reusable to-go boxes and drop the containers back off for washing and reuse.
• In-store customer recycling programs are offered for plastic film, cork, aluminum cans and Paktech plastic handles. See what recyclables are accepted here.
To help mitigate climate change, we prioritize partnerships with local food producers and invest in energy-efficient equipment and practices to reduce carbon emissions associated with producing, processing, transporting, and storing food
• 100% of our electricity was purchased through Renewable Energy Credit in 2020, avoiding 1,293 pounds of carbon emissions, or the equivalent of removing 400 cars from the road annually!
• Our GreenWheels sustainable vendor delivery program partners with Portland’s own B-line Urban Delivery to deliver products from small local producers by electric bike. In 2018 alone, we saved vendors 11,800 individual trips to our stores, avoiding 319,495 pounds of carbon emissions
• Store efficiencies are rolling out, such as energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, refrigerated case doors, LED lighting, and aerators on defrost sinks
• Seasonal products grown locally require fewer resources and transportation inputs than those produced further away, which is why we support local growers, ranchers, and producers. Supporting local vendors also impacts our local economy in a meaningful way. We have over 1250 local vendors, and in 2018, we added more than 500 local products to our stores
• We were recognized as an EPA Green Power Partnership Top 30 Retailer in 2019 and 2020
Our neighborhood grocery stores offer easy ways for customers to make sustainable choices. Even better? Our knowledgeable staff is passionate about sharing responsibly sourced products from longtime local partners. Here are a few tips and tricks on how to shop sustainably with us:
• Bring your reusable shopping bags (and get bonus Neighbor Rewards points!), and donate to one of our community Bag It Forward partners.
• Get a GO Box subscription for waste-free convenience.
• Skip bags for most items in produce (Nature provides its very own packaging for lots of things like bananas, onions, citrus, and more!)
• For non-food departments like wellness, bring in your containers and refill them over and over again!
• If you are trying to reduce plastic, use paper bags in our produce and bulk departments.
Impact Report & Metrics
Want to learn more about sustainability initiatives and how you can get involved? Here are a few great resources to get you started:
GREENHOUSE GAS REDUCTION: We’re always learning more about what parts of our business and personal choices affect climate change. These resources are our favorite for understanding how to make the biggest impact.
Project Drawdown is a world-class research organization that reviews, analyses, and identifies the most viable global climate solutions, and shares these findings with the world.
PACKAGING REDUCTION: Packaging is a complex issue. These resources provide insight into various sides of the equation.
The Story of Stuff Project seeks to educate people about the plastic industry’s myths and to hold up bold, local solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. Check out the original videos about plastic at The Story of Plastic.
OREGON DEQ REPORTS: We rely on the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to help us make science-based decisions.
In 2018, Oregon DEQ released a series of reports that answered the question: How well do popular packaging attributes correlate with net environmental benefit?
• Compostable packaging: The truth about compostable packaging and food service ware.
• Recyclable packaging: The truth about recyclable packaging.
RECYCLING: Recycling has changed drastically in the US in the last 2 years, for some insights into the current state and possible solutions we recommend:
• America has a recycling problem — Segment from Consider It on Vox Media, which walks through the idea of life cycle analysis to understand the environmental footprint of coffee.
FOOD WASTE: Reducing food waste has numerous environmental and community benefits, learn more from some of these resources:
• Save the Food is a great resource to learn more about food waste and find tools, tips, and resources that empower you to do something about it.
• NRDC on Food Waste: NRDC works to make America’s food system more efficient and less wasteful.
Q: Why are you focusing on food waste when I can just compost? Isn’t plastic packaging the real problem?
We are committed to tacking both food waste and single-use waste. Food waste is a significant contributor to greenhouse gases (GHG). One-third of the food raised or prepared does not end up being consumed. It takes a vast amount of resources to grow one calorie of food. Preventing food waste is the most effective strategy in limiting GHG and we know that wasted food accounts for roughly 8% of global emissions. If food waste were a country, it would be the #3 emitter of GHG, behind only the US and China.
Single-use packaging is also a huge focus, and we are taking steps to eliminate packaging where we can (visit one of our produce departments to see this in action). This work continues to evolve as we lean on scientific approaches to choose our packaging solutions appropriately.
Q: Why doesn’t New Seasons Market offer compostable packaging instead of plastic?
