Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

From Trash to Treasure

By Kathy Loftus, January 13, 2009  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Kathy Loftus
On my previous blog “What Makes a Company Green,” a reader asked for more on our composting efforts, and I’m happy to be able to provide information about this green mission commitment.  Composting has several definitions and our programs vary across the country, but here is a general overview of how it works. Although there are hundreds of so called “composting facilities” across the country, there are only about 20 that have gone through the rigorous certification required to handle food waste, and these are typically labeled “food waste recovery sites.”  Many of these are located near large cities and have state or municipal resource programs to help support them (e.g. Philadelphia, Boston, Washington DC metro, Columbus/Cleveland and San Francisco).  Unfortunately, not all of our stores and facilities operate near these sites, but passionate team members are working with local communities and municipalities to help cultivate these resources by testifying to their benefits and advocating for the necessary infrastructure. FYI, at Whole Foods Market, we organize a lot of our work by geographical regions of the country and we have dedicated teams working in each of these regions setting up programs specifically suited for that part of the country. In several regions, the composters arrive at our stores and pick up the food and organic waste, which is then worked in with other businesses’ food and organic waste, and over time, the sun heats up the mix and it breaks down, eventually producing humus or compost, which is a valuable addition to any horticultural or landscaping project. Most of the composters sell this product in bulk by the yard for local farmers, and this helps them raise healthier plants.  It’s also used by community parks, landscapers and even golf courses. Last year, one region purchased some of this compost product from certain facilities and had it packaged in our emptied food grade white buckets to be sold at several stores, giving these buckets a second or third life.  This year, they’ve got a new way of providing this product to buyers: the compost is packaged in compostable plastic bags that are designed to be cut along the sides of the bags with Xs in the center to mark planting spots. So in the spring, customers may take the bag of compost home, empty it onto their garden, cut the lines, lay the bag right on the bed and plant through the Xs!  This provides a weed barrier and decomposes through the growing season. Also, 15 stores in this region now have “tea” brewers that use the compost material, and customers bring their own containers to the stores and buy the tea for horticultural use. One region delivers its food and organic waste to a composter using “Green Machines.”  A Green Machine is a closed top dumpster/truck contraption that belongs to our South Region’s Distribution Center (the dumpsters were inherited from an old store).  Several team member volunteers painted them green by having a team painting party. The regional stores use a back hauling process (after deliveries are made to the store and the delivery truck is empty, the store sends back their food waste in wax boxes lined with biodegradable bags to the distribution center.  When it gets there, the bags are taken out of the wax boxes, and the bagged food waste goes into the Green Machine dumpster. Once the dumpster is full it is hauled off to the compost field to start the process. We see composting as a really important Green Mission solution.  There is clear evidence that food waste and other organic materials, when buried in landfills, are primary contributors to the emissions of methane, one of the most potent of the greenhouse gases contributing to global warming.  So not only does our food “waste” become an agricultural soil amendment that is vital to the production and maintenance of healthy soil and plants, but by preventing it from getting into landfills, we’re avoiding a significant amount of methane from entering the atmosphere. And, using compost also reduces or even eliminates the need for fossil fuel-based pesticides. Thanks for the question and the opportunity to share our composting successes. Want to try composting at home? Here’s a helpful site to get you started. I’m looking forward to doing more blog posts, so shoot any questions my way about our green programs and let me know what you are interesting in reading about.
Category: Green Action




denise petersen says ...
thank you, very exciting post! i am sending it right now to our green mission rep! denise naples demo specialist
01/13/2009 9:42:00 AM CST
Mychael Gorecki says ...
The fully painted compost bin looks great! I think that anyone who saw that coming down the road would have to stop and stare. I can only hope that ours turns out that eye-catching! - Mychael Gorecki, Plano Produce Green Mission Representative
01/14/2009 1:40:49 PM CST
Harry says ...
I'm delighted to hear more about WF's composting efforts. As an avid composter I wish to correct one small error in your blog. You wrote "over time, the sun heats up the mix and it breaks down, eventually producing humus or compost." Any heat in a compost pile is generated internally: by the contents decomposing. Why do I bother to point this out? Because it means that one can compost in the shade, or during cold weather, or where it's cloudy, or ... you get the idea.
01/14/2009 2:51:20 PM CST
Claire says ...
This is awesome! I wish WF could also offer a food waste drop-off point for customers wanting to reuse their waste but lack composting facilities.
01/20/2009 10:20:27 AM CST
Kent Palmer says ...
Are there any plans for operations in the Midwest? It seems the concentration of stores in the Chicago area might make a critical mass of compstble materials.
10/14/2009 8:33:09 PM CDT
Stephen says ...
This is great! I would love to talk to a local WF person who is working on this issue in my locality. I am in Chicago. Can someone connect me?
10/17/2009 5:10:36 PM CDT
Vlada says ...
Great article. Thanks. Does WF plan to have food waste drop-off locations for their customers? I live in NY and such locations are limited especially in downtown area.
10/23/2009 6:29:18 PM CDT
Bokashi says ...
Awesome article, thanks for that. It's good to see that people are composting more and more. I think that everybody should do it! Thanks again for a good read. Cheers, Roel
02/18/2010 6:15:14 PM CST
Bryant Bishop says ...
We love what you are doing and want to work together with you. Agromin is a pioneer in the sustainable management of biodegradable resources. We are dedicated to the enhancement of our business, our society and the environment through innovation along each turn of the recycling loop. Each year, we convert almost 380,000 tons of recycled organic materials into rich living compost, mulch and other premium soil products for area farmers, landscapers, gardeners, and retailers. Resulting from this process of sustainably renewing our soil resources, we contribute to water conservation, prevention of soil depletion, reduction in green house gas (GHG) emissions and a decreased need for oil-based fertilizers and chemicals. As stewards of the Earth, we are committed to the protection and renewal of our soil resources, to build a more sustainable future and a greener world--for us, for our children and for generations yet to come. Thanks for what you are doing. Bryant
03/21/2011 5:29:09 PM CDT
BROOKE says ...
09/02/2013 9:42:56 AM CDT
soybean says ...
great blog post from whole foods! i love the last paragraph where it highlights composting as a main element of the Green Mission, the role of compost as reducing emissions into the atmosphere, reducing landfill volume and reducing the need for pesticides when farmers can use compost instead to grow healthy crops.
02/09/2014 12:26:56 AM CST
Jan Martin says ...
A friend told me about a plant that she bought at one of your stores. It's called a "bucket plant". She said "it is an unusual tropical plant, it's like a Venus fly trap that catches insects in multiple hanging buckets off 2 main plants. It's a green stalky plant with pinkish buckets." I am very big into gardening and plants and would love to see and have one of these. Please tell me if you have them or where I can get one. I have googled it and don't find anything on it. Thanks for your help. Thank you, Jan Martin
04/16/2014 9:50:20 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@JAN - Our exact products differ between stores. I would suggest asking your friend the specific location where she purchased this to hunt one down. Give the store a call and see if or when they expect to have these in stock!
04/16/2014 1:38:14 PM CDT
Brianne says ...
Is there any contact information for this company?
07/31/2014 7:52:37 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@BRIANNE - Can you clarify which company you are referring to?
08/01/2014 12:01:07 PM CDT