Nugget Markets Extraordinary Sustainability: Our Vision for Company Sustainability
We are a family business serving our guests, each other and our earth. We are committed to being leaders of sustainability in our industry with a focus on environmental stewardship, social responsibility and economic vitality.
Nugget Markets defines sustainability as the balance of the three pillars: social responsibility, environmental stewardship and economic vitality. We want every associate to SEE sustainability in their departments, that is, make the connections that their practices are socially, environmentally and economically important. Almost every act of sustainability falls into more than one of these categories, as all three pillars are connected and work together to create a better future.
Social Responsibility: Taking care of people
One of our core values at Nugget Markets is to Respect, Appreciate and Value Everyone (RAVE). That means taking care of our guests, associates, communities and producers.
Environmental Stewardship: Taking care of the planet
With every action we take, we aim to ensure the resilience and sustainability of our ecosystems by reducing our environmental footprint and sourcing sustainable products for our guests.
Economic Vitality: Taking care of business
We’re dedicated to being good stewards of our resources, supporting local growers and producers, and partnering with companies who share our values for sustainability.
Social Responsibility Goals
Find the Intersection between Sustainability & Safety
Respond to the concerns of the pandemic by pivoting our sustainability goals from long-term holistic goals to short-term safety goals.
In January 2020, our Green Leadership team set out to achieve 100% associate participation in our sustainability program. Though we were confident in our best practices, we know how much is on our associates’ plates and wanted to make that last push to ensure all associates knew the importance. What a curveball COVID-19 threw us in March! Instead of monthly Green Walks to assess how the program was going, we pivoted to daily check-ins with our associates on their physical and mental health. Instead of asking them if they were SEE-ing sustainability, we were asking them if they were doing okay and how they were managing. The questions became: How do we sustain through a pandemic? How do we respond to the dramatic rise in single-use consumption of masks, gloves and cleaning wipes? How do we sustainably provide a safe environment for our guests and associates?
The answer was to keep our eyes on how acting in the best interest of safety was being sustainable. We were reminded of the three pillars of sustainability— social responsibility, environmental stewardship and economic vitality. These three pillars are always involved in our decisions, but the social responsibility of the health and wellbeing of our associates and guests was suddenly carrying all the weight. The tradeoff was a necessary increase in single-use personal protective equipment. As the initial scare in March and April receded, we shifted to more associates wearing reusable masks (washed daily) and adjusting cleaning practices from cart wipes to spraying down carts between each guest. We didn’t solve the single-use waste problem, but our associates are focused on doing what they can to reduce.
Empower Green Leadership
Support each store’s Green Guru to find the balance between COVID-19 safety precautions, mental health and connecting with fellow associates on sustainability best practices.
We are lucky to have such an incredible team of sustainability specialists dedicated to keeping our stores sustainable even during a pandemic. Our Green Gurus navigated all COVID-19 safety precautions while ensuring their stores adhered to local waste, water and energy guidelines. They safeguarded their associates’ mental health and offered encouragement whenever an associate needed the extra energy. They sought out ways to keep work fun and keep their associates engaged. Using “Sustainability Sundays” and other communication tools, Green Gurus ensured their associates stayed on track with sustainability best practices. In 2020, we saw a new set of stores take home the Sustainability Jar thanks to their efforts!
Nugget Markets, Roseville (Pleasant Grove) won in quarters one and two for incredible leadership by their Green Guru who led his store in back-to-back decreases in waste, water and energy. They boasted a 30% decrease in water, 20% decrease in waste and 8% decrease in energy over the same quarters the previous year.
Fork Lift by Nugget Markets, Cameron Park won in quarter three for incredible leadership by their Green Guru who led her team to a 5.9% decrease in water, 8.8% decrease in waste and 6.2% decrease in energy over the same quarter the previous year.
Nugget Markets, Davis (Covell) won in quarter four for incredible leadership by their Green Gurus who led their team to a 13% decrease in water, 24% decrease in waste and 7.6% decrease in energy over the same quarter the previous year.
Enhance Our Food Recovery Program
Meet the growing demand of our food-insecure community members by ensuring all edible food that can be donated is received in a safe, reliable manner.
