BEYOND ORGANIC

‘do no harm’ is no longer enough by Pam Denholm

The organic agricultural movement is nearly 80 years old. It was based on traditional farming practices that promoted the idea of working with nature by returning organic matter to the soil, and using deep rooted crops. The movement became popular in the 70s when environmental awareness increased, but certification was decentralized and varied from state to state. It was only 15 years ago, in 2002, that the USDA Certified Organic label was born.

Years later, we realize that the organic label still has its shortcomings. It doesn’t adequately address issues around soil health, water conservation, social fairness, or animal welfare. Although the number of organic farms has exploded since those early days, it still accounts for less than 1% of agricultural land in the United States.

We are barreling towards environmental catastrophe. Deforestation and conventional farming practices are destroying topsoil at an unprecedented rate, we need less pollution, more biodiversity, fewer threats to wildlife, healthier rivers, reduced risk to workers, and a reduction in environmentally linked respiratory diseases and cancers. ‘Sustainable’ is no longer good enough, we have to do better than just maintain a status quo, we need to regenerate, rebuild, renew.

Fortunately, a coalition of change-makers, brands, farmers, ranchers, nonprofits and scientists, all with a clear goal: to pave the way to an agricultural future focused on enriching the soil, while valuing people and animals have come together to form the Regenerative Organic Certification. Their approach does not replace the existing organic standards, but rather offers detailed guidance giving farmers the tools to implement regenerative organic practices that build soil health. The goals of the program are to:

  • Increase organic matter in the soil over time, and potentially sequester carbon
  • Improve animal welfare
  • Provide economic stability and fairness to farmers, ranchers, and workers
  • Create resilient regional ecosystems and communities

 

This is possible by focusing on three pillars:

Soil Health

  • No/low tillage
  • Cover crops and crop rotations
  • Rotational grazing
  • No synthetic chemicals or GMOs
  • Promotes biodiversity, builds soil

Animal Welfare

  • Five freedoms
  • Grass fed/pastured
  • No CAFO’s
  • Suitable shelter
  • Reduced transport distances

Social Fairness

  • Living wages
  • No child or forced labor
  • Maximum working hours
  • Fair prices
  • Long term commitments

This certification will be facilitated by NSF International, and builds on USDA Organic and other international organic labels.

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THE LOW DOWN ON THE DRY DOWN

CHEMICAL USE IN WHEAT HARVESTING BY PAMELA DENHOLM

Wheat is a remarkable food. Our history with this plant dates back thousands of years. There are many varieties of wheat, but they can be divided into a hardy winter wheats, spring wheats, and summer wheats. Wheat is an annual, and needs to be seeded every year. Winter wheat takes about 8 months to grow, spring and summer wheat take about 4 months. Wheat is considered mature when moisture level of the seed is at around 30%. Once the moisture gets down to roughly 20% it is ready to be harvested. It then needs to be dried down to around 14% before it can be stored. Back in the day, you would have seen bundles of harvested wheat standing upright in the field, drying for winter storage in silos.

Modern farmers will aim to get two harvests of wheat from the same field in a single year where climate is agreeable. Depending on wet/dry seasons, they might plant a winter and summer crop, a winter and spring crop, or a spring and summer crop.

When wheat is ready for harvest, it is swathed, or cut and left to dry in the field for a couple days before the combine harvester reaps, threshes and winnows the grain. Both swathing and combining are done by machine.

Recently, however, it has become more common place to spray wheat with the herbicide, glyphosphate, instead of swathing it. Swathed wheat lying down is likely to sprout if there is any rain, and farmers are still reliant on idyllic weather for the dry down process. Glyphosphate will cause die off, giving farmers greater control over the dry down process, and the wheat can then be harvested standing up instead of from the cut position on the ground, making it less prone to sprouting or damage, plus, spraying kills weeds. The process is called ‘desiccating’.

The problem is, glyphosphate is systemic. In other words, it is absorbed INTO the plant, and does its job from the inside. It cannot be washed off. This means that the timing of the spray is absolutely crucial. The top of the stem, just below the grain head, needs to be brown. Any glyphosphate sprayed onto the wheat at this stage theoretically won’t make its way up to the wheat head once absorbed by the plant.

