The Happy Beast - Blog - Sustainability

Transition Town Totnes and the Path to Sustainability

Totnes in the United Kingdom is my dream town. Well, at least when it comes to sustainability it is. In terms of weather, I’ll take beautiful Lafayette over dreary ol’ England any day. But with a little work, we can make our community just as sustainable.

I had never heard of Totnes until recently, when I was listening to a TED Radio Hour about finite resources. It is one (and the first) of 350 towns and cities across the world participating in the Transition Town Movement. The Transition Town Movement is a model of sustainability created by Rob Hopkins. The purpose of this social movement is for communities to begin shifting away from their reliance on fossil fuels and to begin focusing on manufacturing and purchasing local goods and commodities in order to increase their resilience and insulate them from any negative effects of a rapidly changing global economic system. The people of Totnes have developed an Energy Descent Action Plan that provides a guide for their own town and others to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and lower our carbon footprints.

So what does my sustainable dream town have to do with pet food and supplies? Well, to us, sustainability is the foundation of everything we do. We love living and working in Lafayette and we’re dedicated to constantly analyzing how our own actions impact our community. Because sustainability issues are quite complex, we continue to be a part of the Lafayette Green Business Program and look for ways to strengthen our commitment year after year. Check out our progress so far by reading our previous blog posts (links below).

This year, we’ve been looking even more critically at what we throw away, including assessing the effects of packaging and diverting more waste away from landfills by using Eco-Cycle’s CHaRM facility and Terracycle. Here’s a bit more about these great organizations:

  • CHaRM or the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials and is run by Eco-Cycle, a local nonprofit organization out of Boulder that’s been in business for over 40 years! At the CHaRM facility Eco-Cycle recycles materials that typically are sent to landfills, but don’t need to be, including cooking oil, cement, small appliances, yoga mats, and all types of plastics. At The Happy Beast, we use CHARM to recycle the clear plastic packaging that wraps larger shipments of canned pet food and bulk treats. Eco-Cycle charges a $3 fee for every vehicle, in addition to the recycling fees that apply to specific materials like electronics, bike tires, and porcelain, but there is no additional fee for most plastics. And if you’re planning to use CHaRM on a regular basis, we recommend setting up a business account, which reduces the $3 trip fee.
  • Terracycle is a global waste management company based in New Jersey that aims to reuse, upcycle, and recycle almost every form of waste, including such diverse waste streams as industrial byproducts, toy action figures, styrofoam, and scraps of hair from salons – they literally recycle almost everything! At The Happy Beast, we have Terracycle Zero Waste Boxes for all our pet food packaging and personal packaging such as chip bags and to-go food containers. Earthborn, one of the great natural pet food brands we carry, even has their own program and Zero Waste Boxes with Terracycle. We encourage all our customers to return their clean, empty pet food bags to us at the store and so far we’ve collected over 1,500 bags for recycling!

Our next projects include:

  • Reducing our electricity and natural gas use with Xcel Energy by implementing additional energy efficiency measures including replacement of our existing fluorescent light bulbs and fixtures with more energy efficient LED options.
  • Identifying new opportunities through the Lafayette Green Business Program. If you own a business in Lafayette (or know someone who does) you can apply for free through the City of Lafayette website.
  • Offsetting our carbon footprint through Terrapass through Renewable Energy Credits (RECs).. By purchasing RECs, we will be investing in projects that promost renewable energy like wind and solar while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Look for our implementation of this project this fall.

All the steps we are implementing at the store, we are also doing in our own homes. We want to spread the word about these amazing companies and what we can all do to make this world a healthier place for future generations.

Stay tuned for future sustainability updates and let us know if you have any other ideas or suggestions to improve our collective sustainability. And check out the links below for more information on the Transition Town Movement – perhaps Lafayette could be next!

Protect Wildcat Habitat: Take the 28-Day No Palm Oil Challenge!

In learning more about the wild relatives of our domestic cats (check out last month’s blog post, “Raising Awareness for the World’s Small Wildcats”), we discovered just how devastating the palm oil industry can be on the natural habitats of wildcats. This month, we’re taking a 28-day challenge to reduce palm oil consumption in our own lives. We know money talks, and so we’re choosing to discontinue purchasing products that contribute to the deforestation brought on by the palm oil industry.

Why? Palm oil is one of the most widely used vegetable oils in the world due to its versatility, and it’s found in all sorts of products – from foods like cereal, chips, peanut butter to dairy products, soaps, toothpaste, makeup, and laundry detergents (just to name a few.)

It is also one of the most devastating crops to the forests of Southeast Asia where half of the world’s small wildcat species make their home. There are few protections for the environment and wildlife in this part of the world so the palm oil industry faces little push back when it destroys forests and sets up massive operations.

As we explained last month, “because wildcats are apex predators, when we conserve their habitats, we are saving entire ecosystems and helping to preserve biodiversity.” Once you get into the news and research about palm oil, the problem can feel daunting and so we wanted to provide some practical steps that you can take to help.