Hunger was already a serious issue in our communities prior to the pandemic. Many of our counties saw 20% increases in need in 2020, so we knew we had to do our best to respond to the demand. Unfortunately, many of the organizations we worked with stopped being able to pick up our food donations due to COVID-19 concerns. Thankfully, we had strong partnerships in place with the regional food banks which helped us navigate towards hyperlocal food agencies that could redirect the food to people in need. In 2020, we increased our food donations by 62% for a total of 800,000 pounds of food donated! If you are in need or know of someone in need, please reach out to your local food bank. Here are the ones we work with:
Environmental Stewardship Goals
Decrease Landfilled Material
Decrease tonnage of materials sent to the landfill by 8%
Through on-site Green Walks and careful inspection of our waste invoices, we were able to track our progress. We have three units of measurement related to landfilled material: tonnage of material sent to the landfill in 2020 over 2019, tonnage of material saved from entering the landfill in 2020 over 2019 and the diversion rate of material saved from entering the landfill. Being committed to an ever-increasing landfill diversion rate reduces our greenhouse gas potential, saves our waterways, supports animal welfare and engages our community. To help ensure our associates follow recycling best practices, we have effective signage that clearly states what should go in the bin in both English and Spanish so that it can be read by the majority of our associates. Associates get introduced to best practices during their first day at orientation, and these practices are constantly reinforced through the rest of their training and by support from their store specialists. In response to the pandemic, our associates created a trend of coming to work with the cutest reusable masks!
- Tonnage of material sent to the landfill: Since the start of our Sustainability Program in 2014, we have continued making large decreases in our landfill tonnage even while building and acquiring more stores. That first year, we decreased our landfill tonnage from 2,996 tons to 2,318 tons, or a 22% decrease. This year, we were hoping to continue that trend. In 2020, we increased our tonnage from 2,128 to 2,144, or a 0.7% increase. Given the devastating year we faced in 2020, this slight increase is a welcome surprise. We know we need to keep honing in on waste reduction practices and will continue to research the best practices that will allow this to happen.
- Tonnage of material saved from entering the landfill: We decreased our landfill tonnage by increasing our tonnage of recyclable material. We recycle inedible food such as fruit pulp from our Juice Bar, bone and fat from our Meat Department, used cooking oil and grease, plastics, aluminum, glass and cardboard. Part of that effort also included purchasing items made with recycled content such as our copy paper in our offices, our BPA/BPS-free receipt tape and the bags offered to guests at the checkstand, which can be reusable plastic grocery bags made with 100% recycled content and 40% post-consumer recycled content or paper bags made with 40% post-consumer recycled content and certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. In 2020, we decreased our tonnage from 5,379 tons to 4,989 tons, or a 0.08% decrease. This decrease is directly owed to the disruption in the recycling industry which is causing fewer items to be claimed as recycling. Though we did see a decrease in the tons of food waste we were composting, we saw our food donations double, which means we were capturing more edible food and providing it to our people in need!
- Diversion Rate: Our diversion rate decreased from 71.7% to 69.9%. We are not happy with this number and will not be satisfied until it is on the increase once again. 2020 was a hard year for sustainability but we will fight to make sure 2021 is a better year.
Decrease Water Consumption
Decrease gallons of water consumed by 3%
Through careful inspection of our water invoices, we were able to track our progress. We train our associates to have a water-conscious mindset; we ask them to work with water conservation in mind and immediately report all leaks. We had hoped to follow the trend of recent years and continue to reduce our water consumption by implementing water-saving technology such as sensors that alert us in real time about the presence of a leak. The pandemic drastically altered our focus from water consumption to COVID-19 safety. In 2020, we increased our water consumption from 40,699,115 gallons to 42,247,071 gallons, or a 3.8% increase. It is possible part of this increase is due to our rigorous adherence to all safety protocols as outlined by OSHA, but we don’t like to blame external factors for our internal business practices. In 2021, we look forward to looking at our program with fresh eyes and focusing on reducing our water consumption.
Decrease Energy Consumption
Decrease kilowatt hours of energy consumed by 3%
Through careful inspection of our energy invoices, we tracked our energy reduction progress. Our associates are trained from day one to have an energy-conscious mindset; we ask them to work with energy conservation in mind and to turn off all lights when leaving rooms, walk-in coolers and freezers, and over desks that are no longer in use. With our newly constructed headquarters in Davis, California, and our new store in Roseville in mid-construction, we are building with the aim to decrease our total energy output. Hybrid water condensers, greener refrigeration and recycled building materials are just a few ways we’re lowering our footprint. Despite having to adjust business practices in light of the pandemic, in 2020, we decreased our energy consumption from 28,606,665 kilowatt hours to 27,848,514 kilowatt hours, or a 2.7% decrease, nearly meeting our goal of 3%! We will dive into the numbers to better understand how our best practices align with this decrease so we can continue to see a reduction in energy consumption.
