“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
― Rachel Carson
As a first generation American (my parents emigrated from Germany to Boston when I was 4 and I still speak fluent German), I've grown up with a world view that is influenced by the confluence of two cultures.
One of the strongest impressions from my childhood was how appalled my parents were by the amount of trash produced in America. At the time, my elementary school was using single-use styrofoam trays for lunches, there was no recycling program even for paper, and curbside trash pickup was free.
I also grew up with an active relationship to the outdoors, through swimming in Walden Pond, learning to sail on the Charles River, and cycling and backpacking often. It was easy to connect that tending the wild places I loved required sustainable systems, from households to businesses.
In college, I pursued passions in wind power and energy efficient buildings, and then I pursued a career in the solar industry to provide affordable solar energy to disadvantaged rural communities in India and East Africa. I also completed a nine-month immersive permaculture and nature awareness program, and I began sleeping outside under the stars and collecting spring water often.
So of course, sustainable design has been a part of Firefly from the very beginning. Engaging in ritual with a plant for my own healing requires a mutually beneficial relationship, so operating with care for our planet is a must. In this issue, I will share more about what we're celebrating and what we're working on.
The Big Challenge - Packaging
As you've probably noticed, stand up pouches are the leading marketing trend with many super foods. They are beneficial for a number of reasons - including that they are lightweight and use little material, and they have the lowest embodied greenhouse gas emissions of all the packaging options. However, to date, there are practicably no recyclable or compostable options. While our current pouches use less plastic than standard pouches, we've been craving a fully sustainable solution.
According to the Flexible Packaging Association
- 1/2 of all municipal waste is packaging!!!
- Globally, more than 150 billion stand up pouches are used every year, growing 9% year over year
- In the U.S. 26 billion pouches are thrown into landfills each year, with no regenerative potential.
Other options, such as glass, have their own challenges, including that glass breaks easily, adds significant extra shipping cost and emissions, and has the highest embodied greenhouse gas emissions of all the options.
So why hasn't this been figured out yet? Food grade packaging standards set by the US Food and Drug Administration require performance characteristics that are hard to meet with a single material. For flexible packaging, the most common way to meet the standard is to laminate multiple material layers onto one another to create a high performing finished product. While these materials may be compostable or recyclable individually, the moment they are laminated together, the packaging becomes trash.
Here's the good news. By this fall and maybe sooner we will have new packaging, that is VERY sustainable. We're exploring two exciting options, one of which is an innovative flexible pouch made from bio-based materials that degrade quickly. It is one of the first on the market that is the result of a five-year collaborative effort by a few forward-thinking food brands.
We'll let you know as we progress - and we can't wait to stand behind our packaging with a 100% yes, just like we are a full yes to our 100% cacao.
What We're Drinking
Cacao In The Wild
We're already gearing up for summertime camping trips in California, and nothing quite compares to enjoying a delicious drinking chocolate as you crawl out of your tent.
To make cacao while camping, you will need
- your special mug, or a thermos with a lid on it (ideal for backpacking)
- a kettle to heat water (either on a propane stove or a fire)
- Boundless Belize cacao (or your other favorite)
- a handheld frother with charged, re-chargeable batteries!
We also love medicinal mushroom cacao while camping to help us connect with our natural surroundings!
Ultimately, our entire process of making cacao will be regenerative and restorative to the earth and our communities. Some of our major wins so far have included:
- We've been proudly organic certified since our launch. No chemicals used in any of our cacao produced, ever! I've actually become more impressed by the thoroughness of the organic standard since working with it as an insider on the business level, and I'm very grateful for the tutelage from Organic Certifiers.
- Many of our farms use advanced permaculture principles that actually restore and enhance the ecosystem function of the areas. This includes building soil fertility and biomass, cultivating pollinator habitat, propagating heirloom seed varietals, managing agroforestry regions, and reducing erosion from stormwater.
- For over 18 months, we've been using 100% local renewable power from solar and geothermal for our full chocolate production needs. We are extraordinarily fortunate that for an approximately 10% premium on our electric bill, we can purchase through Sonoma Clean Power's EverGreen initiative.
- All of our cacao husks are diverted from the landfill. Cacao husks make up 20% of the dry weight of cacao beans, so we have a lot of them! A dedicated local farmer, Jeff Kent of Takenoko Farms, comes by on a weekly basis to pick up our cacao husks (and also spent grain and soy hulls from a brewery and tempeh factory next door). He feeds this blends to his pigs, who are very happy about it!
- Our studio construction uses VOC free paints, LED lighting, the most efficient cooling system for our cold room we could buy, and a heat pump to generate our hot water from waste heat. Sustainability is fun and something that impacts us beneficially every day through a well-designed space!
- For frequent customers, we added a 5lb bulk bag option to reduce packaging and shipping footprint.
There are more, of course, but for brevity, I hope you enjoyed these highlights!
Thank you for supporting our independently owned business, we do what we do for you and our planet, and we are so grateful for your support.