Dumpster Diving*: A Story of Gratitude

At Badger, we aren’t afraid of the “dirty” work. In fact, we dig through our trash and recycling four times a year. Why? Waste assessments are part of our commitment to improve our impact and move towards zero waste. Assessments allow us to understand the composition of our waste better, and to creatively problem-solve ways to send less to the landfill and reuse, compost, or recycle more.

dumpster diving for good
Badgers conducting a waste audit, May 2017

Environmental ideals aside—this practice appeals to me on a philosophical level. I strive to live a life of continual self-improvement and evolution, of rigorous self-inquiry, inventory, and awareness. I do my best to review my days, asking myself if I walked with integrity, love, and kindness. Where the answer is “no” or “maybe,” I seek ways to right the wrongs or to better align with my actions with my values moving forward.What does this have to do with assessing waste? For me, examining Badger’s “waste” as a lens for advancing our environmental impact feels notably similar to my personal practice of introspection.

I won’t lie. When we first started conducting waste assessments, it wasn’t the most pleasant thing. The smell could be a bit intense, so we would apply Headache Soother or Stress Soother below our noses to mask the odor of garbage with the pleasant scent of essential oils. Since those early days, we’ve made lots of improvements, both to our process and to the waste stream itself.

dumpster diving for landfill diversion
Jess audits Badger’s waste

Nowadays, conducting our waste assessments is a much more streamlined and less malodorous experience. Plus, it’s an amazing team-building and employee engagement opportunity. Led by our Sustainability Committee and staffed by Badger volunteers, our waste assessment program is built around collective Badger values, bringing us together around what matters to us.

In less than three years of assessing our waste, we have gone from sending approximately 29% of “waste” to landfill to sending only 5% of our “waste” to landfill, achieving a 95% diversion rate this fall. This means that we reused, recycled, or composted 95% of our “waste”!

Dumpster waste diversion

And that’s where the warm fuzzies of gratitude come in. I am incredibly grateful to work for an organization that takes improving our impact to the next level. Doing the right thing is a natural part of Badger culture. And over a 2.5 year period, waste assessments have become a way of life, and something folks from across our organization are willing to participate in. It is the collective effort of all departments working together and incorporating waste assessments as an integral part of Badger culture and practice that has allowed us to make such significant progress so quickly.

Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday. My mom and I cook for days, and our extended family joins us for a delicious meal. Every year, my dad asks us what we are grateful for, and we go around the table and share. My list is long, but being a part of this beautiful workplace community, engaged in purposeful work that is a mission-fit in my life ranks high!

What are you grateful for? Tell us in the comments!

A note: You may notice my use of quotations around the term “waste.” It’s not just because I love air quotes, though I do, and will be using them in excess to talk about “waste” at our upcoming Badger company meeting. Because the majority of our “waste” is not waste at all, but material that is recycled, composted or reused, calling it waste feels inaccurate, though vernacularly appropriate.

*A final note: While we no longer actually dive into our dumpster, I used artistic license (and a love of alliteration) in titling this blog. While we once would intrepidly dive in to pull bags of trash (you rock, Sarah!), we now work with our Facilities team to collect trash before it goes into the dumpster. Yet one more way we are learning from our actions and making improvements!


Jess is Badger's Sustainability Manager & Community Coordinator. She came to Badger after earning a Master's degree in Environmental Studies, for which she co-created an Environmental Management System for Badger. An herbalist and Reiki practitioner, Jess is on a mission to heal people and the planet and feels abundantly grateful to have found her dream job with her dream employer! Jess enjoys making jewelry and medicinal herbal elixirs, running, learning and teaching about food as medicine, reading, and spending plenty of time in nature and in community, Jess’ favorite Badger products: Unscented Face Cleansing Oil, Damascus Rose Body Oil, and Poetic Pomegranate Cocoa Butter Lip Balm.

31 comments on “Dumpster Diving*: A Story of Gratitude

  • I found your article and thought it was great. It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Louise Hay: “The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in peace.” I wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed this post and am grateful for it!

  • Kirsten Watts says:

    I am thankful for all the people in the world who are able to think beyond themselves, and who truly consider the meaning of “the common good.”

    Thank you for your commitment to environmental stewardship, waste reduction, and caring about your employees and customers.

  • I am so grateful for the ability we all have to learn from our experiences and make better and better choices. We can heal ourselves, our families, our communities and our world!

  • My husband and I just welcomed our first child, she is everything we had dreamed about and more! She’s also what I am most thankful for this Thanksgiving!

  • I am grateful for so much this year and every year. I have two children that are Type 1 diabetics, I am grateful for the insulin that keeps them alive. I am grateful for a husband that supports me and our children to the best of his ability. I am grateful that there is food on the table and a roof over our heads.

  • I’m grateful that there are people (and companies!) who still care enough about our planet and humankind to challenge themselves into coming up with new ways to help make positive changes that directly reduce their eco footprint. It’s easy to dismiss one’s own efforts as “not enough” in the grand scheme, but if everyone started to give a damn and put those feelings into tangible action, we’d all be working together toward a common, crucial goal.
    I appreciate your efforts, and my next step in making positive changes in our own family is to research and support as many businesses as possible who have these shared goals and who are executing their tangible action plans to get there!

  • Stephanie Haines says:

    I’m grateful that Badger represents our state and our region. So proud to be connected to such a wonderful company! One of many around here, but really progressive in ways I care about. Thanks Badger! (and also, thanks for the rose oil. Love that stuff…)

  • I’m grateful for my warm home, cupboards of food, and speedy wifi. I’m grateful for my crazy kids, overscheduled husband and patient dog. I’m grateful I have plenty of craft supplies for whatever I might want to do.

  • I am most grateful for my cat, and my health, and my family (even though I don’t always agree with them, lol). I am also grateful for companies like Badger Balm – always striving to maintain a better environment for not only us humans, but for the animals, too.

  • I am grateful that my children and family love to come home for the holidays! I am greatful for my wonderful support system and extended family from Gilsum to Mass., TN and Alabama!

  • I am most grateful for my family and friends. I am also grateful for insulin that has kept me alive for the last 50 years.

  • Lisa Goodwin says:

    This article inspires me and makes me ask myself what steps I could take to also reduce waste from my household.
    Thank you folks at Badger for being an example to the rest of us.

  • Paper towels are great for plumbing emergencies, but a kitchen towel does just fine for the jobs that don’t deserve their own horror movie soundtrack. Reusable BPA-free personal care containers are also economical: you can buy your mouthwashes, hydrosols, etc. in their largest size then decant them for convenience. The eco-friendly alternatives I can’t live without: the water filter pitcher and the reusable water bottle. (No more value-pack deadlifts in the grocery store parking lot.) I’m thankful for how far we’ve come in terms of the accessibility and availability of healthy alternatives, and health-related information, just in the past few decades. We still have a long way to go, and I’m grateful for the people – and the companies – that are committed to getting us there. 🙂

  • I’m grateful to also work for a company that is always trying to reduce our footprint. Our grocery store donates unsaleable food to local pantries and groups, composts other food that can’t be donated in good conscious and recycles plastics. If only it were second nature for everyone.

  • I am so grateful for the warmth and safety of my home. Many don’t have that this time of year, and especially with the weather getting colder, it is a constant reminder that we are so lucky to be able to afford to live in and heat our home, no matter how small and simple it is.


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