"We bring our entire Green Team and all our supervisors from the facility to the landfill to give everyone an understanding of the volume of material that we’re generating and the types of materials and the different things that we can do with them—diverting materials to recycling or seeing if they are eligible for reuse,” Nicole Flewell, Director of Sustainability for Taylor Farms, explains to me.
She’s discussing the latest milestone in Taylor Farms’ journey—an impressive testament to its mission-based approach. This summer, the company announced that it had been granted TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency) Platinum Certification for its Gonzales, California, facility—becoming the first fresh food company to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council’s highest level of certification as a Zero Waste Facility.
The process is rigorous—to the point of supervising every aspect of waste disposal— and one of the more granular aspects of this process is coming face-to-face with the company’s garbage.
"Our achievement of TRUE certification is a direct reflection of our company’s guiding values of trust, honesty, integrity, passion, and teamwork."
-Nicole Flewell, Director of Sustainability, Taylor Farms
“We actually take our trash compactor full of one day’s waste out to the landfill, and we spread it out and separate all the materials out and appraise them,” Nicole explains. “And from what we learn there, we can, for example, work upstream with our vendors to eliminate some kinds of packaging material. We look at every step throughout our entire process in our facility to identify opportunities.”
Beginning in April of last year, Nicole and a Green Team composed of leaders from departments throughout Taylor Farms’ Gonzales facility—including production, receiving, shipping, facilities, sanitation, purchasing, and quality assurance personnel—have worked tirelessly to reduce and redirect waste, eventually achieving this unprecedented distinction in only 14 months.
“It’s an accomplishment we’re really, really proud of. It’s taken us a little over a year to get to this point. These projects are not simple, and we’ve put in a lot of effort. We have a huge team behind this project and it’s really been a unifying experience for us at Taylor Farms. Our achievement of TRUE certification is a direct reflection of our company’s guiding values of trust, honesty, integrity, passion, and teamwork,” says Nicole, who spearheaded Taylor Farms’ Zero Waste Program. “This audit was completed by the same organization that does LEED certification for buildings, so it’s a truly verified and audited third-party verification for zero waste; it’s the only one out there.”
Since 1995, Taylor Farms has been providing fresh foods to families and communities across the United States. The company was founded as Taylor Fresh Foods more than 20 years ago in America’s Salad Bowl, California’s Salinas Valley. And, in the ensuing two decades, Taylor Farms has grown to its current formation—a 16,000-employee-strong organization that is North America’s leading producer of healthy fresh foods.
A pioneer in the packaged salad category, Taylor Farms remains focused on promoting health across the board—the personal health of consumers, the social health of the communities in which Taylor Farms operates, and the environmental health of its farmlands and the globe.
“Our mission to be North America’s favorite maker of salads and healthy fresh foods encompasses every part of our business, including the way we grow and produce our fresh foods,” Nicole tells me. But for Taylor Farms, being a fan favorite means more than making salads; it means pursuing a sustainability strategy that is based on the triple bottom line—the health of the company, its people and consumers, and of course, the environment.
TRUE certification is a rigorous process, Nicole tells me, one that has involved over a year of committed work on the part of the company’s Green Team. It’s a process that requires the utmost dedication to sustainability and a challenge that Taylor Farms was eager to tackle.
“They have a 90 percent requirement in terms of diversion from landfills and incinerators that you have to meet in order to even apply for certification,” Nicole explains. “We were able to achieve a 94 percent diversion rate over 12 months, which was a huge accomplishment for the team.”
Nicole continues, “without the integrity and passion of our team members, we would not have been able to achieve this distinction. With big facilities like this where you have over 1,000 people and many different departments, everyone really has to participate in these programs every single minute of every single day in order for them to be successful. We meet monthly to discuss the previous month’s diversion rate, and the tonnage that we’re sending to landfill. We look at the goals that we had set for ourselves the previous month and the goals and objectives for the next month and how we’re going to go about accomplishing those.”
"...everyone really has to participate in these programs every single minute of every single day in order for them to be successful."
Just this June, Taylor Farms’ Green Team completed their audit, completed corrective actions, and underwent the onsite verification process. And Nicole tells me, since completion, the facility is thought of as a beacon of what the company hopes to accomplish in terms of sustainability across the country. Taylor Farms hopes that the lessons learned in its Gonzales facility TRUE certification process can become a model to be applied throughout the industry.
“Each of our facilities will have its own certification process,” notes Nicole. “This will be the first one of what we hope will be many. Our Gonzales facility is also home to our solar, wind, and cogeneration plant—and it will be our most efficient facility along the whole gamut of energy efficiency, waste reduction, and innovative technology. It’s going to be the real shining star of our sustainability program.”
Taylor Farms’ Gonzales facility uses a range of renewable energy sources to help meet the company’s sustainability goals. Employing a three-part system that uses a wind turbine, solar, and cogeneration energy system, the facility is able to generate 4.2 MW of energy—a 90 percent energy offset—to run the 192,000-square-foot fresh processing plant.
Over the course of the program’s 14-month lifetime, Taylor Farms announced this June, the company has managed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30,923 MTCO2E—the equivalent to taking 6,510 cars off the road each year. The company has decreased landfill generation by 56 percent, achieved over 94 percent diversion from landfills, incinerators, and the environment on average for the last 12 months, and eliminated all single-use and wax cartons for 100 percent of incoming raw material, working with the company’s growing partners to instead implement reusable bins and totes.
It’s with an unwavering commitment to excellence that Taylor Farms approaches its community, customers, and product. And through TRUE certification and other initiatives like it, the company is doing its part to ensure generations to come can enjoy the cleanest environment and the freshest food.