With a name like MOM’s Organic Market, it might sound like the 10-store independent based in Rockville, Md., takes a down-home approach to its operations.
And it does — if your home happens to be highly energy-efficient, organic and a staunch steward of the environment.
Recognizing the company’s longstanding efforts to reduce waste and minimize its impact on the environment, SN has named MOM’s the winner of 2013 Sustainability Excellence Award in the Independent category.
Scott Nash, founder and owner of MOM’s, said the company launched what it calls its “ER” initiative — for environmental restoration — in 2005.
“At MOM’s we hire not for experience but for values, and one of our values is that we are environmentalists,” Nash told SN. “So many of us are environmentalists that we don’t even have to brainstorm about what we should do — it just comes naturally to us, and we just keep our eyes peeled for ways that we can potentially restore the environment.”
A longtime supporter of renewable energy, MOM’s has been fully wind-powered since 2005 through Maryland-based company Clean Currents, according to Charis Smith, MOM’s environmental director. In 2012, MOM’s received a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Purchaser Award.
Earlier this year, MOM’s partnered with Solar City to install 59.22 kilowatts worth of solar panels on the roof of MOM’s newest store in Waldorf, Md. The system’s expected annual output of 72,000 kWh — which is equivalent to the annual electricity use of nearly eight U.S. homes, Smith said — is expected to offset more than 15% of the store’s energy use each year.
To further support renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions, MOM’s recently has been seeking to offset its customers’ emissions from their shopping trips through a program it has dubbed “Terrapass Your Gas.”
From November 2011 through June 2013, MOM’s said it has offset 14,235 metric tons of carbon dioxide through the program. This is equivalent to eliminating the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 2,966 passenger vehicles or the carbon dioxide emissions from consuming nearly 1.6 million gallons of gasoline, according to information sent to SN by Smith. MOM’s uses ZIP code data from its customers to estimate mileage driven to and from MOM’s stores.
The Terrapass program uses the funds received from MOM’s to sponsor clean energy and efficiency projects such as wind power, dairy farm methane digesters, landfill gas capture and coal mine capture.
In a similar vein, MOM’s seeks to encourage the proliferation of electric vehicles and lessen dependence on petroleum by offering electric car charging stations at six of its store locations.
The company also looks at many other ways to reduce energy consumption, including using energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems. In 2011, the company went to all-LED track lighting.
Staffing the Stores
Nash said having the right workers on staff is important for running such an operation, but he also noted that environmentalism can be taught if people have the right mental approach.
“They don’t have to come in being staunch environmentalists, but they do have to have the right attitude and be willing to learn,” Nash said.
“But if they come in and say global warming is a hoax, they are out,” he noted.
He also said some people are attracted to work at the company because of its strong position on the environment. Employees are offered a “green benefits” package, which includes extensive education on how to lead an environmentally friendly lifestyle, a $3,000 incentive for the purchase of a hybrid vehicle, a 20% subsidy incentive to purchase Energy Star appliances and electric lawnmowers, and a “Green Household” package that includes CFL bulbs, clothesline, programmable thermostats, and an employee discount on all products in the stores.
On its corporate website, MOM’s explains that it believes the destruction of the environment and climate change are the biggest problems facing humankind today.”
“We believe that through leading by example we can have the biggest impact to protect and restore the environment. By instituting best practices to reduce our impact on the environment, and by educating staff and customers, we are influencing customers, employees, and many other businesses.”
Among the actions the company takes to support this position:
• Stocking organic product whenever possible;
• Buying local whenever possible.
• Supporting green business by featuring products by companies who use renewable green power to manufacture their products.
• Offering only sustainable seafood.
• Opting not to sell bottled water.
• Offering a variety of products in bulk to reduce packaging.
• Using green building materials like bamboo and recycled lumber.
MOM’s also seeks to compost or recycle as much of its waste as possible, and each year tries to raise the bar on its recycling rate. To accomplish this, MOM’s uses a range of compostable, recyclable and reusable products in its stores, including compostable utensils, produce bags and reusable shopping bags, sampling cups and spoons, coffee cups, filters, boxes, bags, pallet wrap and reusable wooden pallets and crates.
In 2012, MOM’s stores composted over 2 million pounds of waste, or 59% of its total waste output, according to Smith. Combined with recycling efforts, as a company, MOM’s diverts nearly 90% of its annual waste from the landfill, she said.
As service to its customers, MOM’s offers free daily recycling for items such as corks, shoes, household batteries, compact fluorescent light bulbs, cell phones and plastic bags. Last year, MOM’s recycled 22,412 pounds of household batteries for its customers.
Throughout the year, MOM’s also hosts free recycling drives for used denim, incandescent holiday lights and electronic waste. This past June, MOM’s recycled over 45,000 pounds of electronic waste.
Nash told SN that even though some of the company’s practices can be operationally challenging — such as an effort to inflate customers’ tires to help them get better gas mileage — the rewards can be large, and unexpected.
“When we first launched our ER initiative, and we started to advertise it to customers, within 2 months we had a couple of shoplifters confess to us they had been stealing from us for years — both unrelated — because they felt guilty,” Nash recalled. “That is just one of the many, many ways you cannot measure the benefits of being an ethical, socially responsible-run company.
“We get publicity, our customers give us the benefit of the doubt, they like us more, our employee morale has gone up, our retention rates have gone up, it’s easier to recruit. These are very important parts of running a business.
“Companies who think they don’t want to do this because of the short-term costs aren’t connecting the dots and looking to see all the intangible ways and unexpected ways that being a good company benefits them.”
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