Sustainability Makes Sense
Through the years, Upper Lakes Foods has always focused on reducing operating costs. Many of our prior cost reduction efforts would today be considered sustainable practices.
When we wanted to reduce our garbage expense, we looked into our dumpsters. We discovered large volumes of plastic wrap and cardboard generated from our warehouse operations. We separated those two items from our waste, created a recycling program, and reduced our daily garbage pickup to three times a week. When we wanted to reduce our power bill, we asked our local power supplier to assess our operations. With their help, we installed automatic doors on our coolers and freezer and occupancy sensors for our lights throughout our warehouse. We also discovered we could heat our warehouse by reclaiming the heat produced from our freezer and cooler condensers.
In 2012, we created the Planet to Plate Environmental Stewardship Program with the main focus to conserve our natural resources, energy, and water usage while also reducing our waste in our facilities and our fleet. Below are additional sustainable efforts implemented to date:
- We upgraded our truck fleet. Tractors are equipped with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR), which is an emissions-reduction technology using Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) to deliver near-zero emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) that contributes to acid rain, smog, and greenhouse gas levels.
- Eliminated foam, plastic, and one-time utensils for daily use.
- Purchased BPA-free water bottles for each employee for daily reuse
- Created a composting program and expanded our recycling program in the facility
- Installed faucet aerators to reduce water usage by 50%
- Installed low-flow toilets throughout the facility
- Replaced all soap and dish chemicals with environmentally friendly and natural products
- Pursue environmentally superior product options for our customers
We currently participate in Sustainable Twin Ports (STP) Early Adopter program. Their focus is to incorporate sustainable considerations into the business decision-making process. A team of people at ULF has been training with the STP team through lectures and team presentations to utilize the Natural Step process effectively. Our current project is to reduce our energy impact by replacing fluorescents lights with LED lights throughout our offices. Through our partnership with Minnesota Power, we conducted an energy audit, and we are well on our way to completing the changeover by our goal in January of 2017.
As a local, family-owned and operated food distributor, Upper Lakes Foods is committed to business practices that help sustain the health of our economy, community, and environment. As part of this commitment, we actively pursue ways to reduce our energy consumption, limit the waste generated at our facilities, and engage with our local community. We are also committed to educating our organization and our employees, customers, and vendors about how we can all work together to improve our performance while limiting our impact on the environment.
Area: Energy, fluorescent lights replacement
Current reality: LED’s offer longer life, lower power consumption, and no mercury vs T8
Vision: Identify and replace all florescent tubes in the Cloquet office
Strategy: Minnesota Power Analysis
- Action 1: Setup meeting with Minnesota Power to inventory lights.
Metrics: Power bill
- Action 2: Analyze survey, discuss conversion costs & ROI.
Metrics: Survey lights changed
- Action 3: Develop timeline for conversions.
Metrics: Inventory of florescent replacement tubes
Our Local Vendors
- Continue to educate ourselves on potential sustainable opportunities
- Share and teach the benefits of recycling with our customers and employees
- Review our energy audits quarterly
- Develop an onsite community garden with employees for themselves and their families
- Coordinate Team ULF to clean up the local parks and highway
- Reduce the cost of garbage by limiting pick-up days