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Bay Hay and Feed WSRA 2019 Winner

On April 30, 2019, Bay Hay and Feed was presented the 2019 Business of the Year award from the Washington State Recycling Association.  Here are some reasons why:

                                                  

   Bay Hay and Feed is a Bainbridge Island icon.  It is an old-fashioned farm store wrapped up in modern environmental sensibilities. Founded by Howard Block and Ce-Ann Parker in 1979, it carries hay, grain, tools, and farm and pet supplies, as well as work and casual clothing, footwear, some housewares and gifts. There’s also a nursery which offers an amazing variety of garden plants, fruit trees and vegetable starts.  Wanting to support local farmers, in 2010 they started devoting a section of floor space to locally sourced food: organic produce, bread, eggs, milk and meat.

   Their business model embodies the principles of a certified B Corporation, in that it  "consider[s] the impact of…decisions on [its] workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.”  In 2010 Bay Hay hired a sustainability director, Els Heyne, who has been responsible for a host of energy and water-saving initiatives, in addition to resource reduction and reuse.  Their forever-growing list of sustainability measures (42 and counting) is found here.

   Bay Hay and Feed has two retail buildings totaling about 5000 square feet, two barns, and an outdoor nursery on site.  For a business that size, their waste stream (including their post office and coffee shop tenants) amounts to one 2-yard garbage and one 2-yard mixed recyclable dumpster emptied weekly, plus two 96-gallon yard waste toters emptied every other week. The cardboard that isn’t reused is hauled to the island’s transfer station for recycling.  A comparable Bainbridge Island nursery with 3/5 the retail space fills their trash dumpster twice as fast.  How does Bay Hay keep keep discards down?  Through reuse and repurposing to reduce not just trash but also recyclables and compostables.  

                                       

Examples of trash reduction                                                                      
1) Wood pallets that merchandise comes in on – The pallets in fine shape can sometimes be sold back to the supplier. Otherwise, they may be reused as shelving to display goods, such as fireplace logs or food. Lesser-grade ones might be put curbside for public scavengers.  (Many an island chicken coop is built from Bay Hay pallets.)  Finally, the really broken-down ones are taken apart and bundled for sale as kindling.
2)  Wooden "bulb racks” – This wooden packaging is taken apart and reconfigured for shelving.
3) Scrap reuse – The corrugated metal serving as the front of the food counter had been old scrap from a past construction project (roof?) on site.
4) Burlap bags – Two or three times a year, Bay Hay receives orders of very large pots that are cushioned with burlap bags.  Again, they pile them curbside, where they are soon whisked away by passersby for alternative uses.
5) Packaging –  Els avoids buying products in blister or excessive packaging.  She will request that distributors from whom they frequently purchase not use Styrofoam.  Over time, they do find that the packaging does become more landfill-divertible.
6) Pallet film wrap – This plastic film makes up a lot of their discard volume.  They have arranged with T & C to take it along with other plastic film that the grocer accepts from the public.  The film wrap goes to Trex and becomes plastic lumber.

Examples of recycling reduction
1) Cardboard boxes – They reuse boxes that merchandise comes in.
    a. Rather than buying new plastic nursery trays, they shorten (cut down) the sides of appropriately sized boxes for customers to transport starter plants home.
    b. Instead of buying big paper grocery bags, they put customers’ purchases in used boxes.
2) Paper - The printer is set to default to double-sided copying.  There is also a stack of "second use” paper next to the printer for making copies on the backside of used paper.

Examples of compost reduction
1) Food - Bay Hay does its part to reduce the estimated 30-40% of food wasted annually in the United States.
   a. If food is past its "best buy” date (e.g., milk, cheese), it is put on the counter at the end of the day and any employee is welcome to  take it home.  The same goes for blemished produce.
   b. Stale bread goes to the on-site chickens and turkeys or to Els’ pigs.

2)  Other - As with the broken-down pallets turned retail kindling, Howard finds a retail/repurposing opportunity where others would see garbage.  He reuses empty feed bags to package the loose straw from hay bales. Customers might purchase it for hamster bedding or garden cover.

 

 

   A project which started out small with an idea from Howard has become a huge, highly anticipated community event: Styrofoam recycling,  When Bainbridge Island Zero Waste was established in 2010, Howard and Els attended meetings that first year.  One of their suggestions was to collect polystyrene block packaging and coolers at the Zero Waste booth on Earth Day.  Howard parked his van by our table and we loaded it with material dropped off by the public.  That day, over a four-hour period, Howard drove away with two vanfuls of whole (unsnapped) polystyrene. 
     Nine years later, Zero Waste now hold stwo eagerly awaited collections a year at his store’s barn.  Over 45 Zero Waste volunteers break that Styro into pieces, filling about 90 enormous bags.  At the January 2019 collection, 300 people delivered about 6400 cubic feet of polysterene.  
   This flagship event of BI Zero Waste would honestly not be happening without Howard’s participation.  He drives the bags down to Styro Recycle over multiple store business trips to that area, thereby not adding to the carbon footprint usually associated with transporting this lightweight, yet voluminous, material. Each collection raises hundreds in donations, all of which goes back into Zero Waste programs, since Howard doesn’t even accept money for gas or the ferry. 

   Howard tries to combine business savvy with donor philanthropy.  One example occurs during our island's annual Rotary Rummage Sale, dubbed the largest yard sale in the Pacific Northwest. (Who else makes $600,000 during a 6-hour sale?) Many donations that are dropped off never make it onto the sale floor, for a variety of reasons. If in good shape, these donations are packed up for Goodwill, where they end up at off-island thrift stores.  However, Howard saw a triple-win opportunity for our community in one such rejected item: Christmas tree stands.  The Rotary Green Team sets aside all the perfectly usable stands, which Howard then takes to his store and tucks away until the holiday season.  Then he sells them for $5 each to customers who buy a Christmas tree from the Bay Hay nursery.  He then gives all the money from the sale of the stands to Helpline House, a local food bank.  And as all rummage sale volunteers know, those same stands will probably be re-donated to Rotary a few years later, beginning the reuse and redonation cycle once more.

   Bay Hay gives back to the community from its own pocketbook, too. During the WOW (Wiping out Waste) campaign on Bainbridge to bring Big Belly recycling and trash containers to the downtown core in 2011,  Bay Hay and Feed contributed $6000 for one of the seven sets purchased, even though their business is located more than three miles north of where the receptacles were installed.

   For their entire list of sustainability achievements, go here.