Stay up to Date on Sustainability Trends
Ensure we are following all the sustainability best practices by keeping knowledgeable on the changes in the market and its offerings.
The complex nature of sustainability is that it is always changing, perhaps never more so than in 2020! Our Sustainability Coordinator frequently received comments from our associates and guests about how we can improve our sustainability best practices. Here are just a few pieces of information we received and how we responded:
Requests to stop using plastic
- Our Sustainability Coordinator is actively researching materials that we can bring in to lighten our carbon footprint. Our aim in every department is to be as sustainable as possible, while ensuring not only the quality of our food, but its safety. The challenge with plastic is it’s very good at its short-term job (lightweight, protects food, durable, easy to stack and display, etc.) and there isn’t much on the market that will supply all the same benefits and be able to be recycled. We work in eight different counties which each have their own rules regarding what is considered recyclable. But we still did what we could. We removed plastic straws from our coffee and juice bars. Now every drink that is purchased comes with a straw-less lid, no straw needed! We also offer reusable straws for purchase and encourage our guests and associates to make the reusable, sustainable switch. We provide paper bags and reusable plastic bags both made from 40% recycled content at our checkstands. Our hope is that our guests take these bags home and reuse them again and again (over 125 times!) instead of recycling them. Though we didn’t allow reusable bags inside our stores per OSHA’s guidelines in light of COVID-19 precautions, we offered to place groceries back inside the cart so reusable bags could be used by the guest at their car. In our Specialty Cheese Department, our specialists hand-wrap many of our offerings in Ovtene, a reusable wrap that uses 55% less plastic and 100% less water, and keeps product fresher. In our Meat and Seafood Department, our specialists are happy to wrap your items in butcher paper (or Ovtene!) instead of plastic. In our Produce department, since bulk fruits and veggies do not require packaging, we encourage our guests to go bag/plastic free. In our Dairy department, we offer products stored in glass.
Requests to allow guests to use their own reusable bags
- We closely followed all the changing federal, state and county regulations regarding COVID-19. California temporary suspended the consumption of single-use plastic bags at the checkstands from April through June because of COVID-19 concerns. Though the ban has been reinstated, there are still governmental restrictions on the handling of reusable bags. We are following Cal/OSHA guidelines which state that if reusable bags are used, they are not to be placed on any other area outside of shopping carts, our associates are not to bag into them and we must ensure social distancing is maintained. We offered to place groceries back inside the cart so reusable bags could be used by the guest at their car.
Economic Vitality Goals
Provide World-Class Service
Continue to be a sustainable leader in retail by offering our guests the best service in the most sustainable way.
We cannot be a world-class employer if our associates are scared to come to work. We cannot provide guest satisfaction if our guests are worried about being in our stores. We were one of the first stores in the area to require masks and facial coverings to be worn by anyone entering our stores (associates and guests, but also vendors!) as well as taking the temperature of our associates prior to starting their shift. We immediately created signage, floor signs, one-way aisles (in our smaller locations) and plexiglass shields at the checkstands, and had a door greeter providing masks to any guest who had forgotten theirs that day. We responded immediately to all county mandates, including COVID-19 sick leave no questions asked, reducing guest capacity to current regulations on max capacity, and contact tracing. While many other organizations ceased their bonus pay, we continue to provide our associates with an hourly raise as a thank you for all they do.
Become Certified Sustainable
Apply for green certifications to better understand our best practices and seek out new information.
The City of Davis named our two Davis Nugget Markets (on Mace Blvd. and E. Covell Blvd.) the most sustainable business in Davis, awarding us with the 2020 Environmental Recognition Award. We are also eagerly awaiting the news to see if we were honored with an award for our Sustainability, Environmental Achievement and Leadership.
Provide Exceptional Community Giving
Support our community members, inside our store and out, through food and monetary donations.
