By Cheryl Rade

The last few years have seen a marked increase in companies adopting more sustainable business practices. Eco-friendly strategies that focus on everything from recycling techniques to improved conservation methods to waste reduction have become top priorities. In fact, numerous businesses today consider sustainability to be at the very heart of their day-to-day operations.

So, what exactly is sustainably focused business? Put simply, it refers to conducting business without negatively impacting the environment or society. This means that businesses with a green approach are concerned about meeting their needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Here in Eugene, many establishments are making significant strides in creating and promoting a greener work atmosphere for their customers and staff, as well as their community.

Erik Chapman, chief operating officer at Thinking Tree Spirits (a craft distillery specializing in vodka, rum, gin, and brandy), says sustainability in business is a big deal.

“Here at Thinking Tree Spirits, we like to think of ourselves as conservationists, both on a professional and personal level,” Chapman says. “We do everything we can to source our raw materials and craft our spirits with that in mind.”

Chapman says the company prides itself on procuring its ingredients from regional midsize farms, which creates jobs for more Oregonians on the production, retail, and agricultural side while also cutting down on the distillery’s carbon footprint. “By supporting our local farms, we keep our region growing and growing,” he says.

This philosophy also holds true for Hummingbird Wholesale, a longstanding organic food manufacturer and distributor that specializes in products such as nut butters, seed oils, and unfiltered honey, to name a few.

Stacy Kraker, director of sales and marketing, says Hummingbird Wholesale is dedicated to offering top-quality organic foods that are grown as locally and sustainably as possible. “We use ‘organic’ as a baseline standard for all our food production,” she says, pointing out that healthy soil is really the root of good health.

“Our food system and the parts we play in that system are very important in our world,” she says, referring to the company’s mission statement. “Like the hummingbird, we seek to sip the nectar of the earth without harming the flower.”

Kraker says the company’s sustainability practices extend beyond its wide array of food products. These practices include driving low-emission vehicles, using trikes to make local deliveries, and even utilizing reclaimed wood for the facilities’ floors. “At Hummingbird, we are committed to having healthy communities and a healthy planet,” she says.

Joe Harrison, co-owner of Farmers Union Coffee Roasters (owned with Mark Sheppard and Thomas Pettus-Czar), explains that sustainability is at the core of the business. “We spend a lot of time and energy on this, and we do it because it’s the right thing to do,” Harrison says.

Harrison, who also serves as chief coffee roaster, points out that all the coffee is roasted right on the premises and is sourced from around the globe, from countries such as Ethiopia, Peru, Colombia, and Guatemala. “Our coffee is organic and fair trade,” he says, stressing that it’s important for the business to have good relationships with coffee farmers who use organic farming methods.

In addition, Harrison says he and his partners are involved in many other sustainable activities. “We compost almost everything we possibly can, and recycling—we do a lot of that, and at the end of the day, we try to produce the least amount of trash that we possibly can.”

Miklos, bar manager at The Tap and Growler, a craft beer and wine taproom, says the most sustainable thing that the business does is “to try to keep things local.” She says that all the food and liquor are purchased from local merchants, and that she makes all the simple syrups for cocktails and some fruit dishes in house.

Furthermore, The Tap and Growler, which is owned by Nick and Michelle Larsen, uses solar lights in its outdoor sidewalk dining tents, offers its customers hay straws—which are 100-percent biodegradable—instead of plastic, and works very hard to reduce waste.

Miklos says the taproom’s sustainability practices are significant because they benefit the community as a whole. “My personal beliefs are that a lot of trouble we’re having is with our carbon footprints and overfull landfills,” she says. “What we do here is try to keep the planet green a little bit longer.”

Farmers Union Coffee Roasters | 152 W 5th Ave. | 541/357-9143

Hummingbird Wholesale | 150 Shelton McMurphey Blvd. | 541/686-0921

The Tap and Growler | 207 E 5th Ave. | 541/505-9751

Thinking Tree Spirits | 88 Jackson St. | 541/515-6993