Here is the part where I tell you what I think about it. 1st, this increases our exposure to glyphosphate. 2nd, it increases environmental exposure. 3rd, glyphosphate residues in bread have increased (although they are still below the maximum 30ppm required by the FDA). 4th, the argument is use of glyphosphate on wheat only accounts for an additional 2% glyphosphate use in the U.S., unfortunately the dietary impact is closer to 50% (wheat is consumed by the average American multiple times a day). 5th, we are relying on a judgement call to decide ‘if the stem is brown enough’.

Glyphosphate is also used to dry down lentils, peas, non-GMO soybeans, corn, flax, rye, triticale, buckwheat, millet, canola, sugar beets, and potatoes. Buying ‘certified organic’ is the only way to ensure that your food isn’t sprayed with this poison right before harvest.

Dicamba Drift

Chemical ware fare on home soil by Pamela Denholm

This year, Monsanto released a new product. The product was approved only in November 2016 for this year’s growing season, and it is another genetically modified soybean and cotton product, engineered to with stand applications of Dicamba.

Dicamba is an herbicide, used to kill weeds and it was developed in the mid-1900s. Because of its volatility, and because it easily drifted significant distances, and because even a small amount of Dicamba could stunt plant growth, it was no longer used during the crop season. It is however, still being used as a broad leaf pre-emergent. In other words, Dicamba is sprayed in the spring, before field crops are planted to kill any emerging weeds.

However, here we are, years later and arguably much more clever. We have improved our spray technology, and can be more accurate and ensure less drift. Armed with this argument, Monsanto developed Dicamba resistant cotton and soy seeds in a new product line they have called ‘Xtend’, and went to market in what is said to be their biggest technology launch yet.

Unfortunately, our spray practices are not improved enough. Dicamba has the ability to ‘re-vaporize’. If sprayed on a hot day, it will evaporate and then move with the wind and settle elsewhere. Reports of damaged crops in neighboring fields not planted with the genetically resistant seeds have been rolling in. Unlike the 10-20 rows of corn damage seen in neighboring fields for glyphosate applications, Dicamba injury is across whole fields and it is rumored that federal crop insurance won’t cover chemical damage, only loss from natural disasters like fire or flood.

Monsanto promises to stand by the farmers throughout the growing season, farmers who use their product, that is. A meaningless gesture, since it is the farmers who don’t use their product and have lost yields from whole fields who are in trouble.

The problems experienced with Dicamba drift can be directly attributed to its ‘new’ use later in the season, typically as plants approach reproductive stages. Later application dates mean average temperatures are higher, leading to a higher vapor rates and more drift. Also, it is being used in greater concentration, and more widely. In the south where the growing season is longer, so too is the period of Dicamba use, increasing exposure.

Weed management is a growing problem in industrial agriculture as herbicide-resistant  weeds continue to spread. Biology evolves, ensuring that any chemical application to control it will eventually meet its match. Doesn’t sound like a war we’ll win with chemicals, does it?

Winner Takes All

A story of Amazonian proportions by Pam Denholm

This week, Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is final and they are kicking off with price drops on select grocery staples. Their strategy is to put pressure on other new-ish arrivals on the natural and organic food scene: giants like Walmart and Kroger. The gun has been fired, the starting gates flung open and a race to the bottom is underway. Who has the inside track? The stamina? Who’ll win?

While these big players duke it out on the national stage, relying on sales from other departments to carry them while they discount groceries in a fight for market share, what happens to the little guy? What happens to independently owned grocery stores? A year-long price war will be inconvenient for a giant, but it will bankrupt a small business in a matter of months.  What does that mean for you and me? For where we live?

Whether you have faith that Jeff Bezos will preserve Whole Foods’ values, or whether you buy into the criticism surrounding his ‘generosity’ and high staff turnover, you have to know Amazon did not acquire Whole Foods to sell cheap apples. Amazon shareholders are mostly banks and investment firms. They are in the race to win it, they are not the crowd handing out free water on the sidelines.  Eventually the race will be over and the prices of apples will go back up. It’s inevitable. It’s also inevitable that not everyone will have finished the race. And then what price would we have truly paid for those apples?

