05/27/2016 03:36 EDT | Updated 05/28/2017 05:12 EDT

Educated Consumers Want Companies To Go Green

Canadians are accustomed to only hearing bad news when it comes to the environment, but the growing consumer demand for products that are manufactured in an eco-friendly manner is driving a welcome change in the manufacturing industry.

As consumers get more savvy, they are increasingly demanding products that are organic, ethically sourced and produced in an environmentally responsible way. Consumers are increasingly aware of the negative effect chemicals have on their health and will buy organic iterations of their favourite products whenever they can.

Canadian consumers are also focused on preserving their environments and preventing greenhouse gas pollution. To this end, they are favouring products that have been manufactured utilizing eco-friendly methods.

Arthur van Raalte is the director of factory operations for Nestlé Ice Cream's facility in London, Ontario. This factory was sending approximately 2,000 tonnes of waste to landfill in 2006. Through its commitment to environmental sustainability, the factory really embraced the shift to improving the sustainability of its processes and, as of 2015, it achieved its goal of zero waste to landfill.

"We think this is the right thing to do," says van Raalte of the move to zero waste. "Being a global leader brings not only a duty to operate responsibly, but also an opportunity to create long-term positive value for society. The engagement demonstrated by the staff shows their motivation to help the environment. It's great to see everyone get behind such a good cause."

It was the commitment from the staff and the knock-on influence it had on some of the contractors that is heartening to see. "The employees are proud of these efforts and support them with internal recycling programs. Contractors that do project work for us are required to practice zero waste to landfill with all materials they remove from our site and, as a result, a few of our regular service providers have also initiated programs at their sites to do the same," says van Raalte.

So just how does an ice-cream factory in London achieve zero waste? The factory deals with waste in two phases. "During the first phase, we reuse, reduce and recycle. We reuse cardboard tier sheets and pallets, we reduce packaging weights and sizes and we recycle plastics, paper, cardboard, organics and metal. In our second phase, we divert non-recyclable wastes from landfill to clean incineration with energy recovery," says van Raalte.

Now, there is no waste that goes to the landfill at all. All of the facility's discarded materials are directed to destinations that specialize in recovering the ecological or economic value of the material. These destinations include recycling, composting and facilities that convert waste to energy.

As consumers, you vote with your dollars and it's heartening to see that those votes are shaping the way manufacturers function. Doing a bit of research into your favourite brands is the best way to see which ones are moving towards sustainability. If you have a favourite brand that isn't working to zero waste, write to their consumer department and encourage them to change.

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