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Sustainable Products that Function as Well or Better Than Incumbent Products

May 12, 2017

Calling all operations managers in fleet maintenance, janitorial services and food services


While volumes of support for expanding sustainability initiatives come from environmental studies and thought leaders, arguably the most critical factor in the continued adoption of sustainability is the development of sustainable products that function as well or better than incumbent products. In the U.S. alone, the biobased economy was estimated to add $369 billion in 2013. To date, the USDA has certified over 2,250 products as biobased because of the proportion of their formulations derived from plants and other renewable agricultural, marine and forestry materials. Fleet maintenance, cleaning and food services are three categories where sustainable products have been widely adopted.

Fleet Maintenance: Soy-based Lubricants and Hydraulic Fluids

Many fleet operations managers have made the switch from petroleum-based lubricants and cleaners to soy-based products. Along with being a natural addition to any greening initiative, the cleanup costs in the event of a spill are much lower with biodegradable soy-based hydraulic fluids. One of the earliest adopters of soy-based fleet maintenance products is Chris Case, former facility manager for the National Park Service, who won a Department of the Interior Environmental Achievement Award for institutionalizing a comprehensive biobased fluids and lubricants program in the park’s fleet maintenance division.

Janitorial Services: Biobased Cleaners

A myriad of biobased cleaners featuring soy, corn, citrus and herbal ingredients have been widely adopted by the commercial cleaning industry. In addition to being safer for employees than conventional chemicals, these products have evolved to perform comparably and in some cases, even better than harsher traditional products.

Food Services: Compostable Silverware

For years, an unfortunate component of the food service industry was the use of disposable, single-use silverware that often went straight to a landfill. However, the market demand driven by the sustainability movement has given rise to recycled, biobased and compostable single-use silverware and food packaging. Thanks in part to these innovations, many organizations now claim ‘zero waste’ at major sporting events and concerts. For example, many stadiums have removed trash cans from their operations altogether and now divert all discarded items to either recycling or composting. This would not have been possible a decade ago before the advent of sustainable single-use silverware.


What sustainable product innovations have impacted your organization? Are there products your organization needs, but would prefer to replace with a sustainable alternative? Share your thoughts below in the comments.

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