American dollars and receipt closeup

Although we are not a grocery store, let’s use SSO as a case study. We spend roughly $250,000 with local farmers every year. These farmers buy their compost locally, they get their well pumps replaced and repaired, locally, they rely on local mechanics, feed stores, and they send their kids to ballet or karate. South Shore Organics also advertises in magazines, like the Edible South Shore Magazine, we use a local print shop. We bank with a local bank and credit union, as do many of our farmers. We also employ locals, neighbors, as do the real time brick, mortar, and field based businesses we support. The many ways money flows through our community, circulates around our community, are vital to the sustainability and health of our community.

How we procure, and prepare food is one of the most rapidly changing markets in America today. It is more important than ever that as consumers, we are mindful of the choices we are making. Losing small businesses creates ripples that touch every corner of our communities. The only way we can save our home towns and our middle class lifestyle, is if we follow our brains and our hearts, not just our wallets.

How on Earth?

By Pamela Denholm

Today is a sad day. Over my morning coffee, I found out that the store and cafe, ‘How on Earth‘ in Mattapoisett is closing down effective Labor Day. Owners Margie and Michael Baldwin sent out a poignant letter announcing their decision:

“We have had 10 fairly challenging years running How On Earth, attempting to demonstrate to our neighbors in Southeast Massachusetts that eating local organic food is a very wise decision, generating dramatically better health. Happily many of you have responded and joined in that “campaign” which is the most gratifying result of this huge effort on our part. But we believe that the struggle to become sustainable is just too much of a burden at this time in our lives, and given the growing awareness about local, organic food and the burgeoning grassroots demand for it, with the contribution we believe we have made towards that awareness, we have elected to close shop.”

I don’t know Margie and Michael personally. I have visited the store multiple times, and enjoyed delicious fresh sandwiches from their cafe.  The store was delightful and filled with rustic charm, beautiful food from local farms, local artisan products, and a thoughtful selection of cleaning and household products.

I know some of the challenges whereof they speak. For us, meal kit companies have put a large dent in our numbers. Online ordering and delivery of fresh food has become a much noisier space with companies like Amazon, Overstock, Whole Foods, and Stop and Shop all trying to get in on the action and going head to head with us for market share. In the last two or three years, we have seen a dramatic change in how corporate companies are engaging their customers on the subject of food, too. It is a rapidly evolving platform, and a very challenging environment for us to stay competitive in without the resources that these weighty corporates can put behind marketing, advertising, and slick websites. We are just the little guy.

The loss of ‘How on Earth’ is a big one for our community. We, as a community, will be losing ground on Labor Day.

We are losing character, mom and pop stores speak about who we are, they tell us about our history, they add value, depth, and dimension to our community. They spend locally, they support local initiatives, they are neighbors. Without them, we are faceless.

We are losing a voice. On Labor Day, it will be a little harder for us to speak up and be heard. Without the community of common interests built around stores like How on Earth, we are just individuals. Without a platform on which to stand, it becomes harder to unite, to be seen, to be heard.

We are losing power, or rather, we are disempowered. With a store like How on Earth, operated by a small business owner and run on principals and ethics, you can say what your needs are, and get a response. You can talk about products you like and don’t like. You do not have the same power with corporations and online companies who make choices for profits and gains. Corporations who answer to boards of directors and shareholders first, before customers.

We are losing a local market place. We are losing a trading post which farmers and other small artisans counted on. We are losing a place for farmers and artisans to connect to their community.

how on earth

I understand the Baldwin’s decision. I do. No one can say ‘should have would have’ because to be a small business owner in today’s world you need to be make sacrifices, be brave, be committed, and work harder than you will ever work at anything else, ever. I am sad for them, because I know how hard this decision must have been after ten years. I am sad for our community. What a loss. And I am sad for me, because the landscape of family owned businesses invested in their community just got a little lonelier.

We bid the How on Earth store, the owners and hard working staff farewell, with our gratitude for all they have done to make a meaningful impact on where we live.

What Does Your Food Say About You?

