At left, a woman smiles. At right, people hold up containers holding food
Iowa-Des Moines Supply has become increasingly involved with the annual Des Moines Art Festival, which is aiming to eventually become a Zero Waste event. This year, Iowa-Des Moines helped the event to recover more clean compost material than in years past

Employees of Iowa-Des Moines Supply can take pride in more than just the company’s sustainability initiatives, they can also be happy about the green products it sells. 

Iowa-Des Moines Supply’s warehouses stock more than 5,000 products from 300 suppliers, around 70 percent of which are green or promote sustainability, says Weidmaier. Those products go to schools, healthcare facilities, hotels, manufacturing facilities, grocery and convenience stores, and restaurants. Even though the demand for green is already there, there’s still room for growth.

Weidmaier and Tharp say the foodservice industry had been behind others in demanding green products, which could be attributed to the practice of thriftiness in the business. While the industry seems to be turning a corner, its demand for green cleaning products figures to increase.

“Basically all your restaurants are all conscious of it and have become more conscious in the last year,” says Tharp.

Consciousness is one thing, but action is another. What sparked the industry’s change of heart appears to be the customer. Tharp thinks younger generations force the issue because they want to see sustainability in place when dining. When an environmentally conscious customer gets carry outs, for example, they don’t want to see foam containers. In fact, the presence of such materials might be enough for them to skip that same restaurant in the future.

“These products are more expensive than others, so for them to spend more money tells you it’s something the customer demands,” says Tharp.

Weidmaier has noticed that many of the fine dining, high-end restaurants in Des Moines are purchasing Iowa-Des Moines Supply’s biodegradable containers, green and sustainable products.

“It’s going to get to the point where it’s a given that restaurants have gone green,” he says.

While Iowa-Des Moines Supply appears to have its sustainability practices down pat, there are a few more things the company plans to do to better improve these efforts. For one, Weidmaier would like to focus more marketing on the company’s environmental efforts, and then leverage those accomplishments.

“People buying green products want to buy from a green supplier,” says Saucier.

Weidmaier says the company has  looked into alternative fuel trucks and service vehicles, but those vehicles won’t be purchased until their cost goes down. The company is also reviewing the potential for implementing solar energy as a way to power the warehouse in Cedar Rapids.

As long as DEAL keeps coming up with new ideas as to how companies can improve their sustainability efforts, Iowa-Des Moines Supply will be following the charge for an improved environment. The company suggests others join along.

“I think people need to be conscious of what’s going on out there and they need to change,” says Tharp.

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Taking Waste Diversion, Recycling Seriously