Local businesses are leaders. The resilience of our communities relies on this.
With deep roots in their communities, businesses have a platform and an opportunity to lead by example. Local businesses move the needle in a way that is felt by their community, and they highlight actions that answer our need for societal change. Especially when it comes to waste, the local business voice is vital (and needed).
What better way to solve a local problem, waste, then with a local solution, a community’s triple bottom line business community?
When trying to gain visibility for their Zero Waste plan, it is no surprise that the City of Philadelphia started the Zero Waste Partnership program for businesses and organizations to set themselves apart and signal to their neighbors and fellow business owners that the journey towards a much-needed zero waste cannot delay.
SBN Member Remark Glass, a woman-owned and operated glass blowing studio in South Philadelphia, became the city’s first Zero Waste Partner in January and they were the first Partner to reach Silver Status, which means they diverted 70% of their waste and met 7/10 Zero Waste Actions. Two glass artists Rebecca Davies and Daniel Ruttenberg started Remark Glass in 2016 to utilize glass–an untapped resource–to create interior accents, dinnerware, and more with recycled glass. Creativity and sustainability are built into the DNA of their business. We interviewed Davies to learn more about Remark Glass’s commitment to sustainability and waste reduction.
Why are businesses such an important stakeholder group for Philadelphia’s zero waste future?
Small businesses typically have a small decision-making team with huge decision making power. At Remark, we are the investors. Once we commit to an idea, we work it into our systems and it quickly becomes part of how we do business. Triple bottom line business, in practice, means that we value people and the planet equally to profit. We proudly give ourselves the freedom to imagine doing business that is the best it can be for the community, our sustainability, and eventually our families. Materials like glass are a resource and can be put to use by resourceful small businesses like us.
What are some of the biggest hurdles businesses face in reducing waste, and how would you encourage them to face those difficulties head on?
Start with the easiest changes. They will likely come from the people you work with. For example, everyone at Remark dries their hands with cloth towels now. It cuts our waste dramatically by reducing our consumption of single-use paper towels. Everyone agreed that this change made sense.
We also collect boxes and air pockets from our neighbors and wrap our glass in newspaper so that we can package our orders with reused packaging. And we look for other build-ups of waste, for example, take out containers that can be used for studio organization.
There are so many challenges for a business that holds itself accountable. Commit to staying flexible and adapting quickly–any effort matters. And be aware that most greener decisions are costly, even simple blue bin recycling.
How can a partnership between the city and the local business community get us to a zero waste future faster?
Waste is a local problem, and we all have to live up to our single-use habits.
So far, the partnership with the city is about opening a dialogue and getting a clear idea of how much waste we are dealing with locally and how decisions are being made. Remark advocates for glass as a material for a circular economy because it is reusable and recyclable. We also communicate the value of having access to clean, uncrushed glass bottles to make the best of the material.
Many parts of society need to work together to share the cost of redesigning how communities recycle locally. We agree that changes will be needed to better handle the waste produced here, and the best thing we can do is listen, adapt, and help solve the challenges.
What is your vision for scaling up for business (and in turn responding to our waste problem even more)?
As it scales, Remark is broadening its strategy to be more holistic to avoid wasting glass or storing unnecessary glass. We partner and collaborate with local businesses to meet local needs. We make intricate lighting pendants for homes and restaurants, and at the same time, we clean hundreds of bottles for the company next door to reuse. Whether it is common beer bottles or intricate liquor bottles, we’re developing solutions to keep glass moving through the studio.
Remark is one recycling solution, and we’re doing everything we can to process glass waste. Our company is alongside many that address waste really well, and all together we make a significant impact to reclaim local materials.
What support do you need as a business owner in meeting your zero waste goals?
Today, the collection system for waste is so focused on making a profit that it is missing common sense. Remark Glass has invested in how glass is collected, stored, valued, and recycled and in doing so, we have a glass company that is locally sourced, energy efficient, and striving toward zero-waste.
Each of our spending habits are so important in a changing society. I encourage you to spend with your values. Buy local, buy handcrafted, buy from the people who do the work, and buy used. The businesses in the local economy look for ways to collaborate and make solutions that avoid waste. In order for projects that make sense to be possible, they need the support of the community and their curiosity and commitment to sustainable values.
Join us on Thursday, May 9 for a free networking event and tour of Remark Glass’s studio in South Philadelphia. Click here to register.