My first job ever was as cashier at a grocery store. We were trained to be very respectful, and not comment on what people were buying, but that didn’t hush the running commentary in my head.

Good steak, candles, flowers. Date night?

Buttermilk, flour, eggs, chocolate, whipped cream, I wonder what they are going to make?

Huh, corn+watermelon+hamburgers=barbecue!

Oh, salad, salad, and more salad, and rice crackers? She’s definitely dieting!

Dude, do you really need all this toilet paper? Are you going to be okay?

Fast forward all these years later, I often tell friends and family, and whoever else will listen, how very lucky we are at South Shore Organics, we really do have the best customers! The job can be tough, but the people we service are always so wonderful that we don’t notice. And it got me thinking about what their purchase choices say about them, here’s what I came up with:

  • you care about yourself enough to eat good, beautiful, food
  • you care about your health enough to eat food that is clean, and to try new foods, and eat a wide variety of whatever is in season
  • you care enough about your friends and family, that preparing food, and sitting to enjoy a meal together, spend time together, have conversations together, is important to you
  • you care about your community and choose to spend your hard earned money locally, with small businesses and family farms to whom it makes a big difference
  • you care about the future of our food system and the diversity of our food crops, and will support regional farms so that our children’s children will have access to them one day
  • you care about our waterways, about soil erosion, chemical use, gmo’s, and maintaining open spaces, you probably also recycle, and compost

See? Who wouldn’t want to know somebody like that? Aren’t we lucky to have gathered and and collected these wonderful people all over the South Shore? I think we are. The only question left?

I wonder what they are going to do with their fennel this week?

Dollars and Sense

Some times you see a news headline that you just need to reread because as you read it, you can feel the world start to shift into something different than before. This morning, that headline was:

Amazon is Buying Whole Foods in $13.7B Deal

It’s too early to unpack what this could mean for Whole Foods customers, obviously we hope for lower prices on our favorite organic brands–but it does put a significant portion our food system in the hands of yet another giant, a giant that is competing with Apple and Google in a race to be the first company valued at a trillion dollars.

But let’s say it does mean we get to save a couple bucks here and there, is that where to true value is? I wonder what it would look like if we started doing valuations on our communities. When farmers spend money on inputs which are locally produced and consumers buy food which is locally grown, the money which would have otherwise gone outside of the region now stays within. Here are some findings from a 2004 study of southeast Minnesota’s farming community:

  • the study found that a yearly average of $800 million was leaving the community as a result of farmers purchasing out-of-state inputs and consumers purchasing food produced via industrial agriculture
  • if 15% of those food dollars were shifted to regional farms,the community could generate $45 million in income
  • $45 million in income ultimately would contribute $88.5 million to the area’s overall economy.
  • Researchers estimate that roughly 2000 new jobs and $200 million in new income would be generated if state farmers sold only 3 times more produce in-state than out.

In Michigan, roughly $1.9 billion is spent yearly on fresh produce which is grown out of state, despite the fact that the state grows the second largest variety of produce nationwide.

Research conducted in other states demonstrated similar statistics:

  • In Seattle, shifting 20% of food dollars toward local farms would result in nearly $1 billion dollars being added to the local economy each year.
  • Illinois found that its citizens spend $48 billion on out-of-state food annually, while most farms in the state grow commodity crops for export. Estimates indicate that a 20% increase in local food production,processing, and purchasing would generate an astonishing $30 billion statewide.

Termed the “local multiplier effect”, this powerful economic impact is largely due to the fact that locally owned businesses are more likely to re-spend their money in the community. Indeed, a growing body of research indicates that a dollar spent on a locally owned business circulates 2 to 4 times more in the community compared to that same dollar spent at a non-local business.

The other truly great thing, you really don’t have that much impact on the valuation of Apple, Google, or Amazon. I doubt they’d miss you. But you absolutely have a powerful impact on your local community, because every dollar spend locally, multiplies. Way to get bang for your buck!

