Subway shifting to greener menu panels

The Subway restaurant chain has long made a commitment to making its restaurants and operations more environmentally-friendly.

In doing so, the company has shifted to 100-percent recycled napkins, towel and tissue products; tapped plants and distribution centers that are strategically located to reduce transportation and food costs; and increased recycled content in paper packaging to 78 percent.

Subway this week announced a number of additional policy and procedural changes that will continue to make a positive green impact.

"While providing great food and healthier options is the centerpiece of our business, being a healthy company is about more than just food; it's about operating in an environmentally responsible manner," said Elizabeth Stewart, marketing director in charge of Corporate Social Responsibility and Wellness initiatives for Subway. "Ultimately, the health of our population depends on the health of the planet."

The latest effort is beginning this month when approximately 75 percent of U.S. Subway restaurants will shift to menu panels printed on paper substrate. This move will greatly reduce the chain's paper usage and allows obsolete menu panels to be recycled or composted.

Also, in partnership with National Geographic Kids, Subway has implemented a collectable, reusable meal bag program for its Fresh Fit for Kids meals. Each meal also comes with activity cards featuring the themes "Protect," "Reuse" and "Conserve," as well as relevant tips on how kids can be more environmentally friendly. The implementation of the reusable meal bag program has contributed toward a significant reduction in disposable plastic packaging systemwide.

Finally, restaurants are now being equipped with mops made of 100 percent recycled materials – threads from 40 percent post industrial recycled cotton from socks and T-shirts with the remaining 60 percent from post consumer polyester from recycled plastic soda bottles. In addition, the mop header is made from 100 percent post consumer polypropylene from recycled plastic bottle caps.

Using the new, recycled mop is a perfect fit for Subway since most cleaning supplies used in stores contain no Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs) and are non-corrosive, readily biodegradable and manufactured without phosphate and ammonia. The Subway cleaning program is certified by the California Air Resource Board as well as the EPA Safe Detergents Stewardship. Additionally, hand soap used at Subway is Green Seal-certified.

"The mops actually have a greater absorbency than ones we have used in the past," said Tina Fitzgerald, director of Corporate Responsibility with the Subway franchisee-owned-and-operated Independent Purchasing Cooperative. "The best thing is that for every mop sold, a donation will be made to The Hunger Relief Organization Inc. (HeRO), which is committed to breaking the cycle of extreme poverty. HeRO's humanitarian mission is to feed and educate those struggling to survive, so they can help themselves."

Other initiatives taken by Subway include:

• Eco-Stores: Today there are currently 10 Eco-stores open and operating, with many others in various stages of development, across the country that are built and certified through a process that follows U.S. Green Building Council guidelines.
• Packaging: Subway has been transitioning to more sustainable packaging solutions that are functional, efficient and cost effective. Examples include napkins, towels and tissue products made from 100 percent recycled material; sandwich wrap containing 30 to 40 percent post consumer fiber; cutlery and plastic drinking cups that were formerly polystyrene are now made from the more sustainable polypropylene; and redesigned meal-to-go boxes resulted in a reduced footprint and produced from 10 percent recycled content.
• Equipment: Since 2006, all new and remodeled restaurants have low-flow faucets which save more than 182 million gallons of water annually; high efficiency lighting packages are part of all new and remodeled restaurants; energy efficient digital ovens, HVAC systems and Energy Star rated ice machines; furniture products not manufactured with ozone depleting substances; and wood moldings sourced from certified renewable forests.
• Logistics: To reduce truck miles traveled, fuel consumption, emissions and improve supply chain efficiencies, Subway worked with its network of vendors to continually optimize routes, begin an equipment consolidation shipment practice for new and remodeled restaurants, and move several redistribution facilities closer to key manufacturing locations.

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