If you live in the Monadnock Region you’ve undoubtedly heard about the W.S. Badger Company, their infamous founder, Badger Bill, and their unyielding commitment to the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit. Badger gets a lot of well-deserved press for everything from providing their staff with a free, organic lunch everyday, to allowing new parents to bring their babies with them to work for 6 months, to their commitment to donate 10% of pre-tax profits to non-profits. In a time when nearly every company adds the word “green” or “eco” to their products, it’s hard to sort out marketing campaigns from real commitment, but it is some of Badger’s lesser-known practices that really set them apart. With a company like Badger, digging deeper into their practices only solidifies their position as a leader in sustainability – from environmental, economic and social aspects. On a sunny day in February, I set out with the Green Team to explore what makes this local Benefit Corporation so unique.
We arrived at Badger to smiling faces, many of which we recognized as member-owners of our co-op, shoppers, previous co-op staff and even a member of our Board of Directors! But there wasn’t much time to chat with all our friends, there was much to learn! We set off with Jess, Caity and Emmi on our tour of their facility.
We started by talking about one of my favorite topics – sustainable agriculture. Jess showed us a beautiful photo of the farm where Badger’s olive oil is sourced from – the Soler Romero Organic Olive Oil Grove in southern Spain. She explained that the only additive in their groves is goat manure and the only thing extracted from the grove is olive oil; all of the spent olives are allowed to compost right back into the soil. Farmers at Soler Romero do not use mono-cropping practices, instead they allow undergrowth to fill in the space between rows to create habitat and food for many different species. Where do the goats come from who produce the manure? They are owned by one of the farmer’s sisters who runs a neighboring goat farm!
I found myself wondering if there was a geographically closer source for their needs, as the carbon footprint of transporting goods great distances is large. But the Badger’s are so thorough – they had an answer for me before I even asked the question! They compared sourcing olive oil from California and Spain, but found that because the oil shipped from Spain went by boat, and from California by tractor trailer, buying from Spain actually had a smaller carbon footprint.
These analyses are important, as Badger purchased 13,000 gallons of olive oil in 2015! Badger helps create a reliable, stable market for Soler Romero so they can focus on what they need to: growing the best olives using the best organic practices and ensuring the health of everything in the web of their farm ecosystem. Between all of their products, Badger estimates that they support 1,550 acres of organic agriculture production each year! Every acre of organic agriculture supports sustainable farming practices, which in turn sequesters carbon into the soil, which is vitally important to mitigating climate change.
Badger’s Sustainability Committee was created around the same time our co-op created our Green Team, and they have also been busy working on a range of projects. One seemingly small change with big impacts came from conducting waste audits. The Committee realized they were recycling an enormous amount of cardboard in their warehouse from products and ingredients being shipped to them, yet just down the hallway they were buying in new cardboard boxes to fulfill customers’ orders. They realized this was a huge waste of resources, so they implemented a system where the Shipping & Fulfillment Department reuses the boxes received at the Warehouse! This simple step will help them reduce their consumption and their costs!
In addition, their Production Department switched from using cardboard boxes to plastic totes which can be reused many, many times. Reducing use of single use items pays big dividends in terms of sustainability. During our short time at Badger we learned all this and so much more: they have a brand new eco-friendly warehouse, their desks were made from leftover scrap wood and water brought into the building is regularly tested to ensure when it departs the building and is returned back to the water table it is in as good or better condition!
Before we left, the Badgers invited us to feast on a delicious organic lunch, allowing us time to chat with their Sustainability Committee and fill our bellies with good, wholesome food. As we left their facility, we reflected on how lucky our region is to have such incredible business owners, triple bottom line companies, engaged citizens and folks driven with incredible passion. Passions that run the gamut – from creating a balm to soothe dry hands, to creating a hub for local, organic food – we are truly blessed to have the Badgers, and so many others, nearby!