Langwater Farm

Changing Organic Landscape

When we look at Whole Foods Market, we think “big”, the truth is that it’s all a matter of perspective. Sure, Whole Foods is big; after all, 440 stores in the US is nothing to sneeze at. But compared to the nearly 3, 500 Walmart Super-centers and 2, 400 Kroger-brand supermarkets in America alone, Whole Foods is relatively small. Add home delivery options like Amazon or meal delivery services like Blue Apron and suddenly you’ve got a mid-level grocer in distress—scrapping plans to expand, and closing stores all across the country.

With large grocers increasing their offerings in the organic-and-natural-food market at a cheaper price, it should come as no surprise that the notoriously expensive Whole Foods (dubbed by many as “Whole Paycheck”) has felt a hit—and they are not the only organic food chain that is struggling. Smaller rivals like Sprouts, Fresh Market, and Fairway have all seen plunging stocks this year as well. The solution—for Whole Foods, at least—is to start with store closures in the smaller markets, and lower prices across the board. They are also attempting to grow the larger markets with a new chain: 365 by Whole Foods, a smaller, cheaper option for those who want to buy organic. Additionally, the chain is partnering with a private consumer data subsidiary of global grocery giant Tesco in an attempt to use customer information to improve merchandising and personalize offers to loyal shoppers. So what does this mean for the smallest of purveyors, like South Shore Organics? Well, for starters, we can’t deny that any grocer or food delivery service (big or small) is potential competition.

Whether folks are shopping at another local market or getting pre-packaged meals from meal kit services, the fact is that we saw our first dip in sales last year. It’s left us wondering whether our community is seeing the trickle down impact of these large grocery stores, and how we are supposed to sustain our business model in the face of such competition. We are one location to their many; we don’t mine consumer data for trends; and above all, we believe in helping our customers feel a stronger connection to their food. From its very inception, South Shore Organics has been on a mission to provide clean food from sources that support family farms and food production. This means getting produce from local farms year-round.

But we still compete with bigger companies who merely pay lip service to what is our primary focus and core mission. Companies for whom “supporting farmers” means getting farm-fresh produce at the lowest cost while offering farmers 90 days payment terms. A large proportion of processed food sold under the organic label (everything from frozen carrots to chicken nuggets) is imported, and largely from China. We understand that shoppers want high quality at an affordable cost. This is why we strive to offer the best produce around, while keeping our prices competitive. In fact, our regular price checks against chain grocers and local markets in the area consistently demonstrate that we offer the most local and organic produce for the lowest cost, and we are very proud of that—especially since we are only one small, locally-owned business with fewer resources at our disposal to do our good work and make a positive impact within our community. It is both challenging and frustrating to go head to head with many of the super-centers, meal kit companies, and cheap organic brands for ‘organic dollars’ when they will do whatever it takes and make (environmental and ethical) compromises, while we, the scrawniest, scrappiest kid on the block with hardly any muscle, stand steadfast, refuse to make compromises, and cling to our food ethics and mission.

We have seen a lot of change this year. Many farmers are no longer offering CSA’s, and have reduced their commitment to Farmers’ Markets this season. On a local, small farm level, many of us are feeling the contraction. With existing stores expanding their offerings and many new ways to think about, cook, and consume food coming to market, other, larger brands like Whole Foods are feeling it too.

It is going to be interesting to see how the landscape is affected over the next few years, and see who will survive. I hope like hell it’s us, others like us, and our small family run farms. Otherwise, who will we trust to do the right thing?

“Putting Things Into Perspective.” Berkshire Organics – 24 Feb 2017.
Barth, Brian. “Meal Kit Mania, Unpacked.” Modern Farmer – 16 Nov 2016.
Peterson, Hayley. “Whole Foods is Closing Stores: See if Yours is on the List.” Business Insider – 9 Feb 2017.
“Whole Foods is Closing Nine Stores After a Year of Sluggish Sales.” Reuters: Fortune – 9 Feb 2017

The Dish on Meal Kit Companies: Farmers

With all the ‘farm goodness’ on marketing materials, we asked if meal kit companies deliver on their ‘small farm’ promise, the results were not that surprising:

Menu’s Are Not Regional, or That Local

Large meal kit companies are sourcing and shipping raw ingredients nationally and internationally, and distributing the end product all across the USA. “There’s less carbon emitted to aggregate meat on a shipping container on a boat from New Zealand than if we were driving it from Nebraska to Chicago,” says Matthew Wadiak about grass-fed beef, Matthew is Blue Apron’s 38-year-old chief operating officer and one of its three co-founders.

