Meet the Sustainability Team

The sustainability team poses with a bail of uniform shirts before they go to our recycling partner to be shredded and used to make mattresses, car interiors, and more. (From left to right: Chris Foote, Jason Wadsworth, Marie McNally, Jennifer Callol, Ed Riederer, and Matt Harris)

When it comes to sustainability, it is the small acts of many that make the biggest impact. That holds true at Wegmans, where thousands of employees throughout the company do their part every day to help us create a healthier, better planet. Their efforts are led by the six members of the Wegmans sustainability team, who are tasked with delivering on our commitment to eliminate waste, reduce our carbon footprint, and improve the sustainability of our packaging.

Jason Wadsworth
Packaging, Energy, and Sustainability Category Merchant

While very few longtime Wegmans employees follow the same career path, Jason’s entrance into Wegmans and his subsequent 34-year career with the company are uniquely his own. Jason started his career at the Wegmans Egg Farm in 1989 at the age of 14 (working under a farm permit). Wegmans built the egg farm in the 1960s after purchasing land on the Wadsworth family farm from Jason’s grandfather, who served as the general manager of the egg farm until the late 1980s when Jason’s father took over. Jason planned on following in his father’s footsteps, but in 2007, Wegmans decided to sell the farm, setting Jason on his path to lead the company’s sustainability efforts.

“One day I was at the farm, and two weeks later I was in Rochester, reporting to Mary Ellen Burris, the head of consumer affairs at the time, tasked with figuring out what sustainability means to Wegmans and developing a program accordingly,” recalls Jason. “In the beginning, I was really focused on taking a forward look at what was coming at us, setting our priority areas, and then building and working with a cross-functional team to set goals, create a plan of action, and start executing.”

The sustainability priority areas that Jason set in 2008 – reducing our carbon footprint, sustainable packaging, and eliminating waste – remain the same today. While most of Jason’s early initiatives took place behind the scenes, today, Jason and his team of five, with help from thousands of Wegmans employees, execute sustainability initiatives that positively impact all aspects of our company and the communities we serve.

In 2017, when Jason’s role was moved out of consumer affairs and into procurement, he took on the role of packaging category merchant, giving him additional responsibility for sourcing and purchasing packaging for the company. Today, Jason and his team blend procurement and sustainability responsibilities.

“Sustainability is important to the Wegman family, and they’ve made it a priority for the company. We’re making huge strides against our three big goals, and that’s only possible because of this incredible team of dedicated professionals,” says Jason. “It’s been so rewarding to see the growth and success of so many programs under their leadership.”

What is the accomplishment you’re most proud of?
I am fortunate to have been given the opportunity to create our sustainability program and grow a department and team from the ground up.

What are you most excited about in the coming year?
We have big goals that we are close to achieving in the next year or so: eliminating Diesel from our fleet, eliminating 10 million pounds of single-use plastic, and achieving 95 percent zero waste.

Chris Foote
Sustainability Procurement Area Manager – Eliminating Waste

Chris, a 34-year Wegmans employee, has always had an appreciation for the environment. In 1997, after completing his studies, Chris was working part-time at Wegmans waiting for the DEC civil service exam to come up, which only happens every couple of years. When Wegmans offered him a full-time position, it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

In 2012, he had the opportunity to lead a composting pilot at Pittsford Wegmans. The work he did during that pilot, and following, as he traveled to additional stores to rollout the composting program, led to Chris supporting another one of the company’s sustainability initiatives – Zero Waste. The program, started as a one-store pilot in 2016, aimed at minimizing all forms of waste at the store level, with food waste front and center. In 2017, Chris transitioned out of the stores to become Jason’s first sustainability team member, taking on responsibility for the Zero Waste program and growing it to a companywide initiative.

“When it comes to eliminating waste, food waste is how we can make the biggest impact. Every pound counts, not just for what ends up in the landfill, but for our communities as well,” explains Chris. “Every additional pound of food we donate means fewer people go hungry that day. It also means less food is sitting in our landfills generating harmful methane gas, and that the resources used to grow, process and transport the food weren’t wasted.”

What is the accomplishment you’re most proud of?
Since starting my role on the sustainability team in 2017, we’ve increased food donations by 126 percent, from 14.5 million pounds to 32.8 million pounds. It has taken the hard work, dedication, and commitment of so many people across the company to make this possible.

What are you most excited about in the coming year?
I’m most excited about my work on the Zero Waste initiative and achieving our goal of 95 percent waste diversion by 2025. We’re currently at 84 percent, and rising!

Matt Harris
Sustainability Procurement Area Manager – Carbon Footprint

Matt joined Wegmans in 2014 after serving 20 years in the United States Air Force, where he worked on military aircraft. While on his last tour, Matt’s father, a longtime Wegmans employee, suggested he consider looking at Wegmans for his next career. Matt couldn’t imagine the skills he learned in the Air Force would be a fit for the work available at a regional grocery store, but to his surprise, when it came time to apply, there was an opening for a fleet maintenance department manager.

In his role on the fleet team, Matt’s focus was on running Wegmans’ fleet as efficiently and sustainably as possible – from driver-training programs and mile-per-gallon initiatives, to the addition of compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles and collaborative partnerships with leading technology suppliers.

