It all started with a question: What if the staggering amounts of food thrown away every day could be consumed instead of ending up in landfills?
That’s the question Arlan Preblud, Founder and Executive Director of Denver-based nonprofit We Don’t Waste, which focuses on the recovery and redistribution of unused foods, particularly healthy, perishable items like produce, lean protein, and dairy products, began asking when he discovered that local restaurants and caterers were trashing large quantities of fresh, unused food every single day.
The problem with food.
Since its founding in 2009, We Don’t Waste has turned excess food from caterers, event venues, restaurants, hotels, and schools, among dozens of other food donors, including Denver’s Mile High Stadium, Pepsi Center, and Coors Field, into 21 million pounds of food diverted from landfills, 540 million gallons of water saved, and 28 million meals recovered.
Those numbers are impressive, but sadly, they account for just a fraction of the food wasted worldwide. According to We Don’t Waste’s website, the production of food accounts for 92% of all fresh water use in the world, and nearly half of that food is thrown away. A startling 40% of all food ends up in landfills. The effect is devastating on both communities and the planet. Food waste in landfills produces 1/3 of all methane in the United States. Methane, a greenhouse gas, contributes 72x more to global warming than carbon dioxide, one of the main pollutants from car exhaust. In fact, the greenhouse gasses generated by food waste nearly equals those coming from the world’s road transportation.
When you compound that with the environmental impact of food production and transportation, which accounts for 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions globally, according to a 2016 study of the impact of food surplus on the climate, it’s clear that the planet is facing a food waste crisis.
A mission is born, then booms.
Arlan Preblud, a former attorney who built a career out of helping others, began asking restaurants and caterers if they’d be willing to donate their unused food to the community instead of throwing it away. “Of course,” was the resounding answer. Arlan says that he “Then I checked with the agencies to see if they would accept the food, and the response was ‘Of course we would.”
“I had a Volvo station wagon. I put the seats down and started knocking on the doors of caterers, and it just grew from there.” From there, We Don’t Waste was born with a mission to recover unused food and distribute to agencies throughout the community to reduce both the waste of usable food, and the environmental impact of food waste in landfills.
“As we grew, I was able to get a van donated, and then we finally figured out that we needed a refrigerated truck, and one truck led to two trucks, and two trucks led to three trucks,” Arlan explains.
But as more donors and agencies began to partner with We Don’t Waste, it was clear that they needed a way to efficiently store and distribute food. “Up until November of last year, everything we picked up had to be delivered the same day, because we had no ability to store anything. We realized soon that if we were going to continue to do what we do, we needed to find suitable facilities where we could store product. Now we’re in an 11,700-square-foot distribution center where we can bring in large quantities of product. We can break down the large pallets into smaller orders and more efficiently and effectively distribute those small orders to more agencies throughout the area. It’s made us more effective, more efficient, and more impactful in the community we serve.”
Two guys walk into a bar.
A few months ago, Arlan and his wife stopped for drinks before dinner one night, and Arlan ended up deep in conversation with the man sitting next to him. That man was Doug Grounds, Domo’s Vice President of Global Strategic Sales Consulting.
“Doug and I struck up a conversation, just sitting next to each other,” Arlan remembers. “He was very interested in what We Don’t Waste provided in the community. Then it was time for us to leave, and he said. ‘I want to learn more, when can I come visit?’ I came to the office on Monday and there was already a donation from Doug to We Don’t Waste.”
Doug ended up donating much more to We Don’t Waste. Doug has donated countless hours of his time to help We Don’t Waste get access to incredible data through Domo about the food they recover and distribute. We Don’t Waste, as well as their donors and agencies can now see, in real time, the food they have coming in, when it’s hitting the warehouse and being distributed, and when that food will expire, so We Don’t Waste can better manage the donations and agencies distributing the food can see what’s available at any given time, and request the products they need.
Domo is also able to show We Don’t Waste and their partners the positive impact each and every food item donated and diverted from a landfill has on the foundations and individuals that financially support We Don’t Waste through donations and grants.
“We don’t charge anything either on the food donor or the recipient side,” explains Kyle Endres, Director of Development at We Don’t Waste, “so we really rely on the community to raise the funds we need in order to operate our organization. There are so many non-profits in Colorado, and there’s limited foundation money, so we really have to set ourselves apart.”
That ability to set themselves apart has been enabled, more than ever, by Domo. “It’s a very, very, meaningful, impactful tool for a small non-profit like us,” Arlan explains, “When you add Domo to the equation, you can then reach the very populations that nonprofits need in order to advance their missions. You can talk in their terms, you can demonstrate to them in vivid reality the impact that something like Domo has on everyday life.
“Domo truly has been and will continue to be a most valuable asset to the organization. Suffice to say that no other non-profit in the metro Denver area has the capacity We Don’t Waste now has to communicate to our stakeholders the value they have in reducing food insecurity and reducing the amount of food waste destined to the landfill. It allows us to better serve the community and better inform the general public of the increasing problem of food waste and food insecurity.”
“We’ve been very successful in securing grants from local and national foundations that support the work we do,” Kyle says, adding that it’s not just about We Don’t Waste. “When you support We Don’t Waste, you’re really supporting roughly 190 different agencies that ultimately receive our food. So a dollar to We Don’t Waste is a dollar to all these organizations, so they don’t have to buy food and can use their limited resources in different areas.”
The data also helps inform the donors themselves and encourages them to continue donating. “Every org gets a report automated at the end of every month indicating what we recovered from them, the date we recovered it from them, the volume, and the value of it,” explained Arlan. “Not only are we showing that they’re able to feed those people less fortunate than them, but we’re also showing the tremendous impact they have on making this world a cleaner and safer place.”
In fact, We Don’t Waste is able to show donors the exact value of their donations, as well as how many pounds of CO2 emissions have been diverted, how many gallons of water are saved, and how many acres of what would otherwise be agricultural land is saved.
For example, 120M servings of food translates to 7M pounds of CO2 emissions diverted, 350M gallons of water saved (almost 550 Olympic-sized pools), 650K acres of land saved, which translates to 115K houses that could be built on that land.
The future of We Don’t Waste.
The goal of the We Don’t Waste team is to “find and improve our ability to distribute the food we have available,” Arlan says. That goal includes developing a system to help them better distribute the food in their warehouse. “There are about 33 food deserts in the Denver metropolitan area.” Those food deserts, he explains, are areas where people are without grocery stores or even food pantries. Areas where people don’t have access to food, and particularly don’t have access to fresh produce, meats, and dairy are where We Don’t Waste focuses on distributing to the community.
The focus on better utilizing the food available is one that could have an even greater impact on the environment going forward. It’s estimated that the better food use and distribution will eliminate 14% of emissions from food production and waste. But, as Arlan states, “Until we really master our ability to produce and consume food, there’s always going to be unused food available.”
“A goal would be to be out of business, but that’s not going to happen,” says Arlan. “We can’t fill the gaps, nor can any non-profit across the country. There’s more food out there, and there’s more people who need the food.”
Note on Forward-looking Statements
This blog entry contains forward-looking statements as defined within the meaning of the federal securities laws, including statements regarding Domo’s ability to drive better food use and distribution. These statements are based on information, expectations and assumptions as of the time of this press release with respect to future events and business performance and are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause actual performance or results to differ materially from those expressed in or suggested by the forward-looking statements, including but not limited to the risks set forth in our Registration Statement on Form S-1, as amended, and our other filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Forward-looking statements should not be read as a guarantee of future performance or results, and they will not necessarily be accurate indications of the times at, or by, which such performance or results will be achieved, if at all. We do not undertake any obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future developments or otherwise.