Sustainability

Hydr8 is building a zero-waste future, starting with the break room

Hydration station supplier Hydr8’s Zer0 Waste Pantry seeks to eliminate waste in the break room. Here’s a look at how the concept came to be.
Elimin8 Zero Waste Pantry
The Zer0 Waste Pantry seeks to eliminate waste in the break room. |Photo courtesy of Hydr8.

New York based hydration station supplier and sustainable pantry company Hydr8 started with a simple mission, a small loan from a family member and one van. Now, the company has 35 employees and several thousand machines in locations like banks and corporate workplaces.

“Our values really are super core around our people, health, wellness and sustainability. Essentially, we look at it as a mission,” said RJ Bianculli, managing partner and vice president of ESG and innovation at Hydr8.

“We actually look at it as like we're doing something so tangible that's going to have a profound effect on people's health and wellness,’ he said.  

Hyrd8 seeks to help its clients meet their sustainability goals, and to that end, the company recently debuted the Elimin8 Zer0 Waste Pantry. The concept is a pantry where everything the client touches and uses goes into the compost bin, effectively creating zero waste.

Besides the Zer0 Waste Pantry, Hydr8 also offers several different hydration stations, coffee machines, disposables and snacks for pantries and breakrooms. 

Bianculli said he has been pondering the concept for several years.

“And what I saw really, truly was a lack of innovation in the fragmented service space,” he said. “We came together and said, you know, this concept of the Zer0 Waste Pantry is something that can be so valuable to the marketplace and really game changing and disruptive.”

Creating the pantry was a process, as Hydr8 took a proactive approach to solving sustainability problems in the space.

“We went to these organizations, that were major companies that are embedding sustainability within their environment’s operations, and actually did months of due diligence and questioning, of, 'Hey, how can we help with this concept we're developing to create a more sustainable environment. What do you need? If you had a wish, what would it be?'” said Bianculli.

In addition, the team wanted the Zer0 Waste Pantry to be centered around the consumer, in an effort to respond to their demands.

“It's all about the clients, the ultimate consumer is the driver of innovation and that's what I think a lot of manufacturers and even operators have forgotten about,” said Bianculli.

The concept also mitigates waste by eliminating items like coffee pods, cans and non-compostable snack packaging.

“Because snack packaging is so wasteful and it's not recycled, we took into consideration everything, even the beans that we use are 100% PV solar powered, the energy used to produce them,” said Bianculli.

The team has also worked with engineers to develop eco-modes in their machines that allow the boilers and the screens to turn off at certain hours.

“They're pulling all this energy because the chillers are on, the boilers are on,  the screens are on,” said Bianculli. “So, we developed ways to program those where they shut off and there’s off hours and it sounds maybe trivial or  incremental, but at scale, we’re able to measure the kilowatt hours and emissions saved  from these machines and advertently the impact is tremendous.”

Responding to demand

Bianculli said he has seen an increasing demand for sustainable solutions in the foodservice space. But one challenge he’s come across is limited supply.

“What I'm finding is there's growing demand for sustainable expertise and solutions. So human capital, and also products and services that can deliver, there's a huge demand,” said Bianculli. “There's not enough supply. And from human capital perspective, there's not enough experts.”

And this demand is what Hydr8 is built around, with its model centered around sustainability and wellness.

Moving forward, the team at Hyrd8 wants to see a future in which zero waste becomes the norm, said Bianculli.

“Our ultimate goal for the program is to make it the standard in corporate pantries and break rooms,” he said. “We would love to see that one day where the standard becomes a zero waste model. And we've in fact built to scale this.”