We love hearing stories about our Sustainable Tourism members finding more sustainable ways of doing business. Our most recent success story comes from Planet Bee Honey Farm, who has shared their journey to implementing a zero waste tasting station. They have also provided key information about how other business owners can implement these changes in their own operations – while saving money!
Planet Bee’s honey tasting table has always been a core component of their visitor experience. Over the past several years, the system had remained constant, in which they had various honeys in a ‘buffet style’ lineup and guests could dip their own toothpick into the honey, throw it away, and grab a new one to try more. It created large volumes of toothpicks which were discarded after one use and placed in the traditional waste stream.
Needless to say, this tasting system was the first thing to be shut down when COVID hit, as open jars and the potential for double dipping was a risk not worth taking. Throughout the first 12 months of the pandemic, the tasting station remained closed, as social distancing could not be implemented and there wasn’t time to come up with a better system.
Fast forward to Summer 2021, when masks were no longer mandatory indoors, Planet Bee “wanted to bring back our tasting table but in a safer, more hygienic way. At the same time, we were keeping sustainability in the forefront of our minds”. As a first step, they switched from open top buffet style honey samples, to condiment dispensers with very narrow openings which prevented contamination of the sample honey.
Next they needed something to replace the toothpicks with, and initially went for the lowest cost but highest waste option. In the first 10-14 days of the new system, about 4000 single-use plastic sample spoons were thrown away, and they knew this system needed to change. Planet Bee approached the same local restaurant supply store they had purchased the single use spoons from, and purchased 140 stainless steel cappuccino spoons instead. This created a closed loop system, where the spoons could be sanitized in their commercial dishwasher between uses. All that was required to transition to a new zero-waste system was a bit of ingenuity, a bit of employee training and the upfront cost to purchase reusable spoons. What resulted was a far greater benefit, and in Planet Bee’s own words had the following positive outcomes:
- Our guests AND our staff really appreciate the effort we are making to reduce waste.
- Staff were very eager to help, and even though it increased the labour required to run the tasting station (i.e collecting and loading our dishwasher with dirty spoons each evening and polishing them each morning) they were happy to pitch in for the sake of reduced waste.
- Long term costs of the system will break-even with our old system in about 6 months. Depending on the lifespan of our initial batch of stainless spoons, the system stands to save us money in the long term.
Read more about to leverage your sustainability initiatives to attract guests and engage your employees on our blog post: “Value-Based Marketing: How to Attract Guests Through Sustainability”
“I think the most interesting part was that it was actually COVID itself which caused us to want to innovate for the sake of hygiene, but eventually it led to a more sustainable procedure. We were able to balance our desire to remain safe and do our part to stop the transmission of germs, while also reducing our waste in a very real, measurable way”. – Olivia, Planet Bee
For other businesses who offer single-use items to their guests or customers, this success story offers a creative and innovative solution to rethink how we do business. Planet Bee has graciously provided a breakdown of their costs, so you can see exactly how this solution is not only contributing to the well-being of our planet, but is saving them money in the long term while also increasing employee and guest satisfaction.
Single-Use Plastic Spoons: $1.98 / 200 spoons or 0.009 cents each.
Estimated monthly amount of single use spoons required – 5,000 (averaged out over 12 months of visitation) for a total cost of $45/month or $540/year.
Reusable stainless steel spoons: $120.00 / 144 spoons one time cost at .83 cents each.
Ongoing cost will be the labor of the new system which averages out to around $1/day or $30/month or $360 / year.
The initial cost of the reusable spoons ($120 plus the annual cost of labour $360 = total $480 ) vs. the $540 / year system of single use spoons, will break even in about 4-5 months on the new system for a saving of $5/month overall even with increased labour. This may be considered a small savings to some, however the added benefits already mentioned, including improved employee and guest satisfaction and prevention of 4000 plastic spoons ending up in the landfill every 2 weeks – that is measurable success.
Read more about GreenStep’s assessment and certification tools can help your business on it’s sustainability journey.