SUSTAINABILITY FAQ

Q: Why are you focusing on food waste when I can just compost? Isn’t plastic packaging the real problem?

We’re committed to tackling both food waste and single-use packaging waste. Food waste is a significant contributor to greenhouse gasses (GHG). One-third of the food raised or prepared doesn’t end up being consumed and it takes a vast amount of resources to grow one calorie of food. Wasted food accounts for roughly 8% of global emissions and preventing food waste is the most effective strategy in limiting GHG. 

Single-use packaging is also a huge focus, and we’re 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 isn’t allowed in any of the jurisdictions where our stores are located in Oregon or Washington, and we’ve 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’re committed to addressing packaging concerns, but want to replace our current packages with ones that have better environmental performance. We’ve also heard backlash from Oregon composting facilities who wish to keep non-organic material out of their mix. 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 isn’t New Seasons Market 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 isn’t 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

New Seasons is accepting small quantities of hard-to-recycle materials at our stores’ recycling centers, including #1 plastic containers, plastic film, Paktech lids, and cork.

Q: Are you doing anything to replace the plastic bags in the produce department?

Absolutely! We’re 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. You can also skip bags for most items in produce (Nature provides its very own packaging for lots of things like bananas, onions, citrus, and more!). Reducing plastic bags is an area we’re currently working on, and we’re 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 donate to a neighborhood non-profit. Donations go to one of our store-specific non-profit partners, selected and voted on by our wonderful staff members.

Also, the vast majority of our Portland store locations have rentable and returnable containers available via a subscription service called GO Box. The program meets all food safety code laws and provides reusable containers for our bulk department, 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’re 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 2021, we saved vendors more than 35,800 individual trips to our stores, avoiding more than 4,580,000 pounds of carbon emissions.

Q: Are you partnering with any other vendors to collect hard-to-recycle materials like clamshells and Styrofoam?

We’re partnering with K&S to recycle household quantities of #1 plastic containers, K&S and Trex to recycle plastic film, Paktech for Paktech lids, and Cork Reharvest for cork.