When Julie Tilt, co-owner of the Eugene, Oregon-based ingredient supplier Hummingbird Wholesale, sends invoices to her customers, she does so on a half-sized piece of paper.
Save for two family-sized garbage pails per month (for 45 employees), the supplier recycles, composts or reuses all containers, packaging and food scraps.
Hummingbird Wholesale supplies food staples, such as bee products, candy, condiments, grains, legumes, oils, pasta and more to businesses in the Pacific Northwest.
For deliveries in town, Hummingbird Wholesale transports orders via bikes outfitted with 1,000 pound-capacity cargo trailers (luckily for the cyclists, Eugene is relatively flat).
The common theme knitting these practices together is that Hummingbird Wholesale has highly ambitious environmental goals. According to Hummingbird’s 2016 Sustainability Report, the organization operates on 100 percent renewable energy through rooftop solar panels and through purchasing green energy from the local utility. The company diverted 98 percent of waste from the landfill, and reduced water use by 204 gallons, despite 11 percent business growth. Clearly, sustainability is paramount.
Like the hummingbird, Tilt said, its motto is to sip the nectar without harming the flower—an apt description from an herbalist and former organic permaculture instructor. With her husband Charlie, the Tilts purchased the wholesale company from their friend Eugene—yes, Eugene lives in Eugene—in 2003, and switched the name from Honey Heaven to Hummingbird Wholesale to better highlight the company’s nimbleness, agility and light carbon footprint in the marketplace. “I think Eugene had the deepest level of sustainable practices of anyone I’ve ever known—I swear, he used the same sheet of paper for 20 years,” Tilt recalled. “Sustainable values were already embedded in the business when we bought it. We’ve enhanced that practice over the years, as it’s how Charlie and I live anyway.”
In addition to environmentalism, Tilt is devoted to widening organic agriculture not just in the United States, but—wait for it—the entire world. It’s a lofty mission, but through their steadfast commitment to lauding organic, the Tilts are making important strides in this goal by increasing organic purchases every year. In 2015, 86.9 percent of Hummingbird’s sales were organic. In 2016, that percent jumped to 91.3 percent, which represents 7,093 organic acres.