The organization Say No to Palm Oil’s first recommendation is to take their 28-Day Palm Oil Challenge to identify and eliminate purchasing products that contain palm oil. The challenge is broken into four, 1-week periods, looking at a different category of products each week (pantry, fridge, bathroom products, and laundry products). We’ve already begun our challenge at The Happy Beast and would LOVE to have you join us. We’ve outlined each of the weeks below with products to avoid and healthy alternatives, including homemade recipes and DIY cleaners that are super easy to make and environmentally friendly.


WEEK 1: PANTRY

The FDA requires palm oil to be listed on the ingredient panel of packaged food. Be on the lookout for palm oil in the following items: Shortenings, cookies, crackers, cake mixes, icing, instant noodles, bouillon cubes, biscuits, gluten free breads, and almond and peanut butters.

Homemade Everything Crackers
This recipe is super simple and the crackers are done in about 15 min

Recipe from www.thekitchn.com

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, or a mix of all-purpose and whole grain flours
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, 1 tbsp fennel seeds, 1 tbsp poppy seeds, 1 tsp sea salt


WEEK 2: FRIDGE

Be on the lookout for palm oil in the following items: Ice cream, non-dairy creamers, and margarines. And if you are a vegetarian or vegan and use “meat-free” or “dairy-free” products, it is especially important to read all the ingredients. We tend to assume vegetarian and vegan products are both ethically and environmentally responsible, but there are several dairy-free cheeses and milks that contain palm oil. For instance the popular So Delicious Dairy Free brand has several products that contain palm oil.

Homemade Almond Milk

Making milk seems really intimidating, but it’s actually quite fun and easy. Plus, it excludes thickening agents such as carrageenan, guar gum, and xanthan gum.

Recipe from www.thekitchn.com

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw almonds, preferably organic
  • 2 cups water, plus more for soaking
  • Sweeteners like honey, sugar, agave syrup, or maple syrup, to taste, optional


WEEK 3: BATHROOM

The FDA does not require palm oil to be listed in the ingredients for non-food products, so identifying it in bathroom products is a little tricky. Avoid anything with sodium lauryl sulfate and palmityl alcohol. Check out this list of palm oil synonyms and derivatives from the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University​. Overall, products like mouthwash, toothpaste, lotion, and skin care products can contain palm oil and are quite ubiquitous in our personal care products.

DIY Toothpaste

Recipe from: www.wellnessmama.com

Ingredients

  • About 1/2 cup coconut oil.
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of baking soda.
  • 2 small packets of stevia powder.
  • 15-20 drops of peppermint or cinnamon essential oil (optional)


WEEK 4: LAUNDRY

Household cleaning products frequently use palm oil for their foaming and emulsifying properties. Remember that it’s always important to read the labels, especially for those products promoting themselves as “green” or “natural.” For instance Clorox Greenworks, Method, Seventh Generation, and Simple Green cleaners all contain palm oil derivatives.

DIY Cleaner

Recipe from: www.popsugar.com/smart-living/Homemade-All-Purpose-Cleaner-28495713

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Borax
  • 1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide
  • 2 cups hot water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Touch of Lavender essential oil (optional)

Raising Awareness for the World’s Small Wildcats

I have a deep love for all cats, large and small, domestic and wild. They are fascinating creatures with instincts and physiques built for the hunt. It has been a long term goal of ours at The Happy Beast to support causes that go beyond the reach of our pet food industry. Taking care of our environment and all living creatures is the duty of every person on this planet.

When I recently read, “Out of the Shadows, the Wildcats You’ve Never Seen,”an article in National Geographic, I felt that it was important to take this opportunity to raise awareness for the plight of wildcats around the world and how industries like palm oil farming are threatening their habitats. I wanted to provide some of my additional research on the topic, and share how small, everyday decisions can have far reaching effects on preserving their habitats.

There are 31 known small wildcat species on Earth, which are broken into seven different lineages: the Caracal, Ocelot, Bay Cat, Lynx, Puma, Leopard Cat, and Domestic Cat. Small cats diverged from big cats (lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars) 11.5 million years ago and evolved with a number of unique characteristics. For example, one distinctive trait between big cats and small cats is that big cats roar while small cats purr.

Big cats have a flexible neck bone called a hyoid that allows them to stretch their larynx to roar. Small cats are unable to roar and purr instead because their hyoid bone is hardened. Interestingly, cheetahs and cougars, while large in size, are actually more closely related to small cats and they do not roar like the other big cats.

While small wild cats might have slight physiques in comparison to the big cats, they achieve great feats of strength by using their acute senses and reflexes. They have amazing muscular strength and flexibility and their jaws and claws are built to deliver precise bites that can kill their prey instantaneously.

Small wildcats can be found on five of our seven continents, and 14 of the 31 small wildcat species live in Asia. Unfortunately, this is a part of the world where wildcats are least understood and protected.. It comes as no surprise that the greatest threat is loss of habitat. In Asia, much of the destruction of their habitat is due to forests being converted into palm oil plantations.

