Mountain Rose Herbs believes in people, plants and the planet over profit
In our “Conversations with Green Champions,” Rolland President Philip Rundle speaks with sustainability-minded organizations about their approach to environmental responsibility.
Mountain Rose Herbs sells sustainable, organic, fair trade products – bulk herbs and spices, teas, essential oils, and body care and wellness products – while maintaining industry-leading ethical and environmental standards.
Alyssa Bascue, Director of Sustainability, talks about environmental responsibility, carbon-neutrality, and the enduring role of catalogs printed on our 100% post-consumer paper.
A snapshot of Mountain Rose Herbs in Eugene, Oregon
- Started as a mail order company in 1987, and today processes an average of 2,500 orders each day.
- Each order is hand-packed with care using sustainable packaging and shipping materials.
- Earned a Platinum Zero Waste Facility Certification in 2016, the first Oregon company to do so.
- Converted to 100% renewable energy by investing in solar power and offsetting greenhouse gas emissions.
- Opened a brick-and-mortar store, Mountain Rose Herbs Mercantile, in 2016.
How does Mountain Rose Herbs think about sustainability?
Sustainability is at the center of every decision that we make. Our core business practices start with supporting organic farmers and paying a fair-trade premium, taking responsibility for our environmental impact, and supporting community involvement and charitable giving, including employee volunteerism.
We believe business has the responsibility – and ability – to change our impacts. It can no longer be business as usual. If we want to reverse the effects of climate change, drastic changes need to be made by businesses.
How do you live up to your ethos – people, plants and planet over profit?
With every business decision, we consider environmental and social impacts before the bottom line. This direction was set by our owners Julie Bailey (President and Herbalist) and Shawn Donnille (Vice President) many years ago and is carried out today by our three-woman executive team who weave this ethos into our daily operations.
We think a lot about being good stewards of the plants and botanical ingredients we sell. We would rather have a long term out of stock than sell a conventionally grown product.
How can Mountain Rose Herbs remain a viable business, with profits an afterthought?
Despite de-emphasizing profits, we’ve enjoyed years of vibrant growth. Our customers love our sustainable practices and values. As well as our affordable prices. This marriage of ethos and business helps make our products appealing to a wide audience.
We’ve rejected the traditional linear economic model – take, make, waste – in favor of a more circular model. It starts with thinking about how we positively and negatively impact everyone involved – farmers, suppliers, employees, customers. This extends to resources, like water, and to the world around us. For example, we think carefully about the botanicals we carry, especially at-risk plants. In many cases we’ve decided not to carry a product because a species is at risk from overharvesting.
How did Mountain Rose Herbs achieve Zero Waste Facility Certification?
We started our zero waste journey in 2007 and obtained our Platinum Zero Waste Facility certification in 2016. As you can imagine it was a long and windy journey, and to us zero waste has always meant progress not perfection. In most modern facilities 100 percent waste diversion is not practical or possible. It’s something we strive for and are thankful that Green Business Certifications Inc. helps us to improve practices across our business and supply chain, making both as lean as possible.
How does organic agriculture mitigate climate change?
Food production represents one quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to research from The Organic Center. Organic farming can reduce emissions because it eliminates fossil fuels, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Per acre of crops, organic farms have lower emissions of nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas 300 times stronger than carbon dioxide) than conventional farms.
Many organic farmers are also carbon farmers. Which means not only do they use farming methods emit less greenhouse gas emissions, but they employ crop rotation and cover crops to capture and hold carbon in their soils.
As Mountain Rose Herbs moves toward a carbon-neutral business model, what is the major change?
We’re working to bring more of our manufacturing closer to home. In 2016, we found a local company to encapsulate supplements, replacing a supplier in another state. Just this one change will prevent about 34,000 miles of freight travel a year, greatly reducing our carbon emissions!
This year we designed and constructed a brand new milling facility that is 500 feet from our main warehouse. Having our own mill has eliminated the need to ship whole plant or root materials to California or Nevada for processing. This project was not only a major footprint reduction but also added eight full time jobs to our community. Additionally, we’re excited to partner with other local business to fulfill their needs eliminating the need for them to ship their products for processing.
Is Mountain Rose Herbs an activist, or advocacy, company?
Both. Our activist roots come from Shawn Donnille who is a longstanding activist. Shawn is passionate about protecting the environment. Advocacy is fairly new to Mountain Rose Herbs. In 2018, we hired a political policy consultant who works on our behalf in the Oregon state capital for better environmental legislation and on issues like banning aerial spraying.
Has publishing a sustainability report changed Mountain Rose Herbs?
Yes, by providing performance data that helps guide policy. The report also helps us tell our story – to celebrate successes and identify shortcomings.
Does tracking environmental performance lead to improvements?
Yes. Our waste diversion rate in 2015 was 96 per cent then dropped to 94 in 2016 – a red flag. So, we initiated more employee training and education, and identified areas for improvement. And in 2017 our diversion rate was up to 97.6 per cent – a point of pride.
As a paper manufacturer, we have to ask: How do customers react to Mountain Rose Herb’s print materials?
Our product catalog is our only regular printed marketing communication outside of print ads, or occasional projects like direct mailers and invitations.
The catalog is an extension of our brand, built around stories about who we are and what we believe in. We’ve published it forever, and surveys tell us that our customers want us to keep printing it. They tell us they love to see photos of our offerings in print, and many of them save the recipes for many years.
How does Rolland contribute to your sustainability commitment?
We do not want to use paper with virgin content.
Our new printer recommended Rolland – because of its paper products made with 100% post-consumer content, high quality and environmental standards and FSC1 certification. Our marketing department loves the quality of the catalog printed on Rolland paper (Rolland Enviro Satin with 100% post-consumer content).
The catalog’s back cover displays the environmental savings, compared to using virgin paper, generated using Rolland’s eco-calculator.
Do you see Mountain Rose Herbs as a green champion?
Yes! We see ourselves as leaders in the natural products industry, and work to lead by example. Sharing best practices is one way. Another is being active in regional and national trade associations. For example, one relationship, with the Sustainable Food Trade Association, has helped us learn from their work developing and improving sustainability reports.
1Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) is an international certification and labeling system dedicated to promoting responsible forest management of the world’s forests.