Green America: Growing the Green Economy for People and the Planet

Hummingbird Wholesale
Eugene, OR

Congratulations to Winter 2013
People & Planet Award winner Hummingbird Wholesale!

Hummingbird Wholesale (HW) is a bulk food distributor offering organic, local and regional food crops to over 500 wholesale customers from Seattle to San Francisco.  Our company is known for our Zero Waste practices, commitment to sustainability, and stellar customer service.  We continually look for ways to reduce our waste, and love to share what works with others. 

With a background in permaculture, co-owners Julie and Charlie Tilt seek ways to manage HW while treading lightly on the earth.  Three noteworthy practices are: 

Reduce and Reuse – Our Deposit Return Container System
Since 2003 Hummingbird Wholesale has established and managed a successful reuse program. One hundred percent of all liquids that we pack and distribute are in glass and plastic reusable containers with deposit for return.  Returned containers are washed and reused. 

  • Wholesale customer participation is 100% for Plastic and 98% for our Glass Deposit Return Container systems.
  • A recent study analyzing the energy savings of our reuse system for glass jars confirmed that reuse is a better choice than recycling by far. 
  • In seven years, HW has reused over 80,250 lbs of plastic containers; over 16,500 lbs of glass containers.

Reuse, Recycle and Educate – Our Waste Management System
After three employees participated in the Lane County Master Recyclers program, they shared  this knowledge with HW staff and created an elaborate building-wide system of reuse, recycle and compost bins and accompanying signage.  The system goes far beyond what our local recycling hauler will pick up.

  • Our staff coordinates with other businesses in our building on how to use the system
  • We give tours for those who are interested in learning about our sustainable practices

The total waste generated by HW activities is approximately three 65 gallon containers per month; everything else is recycled or sold for reuse:

HW staff and family having fun
at all-company camp out.

Our awesome new bike-delivery video!

  • Compost: food waste and paper towels at hand washing stations
  • Recycled: metal, plastic, paper, used shrink wrap, worn-out boxes, ink and toner cartridges, spent pens and markers, light bulbs, batteries, Styrofoam, electronics
  • Reused in house:  “one-side-good” paper, envelopes, honey barrels, boxes, shrink wrap for packing (we ask recipients of our packing material to return it to us if they cannot recycle it)
  • Sold for reuse: steel and plastic barrels, pails, pallets
  • Gifted for reuse: art supplies, waste oil used for fuel and miscellaneous items

Reduce & Rethink – Our Bicycle Delivery Program
All of our local deliveries—except when we have a barrel or orders over 1,000 lbs—are done via bicycle (tri-hauler) specifically designed to carry loads up to 1,000 lbs.

We have been successfully delivering goods via bicycle for years and would love to inspire other companies to rethink their delivery methods, so we made a short video (watch at right) as a way to share our experience and show what’s possible.

If we are awarded the prize money, we will use it to buy a second electric bike cart, to increase our capacity for bike deliveries. Please visit our Website or read our newsletters to learn about additional sustainable practices ~ we have many!



Karl Benedek delivering an order to the University of Oregon on HW tri-hauler bicycle. This cargo bike was designed specifically for HW, in order to transport large loads, and has a rechargeable battery-powered motor riders can activate for heavier loads or climbing hills.

These and several more signs are available on the Stellaria Building Web site. Print your own and learn how to adapt our system to your area.  Note: this is on the Stellaria website rather than HW’s because the system created by HW is building-wide. 
Some of our reusable containers.