Compostable packaging is not allowed in any of the jurisdictions where our stores are located in Oregon or Washington, and we have learned from a DEQ study, which found that in many cases, “compostable” materials created more emissions and water usage than many comparable materials when viewed through a life-cycle perspective. We are committed to addressing packaging concerns but want to replace our current packages with ones that have better environmental performance. We have also heard backlash from Oregon composting facilities who wish to keep nonorganic material out of their mix. Recently these composters collectively released a statement to educate and explain their stance at A message from Composters Serving Oregon.
Q: I’ve seen some grocers make commitments to eliminate all single-use plastics in their stores; why aren’t New Seasons Market & New Leaf Community Markets doing the same?
The current nature of recycling is a vastly complex and ever-changing problem. Our plan focuses on reducing and working toward eliminating single-use plastics in our stores, but this won’t happen overnight, and we want to ensure we have a working solution in place for the long-term. We’d hate to make promises or commitments that we can’t keep if new challenges or changes take place in the recycling world.
Q: What do the numbers listed on plastic containers indicate? What number plastics belong in curbside recycling?
The numbers listed on plastic packaging are an industry-wide system that helps producers identify what materials were used to create the packaging. In most cases, the number listed on plastic packaging is not an indication of recyclability. Some neighborhood-based recycling services call for particular numbered items. But, for Oregon Metro, the size and shape of the container are much more important in determining if you can or cannot recycle an item. For more details, visit Oregon Metro.
Q: Are you doing anything to replace the plastic bags in the produce department?
Absolutely! We are doing all we can to offer different solutions for customers who want to avoid plastics in our produce departments. We offer local and seasonal produce in bulk and provide various containers for customers to bring home, including paper bags and small cardboard containers. Reducing plastic bags is an area we are currently working on, and we are excited to share more when those plans finalize.
Q: Why can’t I use my reusable containers from home?
Unfortunately, Oregon Law prohibits us from accepting customers’ reusable containers, tubs, or produce bags. However, we gladly welcome your reusable shopping bags. You’ll earn 10 Neighbor Reward points per visit when you bring your bags and a 5 cent Bag it Forward credit to keep or donate. Donations go to one of our store-specific nonprofit partners, selected and voted on by our wonderful staff members.
Also, the vast majority of our Portland store locations have rentable/returnable containers available via a subscription service called GO Box. They provide reusable containers for our salad bar, hot bar, and deli counter offerings. Once you’re done using the containers, drop them off at on-site bins where they are collected, sanitized, and returned to circulation.
Q: Why is examining the life-cycle of packaging so crucial to reducing our carbon footprint?
Life cycle assessment is an examination of a product or material across its entire life cycle and its resulting environmental impact. The assessment is a deep dive into areas such as supply chain, manufacturing, transport, use, and discards. By pinpointing the place where the most significant impacts occur, we can compare these results to available alternatives. This information can help us prioritize our sustainability efforts in a more profound and impactful way.
When materials experts started using life cycle assessments to determine what part of the cycle is the most or least resource-heavy, the answer challenged our assumptions. In most cases, the step in the life cycle of a package with the most significant environmental footprint is the production process, compared to the end of life disposal, which accounts for only 2% of the overall impact.
Q: How are you partnering with producers and distributors to lessen the carbon footprint of the food production cycle? Are there any vendors who you have helped operate more sustainably?
New Seasons Market is dedicated to supporting the regional food economy. We work with 1,250 local vendors, ranging from amazing seasonal produce to hundreds of unique items, including products like hot sauces, nut butters, and salsas, all grown or made right in our communities. In our eyes, we are helping feed the community that feeds all of us.
Our support of the regional food economy goes much further than just selling products made and grown by local vendors. Lots of small vendors struggle to service a large retailer like New Seasons Market, and all of those trips between stores can limit their time spent on growing their businesses, not to mention the impact it has on the congestion of our community roadways.
These problems led to the creation of our GreenWheels program. GreenWheels allows small local vendors to drop their store orders at a centralized warehouse for consolidation and delivery. These orders are then organized for efficient delivery to our stores, often by bicycle. In 2018, the program saved 12,000 individual delivery trips to New Seasons Market locations, saving more than 320,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.
Q: Are you partnering with any other vendors to collect hard-to-recycle materials like clamshells and Styrofoam?
We are partnering with K&S and Trex to recycle plastic film, Paktech for Paktech lids, and Cork Reharvest for cork.