In 2021, Matt joined the Wegmans sustainability team, and is now tasked with reducing the company’s carbon footprint through a focus on fleet sustainability, reducing energy consumption, and expanding our use of renewable energy sources. Under Matt’s leadership, and through the use of alternative fuels, electrification, and miles reduction, Wegmans is committed to an annual reduction of 1.25 million gallons of diesel.

What is the accomplishment you’re most proud of?
We’ve made so many changes to our fleet in the last several years as we’ve trialed new technologies, transitioned from diesel to CNG-powered trucks, and shifted to fully electric yard trucks. I’m proud of that accomplishment, but what I’m most proud of is our people and their willingness to evolve and adopt cleaner transportation solutions. Change isn’t always easy, but we picked our focus areas, and the results speak for themselves.

What are you most excited about in the coming year?
We are well on the road to eliminating diesel-powered trucks. We’ll continue that journey by exploring even cleaner options like hydrogen, electrification, and hybrid technology as our next step towards a carbon-neutral fleet. We are constantly striving to reduce energy consumption in our stores through added efficiency measures, and we’ll be expanding our use of renewable energy sources, like solar, to make our stores even more self-sufficient.

Ed Riederer
Sustainability Procurement Area Manager – Packaging

When Ed decided to go back to school in his late 20s, he also applied for a part-time job at Wegmans. He started working in deli and prepared foods while he completed his degree in Finance, and then accepted a full-time position as a food safety coordinator. Over his 28 years with the company, Ed continued growing his career, taking on a variety of roles before becoming a packaging buyer, and then landing his current role overseeing our commitment to sustainable packaging.

To improve the sustainability of our packaging, Ed and his team are focused on using less plastic, making sure our packaging is functional to reduce food waste, and using renewable and recycled materials efficiently.

“We’ve committed to reducing our in-store plastic packaging and other single-use plastics by 10 million pounds by 2024. To achieve this, we’re focused on driving innovation using new technologies and ways of doing things,” explains Ed. “In addition to reducing our dependence on certain forms of packaging, we’re also focused on the end of life for different packaging and how we can help ensure it stays out of the landfill when it’s done doing its job.”

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
The launch of the Smartstock cutlery program, which was the result of two employees submitting the same suggestion during a sustainability competition. Switching from a bin of individually wrapped utensils to a cutlery dispenser resulted in a reduction in the use of cutlery and napkins, as well as a reduction in plastic, as the cutlery is 30% plant based.

What are you most excited about in the coming year?
I’m working on a project to increase the recyclability of a number of our in-store paperboard containers, like our coffee cups and paper boats. While the paperboard itself is recyclable, these items currently have a non-recyclable coating or substrate applied to the material that makes them functional. We are currently exploring new technology that would meet our needs for both functionality and recyclability.

Marie McNally
Sustainability Coordinator

Marie, who has 38 years of incredible service at Wegmans, got her start with the company at Chase Pitkin, a home improvement store owned by Wegmans. When Chase Pitkin closed in 2006, she made the switch to Wegmans Food Markets, and like many longtime employees, has taken a unique path to get where she is today. She started in grocery merchandising, then spent some time in customer satisfaction, followed by distribution, then into merchandising for our natural foods department, ultimately landing in indirect procurement where she started as an admin, and now has a spot on the sustainability team.

“I’m personally passionate about sustainability and have always had an interest in joining the team, particularly as it started to grow,” explains Marie. “When a position opened up about a year and a half ago, I applied and got it. I now support our sustainable packaging pillar as we look to use less plastic, and in its place, use renewable and recycled materials.”

What is the accomplishment you’re most proud of?
I’m most proud of our new partnership with Roc Paper Straws, a Rochester-based paper straw manufacturer, that I discovered last year and is now our companywide supplier of paper straws.

What are you most excited about in the coming year?
I’m most excited about the work I’m doing to find sustainable replacement containers for our wings, hot bars and looking at alternative sub trays. Doing so would drastically reduce plastic usage for our stores!

Jennifer Callol
Sustainability Department Manager

Jennifer is the newest member of the Wegmans sustainability team, joining the company and the team just eight months ago. Jennifer supports our sustainable packaging priority area, with a specific focus on packaging for products that come out of Wegmans’ manufacturing facilities, including the culinary innovation center, bakeshop, the Organic Farm, and the departments they supply within our stores (restaurant foods, bakery, meat and seafood, etc.). She brings with her 13 years of experience working in packaging for consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies.

“I wanted to stay in packaging, and was attracted to Wegmans because of its commitment to quality, high standards, and making a difference,” says Jennifer. “I also like that packaging, sustainability, and procurement all fall under a single umbrella. You don’t see that at larger CPG companies. With this overall responsibility, we have the benefit of looking at packaging options from all sides – is it functional, good for merchandising, recyclable, available domestically, in good supply, and so on. This allows us to bring the very best options to the merchants.”

What is the accomplishment you’re most proud of?
I’ve only been with the company a short time, but I’m proud of the work I am doing to launch our new optimized tomato medley packaging for the Organic Farm, which further reduces our waste by 40 percent.

What are you most excited about in the coming year?
I’m currently exploring a mono-material plastic lid solution for the container cups we use at our Culinary Innovation Center, with specific attention on the cups we use for our Wegmans Queso Dip. The goal is to have a package made from a single material that is fully recyclable and eliminates the need for an aluminum-based foil, making it suitable for microwaving and enhancing customer experience and convenience.