We had to postpone all our community events this year, but that didn’t stop us from engaging in our community in other meaningful ways. Along with food donations (see Food Recovery Program above), we made significant monetary donations to all our food bank partners (see partner links on the home page to learn more). In the wake of the social justice movement, we also donated $100,000 to the following 21 local and national organizations fighting for equity and justice: The Advancement Project, The Marsha P Johnson Institute, NAACP—Empowerment Program, Black Youth Leadership Project, Grassroots Law Project, Know Your Rights Camp, Black Women’s Health Imperative, Solano Community Foundation Social Justice and Equity Fund, Center for Black Equity, Color of Change, The Bail Project, API Rise, Nehemiah Emerging Leaders Program, Greater Sacramento Urban League, NAACP—Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Improve Your Tomorrow, Campaign Zero, National Police Accountability Project, Hannah Project, Black Lives Matter Sacramento.
2020 Updates to Laws
Policy Changes to Recycling
When China stopped accepting the bulk of US export recycling, it increased the pressure on all of us, whether commercial or residential, to send only the highest quality recycling. (You may have started noticing the fines arriving in your mailbox, too.) We had to pivot relatively quickly from the idea of, “When in doubt, recycle it!” to understanding that waste agencies required 100% clean recycling with no room for human error. Much of what used to be considered recyclable became trash or only recyclable under certain conditions. For instance, instead of filling up a bag with your recyclables and tossing the whole thing in the recycling bin, now we all have to empty the recycling out of the bag. Having stores in eight counties required our Sustainability Coordinator to be diligent about which rules applied in which counties and to ensure every associate understood the part they played in keeping our waste streams clean. At the end of 2020, China was again saying they were going to limit the amount and type of recycling to be exported to their country. We quickly saw the ramifications of this when one of our waste agencies in Marin deemed any plastic other than a “bottle, tub or jug” as trash. We live in an increasingly complicated world when it comes to our waste. No one likes to think about it, but we all create it. Our societies are built on the premise that our waste will be taken “away.” But where exactly is “away” and what happens to it? When it comes to recycling, resources that can make money—a glass bottle that can be resold as glass recycling for a profit—remain “recyclable.” Resources that won’t make money—Styrofoam—are labeled as trash. This gets even more complicated when you have legislation that requires everyone to recycle as much as they can out of the landfill and prohibiting certain types of toxic materials to end up in the landfill. See our Guide to Recycling: Curbside, Hazardous & Electronic Waste for more info.
Policy Changes to Organics Recycling
In January 2019, Measure 1826 went into effect requiring businesses that generated a certain level of trash to divert food waste from the landfill. Luckily, we had been diverting food waste into fertilizer since 2012 thanks to our partnership with California Safe Soil (CSS). Based in West Sacramento, CSS collects supermarket food waste and uses enzymes to turn it into food hydrolysate, a valuable soil amendment designed to replace chemical fertilizers. In 2020, we composted 3,467,460 pounds of inedible food waste (to see how much edible food we donated to local food banks, see Food Recovery Program above)! In 2022, SB1383 will require businesses to divert all edible food out of the compost. We’re grateful to our long-standing partnerships with local food banks (some for over 15 years!) and are already well on our way to being in compliance.
Current Status on Recycling Beverage Containers with California Refund Value
In 1986, the Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act was passed in California as an attempt to promote recycling and reduce litter. The goal of the act was to incentivize residents to recycle by paying them for their glass, aluminum and plastic beverage containers. When it first launched, this act was hugely successful in getting people in the mindset, “When in doubt, recycle!” and to “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!” Beginning in 2018 and finishing in 2019, the largest recycling center for CRV containers closed its doors. As you can imagine, this has had a dramatic impact on the ability to recycle. CalRecycle, the governing body responsible for overseeing recycling in California, is assessing the current need and working with the governor to secure more funds. You can find out more information on their website and find your closest recycling center on our Guide to Recycling: Curbside, Hazardous & Electronic Waste page.
Policy Changes for Retailers Selling Eggs
Beginning January 1, 2022, all eggs sold in California must come from cage-free facilities. Nugget Markets is committed to only selling eggs produced by cage-free hens by the end of this year. In fact, more than 72% of all eggs currently sold at Nugget Markets are from cage-free hens. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the supply of cage-free eggs has been inconsistent for nearly a year. However, as egg producers continue to construct new cage-free facilities, more hens are being raised cage-free and the supply of cage-free eggs is growing weekly. By the end of this year, we will only sell cage-free eggs. Keep up to date by visiting our Sustainability Regulations page.