With consumers looking for greener, more sustainable options businesses are paying more attention than ever to their environmental footprint. Many businesses are even taking this one step further and aiming for total zero waste practices.

Zero waste is a philosophy that sees people and businesses implement strategies to completely eliminate waste and send nothing to landfill. For businesses, it’s about creating a circular-system where waste is either eliminated completely, or reused in a new form.

We discovered three family businesses who are making zero waste a front and centre part of their business offering and strategy. From New Zealand to the USA, there is inspiration everywhere. 


Based in Auckland, New Zealand, Hannah Paterson’s new grocery store champions fresh, local produce and is completely packaging and plastic free. 

Before opening Sprout the Grocer, Hannah worked as an auditor at PwC (Price Waterhouse & Coopers) where she introduced a number of small environmental initiatives. But she had the urge to do more, and – with the seed firmly planted – in August 2019 she opened Sprout. 

“After working in a corporate career, I decided I wanted to make a change,” says Hannah. “I wanted to shop the way my grandma and my great grandma shopped in order to reduce the waste I put back into the world to change our planet for the better for my future and the future of my children and grandchildren.”

Hannah fully owns the business and is helped out by her Mum; a continuation of a shared life-long love of good food and cooking.

“Focusing on creating a better future, we decided to look back to the past, where eating real food with minimal packaging was normal practice,” Hannah continues. “We believe returning to these simple ways will benefit not only our health, but the planet too.”

Sprout the Grocer buys locally when it can and encourages shoppers to bring their own jar to stock up on nuts, seeds, pasta, grains, oils, sauces, and all-natural cleaning products and toiletries. The store also stocks reusable coffee cups, beeswax wraps, and has paper bags and jars for sale for first-time shoppers. 


A bike trip through Belgium in 1988 inspired a young couple – Kim Jordan and Jeff Lebesch —  to launch New Belgium Brewing Co. Based in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA the aim was simple —  to bring the centuries-old Belgian beer styles to their hometown.

Over 30 years later the company has been recognised as one of the pioneers of the craft beer movement in the US; but also for becoming a pioneer of the zero waste movement. The brand currently diverts 99.9% of its waste from landfill, and is a Platinum certified Zero Waste Business.

In fact, every single part of their manufacturing process has been analysed with major changes made to ensure as much waste as possible is eliminated or diverted.

“The vast majority of the waste is spent on grain,” the company said in an interview. “In Fort Collins we go through about three semi loads of spent grain every 24 hours of brewing. Then we sell it to a cattle farmer… the best thing to do with the grain is send it to a cattle farmer because you’re offsetting the greenhouse gas impact of farming virgin ingredients for feed.”

The brewing company now has two premises and has recently sold to Australian and New Zealand beverage company Lion Little World Beverages. 

In a press release, Lion Little World Beverages says it is “supportive of both New Belgium’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and to remaining a certified B Corp, which it became in 2013”. 


You might be surprised to hear that a). Toyota is family owned, and b). that they have zero waste status at their manufacturing plants. 

Owned by the Toyoda family, Toyota has 27 facilities in North America alone which are all classed as zero waste. In fact, the company is working hard to ensure that every facility has a 90 percent diversion of waste from incineration and landfill in order to preserve and protect the environment.

It’s all part of the company’s Environmental Challenge 2050, which includes six key targets which —  in CEO Jim Lentz’s words — will not be easy to achieve. They include reducing CO2 emissions from new vehicles by 90 percent from 2010 levels and eliminating CO2 emissions in their supply chain and at their dealers. 

Examples of ingenious ways of diverting waste includes converting over 40,000 pounds of old bumper covers into plastic pellets to be reused. Toyota is also a founding member of the US Zero Waste Business Council, encouraging and inspiring other businesses to follow in their footsteps. You can read the company’s full sustainability report



This is just a small selection of family businesses who are working towards being zero waste. From a small local shop to an international car manufacturer they show what is possible with time, commitment and a true desire to make a difference to the world we live in.

Here are some steps to take to help you reduce your waste:

1. Complete an audit of your waste.

Audit your existing waste creation and management and analyse where improvements can be made. What can be removed completely? What can be reused? Recycling should be the last option.

2. Make it a part of your culture. 

You can’t try to become zero waste just to tick a box. It needs to be a business and an employee priority. 

3. Do what you can. 

Your audit will no doubt show plenty of work to be done. Don’t be overwhelmed, focus on what you can implement now and what has the most impact. You will build momentum from there.

4. Set measurable goals.

Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) goals for reducing waste. Remain accountable and regularly analyse to ensure you’re on track. 

5. Encourage others.

Look into your suppliers and partners and encourage them to do the same. Alternatively, are there other suppliers that share your values?

Is your family business working towards zero waste? Contact us on social media or via our website with your tips and advice for others.

Words: Brooke Nolan
Photography: @sprout.the.grocer, @newbelgium, @toyota


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