February 13, 2020 A Look Back on Sustainability in 2019 At this time of year we all make resolutions, to drink less coffee or shed a few extra pounds and get in shape. Last year our company made a few resolutions: reduce our carbon footprint, reduce plastic and paper use, and implement other environmentally conscious practices. It’s a new decade and a great time to look back on how we did to improve sustainability, but also forward to what we can do better. We began 2019 by buying an extensive line of electric tools including weed whips, blowers, and chainsaws. We love them! They are quieter, cleaner, and in many ways just as powerful as the gas powered tools. They are also lighter and easier to use. We are working through a few disadvantages; limited battery life of the weed whips is the main setback. However, the short battery life of the weed whips doesn’t outweigh their many benefits and we are adding more. We have also met with a consultant to look into powering some of our energy needs with solar. Stay tuned, that avenue is still being explored and we hope to implement some solar projects this year to help reach our sustainability goals. The amount of plastic used in our everyday lives continues to be a concern of ours, as individuals and as a company. This is not just a local problem, with how much plastic ends up in our beloved lakes, but a world-wide problem. It is estimated that over 300 million tons of plastic are produced globally each year, half of which is single-use, and eight million tons of plastic end up in our oceans. It can take hundreds to a thousand years to break down completely. In the meantime, it breaks into tiny pieces called microplastics. Last summer, researchers from the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire found plastic particles in the water, soil, and even in worms. This means plastic can be found in even the most remote locations, such as the Boundary Waters. These microplastics are consumed by animals and people, potentially causing a variety of health issues. We are trying to reduce our plastic use as much as possible in all areas of the company including maintenance, greenhouse operations, installation, and the office. So far all departments have done an inventory of their plastic use and reduced it dramatically last season. The nursery finds ways to reuse old greenhouse plastic covering, the maintenance crews have switched to reusable bags for weeds and trash, and the installation crew recycles 100% of the plastic pots they use. Our maintenance crews remove plastic trash that accumulates in our restorations. Taking trash and recycling out of our restorations is important to the health of the wildlife that call these native areas home. Every year we continue to reduce the amount of paper products in our office. We have switched from paper towels in our bathroom to cloth towels. We also send more email communications versus paper copies. Another small step was to encourage companies to send us digital copies of their catalogs versus paper copies. Another office change to reduce our carbon footprint and help reach our sustainability goals was to install more LED lights, which also reduces energy costs. As some of our older fleet vehicles need to be phased out we are looking at replacing them with electric vehicles. This would greatly decrease our footprint considering how much our crews travel every day. We continue to support organizations that not only educate the public about the importance of reducing carbon footprint and plastic use, but other environmental issues as well. This year we donated to Save the Boundary Waters, The Nature Conservancy, Conservation Minnesota, and the Minnesota DNR’s Nongame Wildlife Program. These organizations do great work at helping to protect our natural areas and the creatures that live within them. Our footprint is slowly and steadily being reduced, and every little change counts towards our sustainability goals. Looking forward to 2020 and the next decade, we want to go carbon neutral as a company. We believe this goal is important to the future of not only Minnesota’s landscapes and climate, but the entire planet. If you have ideas on where we can reduce our emissions or plastic use, please share it with us on our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Happy New Year from all of us at Natural Shore!