Palm oil farming, production, and food products are complex topics, but I was shocked by how much something simple like my daily purchases could affect the health and well being of an entire ecosystem half-way around the world. Palm oil is used in a variety of different products from health and beauty supplies to everyday food products, but it’s also relatively easy to avoid by paying closer attention to labels on the products we buy. In addition, websites like “Say No to Palm Oil” provide a variety of ways to take action to reduce your impact and help make your voice heard.

Because wildcats are apex predators, when we conserve their habitats, we are saving entire ecosystems and helping to preserve biodiversity.

I believe strongly that we all have the ability to make a difference in the world through both small and grand gestures. Often I’ve found that the first step is educating myself. Below are a few additional links with more information to help us raise awareness and make a difference in the conservation of these beautiful animals.

  • Out of the Shadows, the Wildcats You’ve Never Seen – National Geographic photo expose and article that inspired this blog post.
  • Say No To Palm Oil – Resources, tips, and recommendations, including the 28-Day Palm Oil Challenge.
  • Wild Cats of the World by Luke Hunter – highlights the importance of wildcat conservation and how protecting them can be beneficial to us all.
  • Species Conservation Fund – The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund is a philanthropic endowment established to provide targeted grants to individual species conservation initiatives, recognize leaders in the field of species conservation, and elevate the importance of species in the broader conservation debate.
  • Panthera’s Small Cat Action Fund – The Small Cat Action Fund (SCAF) is a grants program established by Panthera intended to support in situ conservation and research activities on the many small cat species.
  • Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University​​ – Outline of Production: Palm Fruit to Product – Great, practical overview and guide on products containing palm oil

Why We Love Local and USA Companies

USA! USA! USA!

The foundation of our business is based not only on the love we have for animals, but on the love we have for our planet and our local community.

We are fortunate that our community culture strongly encourages people to support local and environmentally-friendly options for everyday needs. In fact, Lafayette is one of the top 50 cities in the nation recognized for its environmental and sustainability efforts. We echo these efforts in our search for brands who share these values and incorporate them into their company mission statements.

Mother Earth Love

The companies that we feel provide the healthiest foods for our animals are also the most environmentally-friendly, sustainable and ethical producers – and most of them hail from the good ol’ US of A.

Local Economy Love

When we support our local economy and buy products made in the US, we increase demand for domestic sourcing and services which requires more local jobs. Local workforces tend to spend more money in their own economy, which further increases demand.

Buying locally made products and choosing to spend money in local businesses benefits our economy by:

  • Creating more jobs
  • Increasing tax revenue
  • Decreasing pollution from imported goods
  • Encourage sustainable practices that support the health, environment, and economy of our local community.

PACE Sustainability Certification (Part 2)

Earlier this month, The Happy Beast received sustainability certification in waste, water and energy efficiency through Partners for a Clean Environment (PACE). In partnering with PACE, we’re joining a community of businesses that:

  • Are dedicated to the community in which we live
  • Care about our customers
  • Pursue more sustainable practices to support the health, environment, and economy of our local community.

Our PACE certification in waste diversion and water efficiency demonstrates our high level of environmental performance. PACE’s certification performance criteria are based upon and consistent with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria as well as EnergyStar Building certification. To achieve certification, we demonstrated:

  • Waste Certification: Diversion of at least 70 percent of waste stream away from the landfill. (Our diversion rate is 87%!)
  • Water Certification: Water savings of 20 percent better than usage predicted by current code. (Our savings is 21%!)

We’re making some great strides in sustainability certification and will continue these efforts throughout 2015 and 2016. You can read our Part 1 blog post to see where we started, or check out our progress-to-date below.

The Happy Beast: Steps to PACE Certification
(Audit conducted: May 15, 2015 | Last updated: September 15, 2015)

  • Water: CERTIFIED (Gold)
    • Install low-flow faucet and dog wash sprayers: COMPLETE
    • Install additional drain screens for dog washes: COMPLETE
    • Install water efficient toilet: COMPLETE
    • Install dual-flush toilet conversion kit: Pending
  • Energy: CERTIFIED (Silver) 
    • Update thermostat programming: COMPLETE
    • Use smart power outlet strips: COMPLETE
    • Use sleep mode for all computers: COMPLETE
    • Install Energy Star certified washer and dryer: COMPLETE
    • Upgrade all remaining lighting to LEDs: COMPLETE
    • Install occupancy sensors in bathrooms: Pending
    • Upgrade to energy-efficient water heater: Pending
  • Waste: CERTIFIED (Gold) 
    • Establish composting and recycling, including packaging film plastics: COMPLETE
    • Provide reusable shopping bags and $.10 bag credits (stop by the store to get yours!): COMPLETE
    • Divert over 70% of monthly waste stream (recycling, compost, plastics, and trash): COMPLETE