In an article written by Brian Barth for Modern Farmer, Plated, which boasts “farm-sourced seasonal ingredients,” did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. HelloFresh, which makes a similar claim [about fresh ingredients from nearby farms], replied to inquiries via an email statement—“we source a growing percentage of our produce direct from growers”—yet provided no details regarding that percentage or those growers.

A Culture of Mono-cropping

Mono-cropping is hundreds of acres under a single crop which is terrible for biodiversity and genetic diversity. Meal kit companies have become so successful, and are dealing in such large quantities (8,000,000 meals a month in the case of Blue Apron), that when they need chard for a recipe, they need 40,000 pounds of it. This runs counter to the small farm ideal, supported by locals through CSA’s, Farmers Markets, and businesses like ours. A diverse farm with many different crops minimizes the risk and exposure for farmers against catastrophe. If one crop fails, another is likely to be successful. Diverse farms are also key to the genetic viability of our food system, and are also home to a greater number of insects and wildlife, all vital in lowering the environmental impact of agriculture and creating a system that is healthier, more robust, and more sustainable.

Local Farm Economics

Spending money locally improves local economy. To have the same economic impact and job creation, you would have to spend three times as much with a chain store, and even more with a business that isn’t based in your neighborhood, but instead, is shipping to its end users.

Although meal kit companies report to pay ‘somewhere between wholesale and retail’ prices for food from small farms, in our experience this has not been the case. For example, Markristo Farm who works with our counterpart, Berkshire Organics out in Western Mass, was approached to grow the above mentioned 40,000 pounds of Swiss chard, the price he was offered for it was 80 cents per pound. At South Shore Organics we pay anywhere between $1.75 and $2.50 per bunch of Swiss chard, depending on the farm and the time of year. A vastly different price point. Eighty cents is well below the wholesale price, and not viable for smaller farms relying on labor and not machines to harvest and wash crops.

What if the crop was a couple weeks late due to a cool start to the summer season, the meal kit company could reject the entire crop. What would a farmer with 24 acres do with 40,000 pounds of Swiss chard?

Food Waste

These companies promise ‘no waste’, however, we have already addressed the abhorrent plastic waste in our blog ‘The Dish on Meal Kit Companies: Packaging’. And food waste? Menus and recipes prepared by these meal kit companies rely on perfect portioning as well as simplicity to be successful. The cabbage can’t be too big, or too small, neither can the apple, or the leaf size of the kale. Unfortunately, Mother Nature is not a drive-through order window, and she loves allowing things to grow at their own rate.

Similarly, meal kit companies do not accept wiggly carrots, because it makes them more challenging for their customers to peel. Or misshapen green peppers. Or green peppers that have already started to blush red. The waste is real, you just don’t get to see it.

Our customers know we include potatoes of all sizes, wiggly carrots, and funky green peppers. These perfectly edible vegetables are not rejected and destined for the compost heap because they don’t conform to size, weight, and aesthetic standards of a recipe card.

Food Ethics

And what of the ‘food miles’ solution suggested by the recent surge in hyperlocal meal-kit companies? Wadiak of Blue Apron would argue that they sacrifice mass reach for ideology. Apparently they are mutually exclusive. Mass Reach vs. Ideology. Which side are you on when it comes to food?

Farmers 1Farmers 2Farmers 4

Source (quoted): Modern Farmer, Meal Kit Mania – Unpacked, and conversations with farmers

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The Dish on Meal Kit Companies: Packaging

I have been watching the meal kit company space develop with great interest over the last year or two. I’ve overheard people talking about how convenient it is, and how there is no waste, and how it all seems too good to be true. And it is. Not only do meal kits take all the spontaneity out of cooking, but they fly in the face of all ethics we value and cherish.

In this post, we are going to tackle the environmental impact of all the single use, single serve plastic used in portioned meal kit servings. Here is a sample of what one delivery from a popular meal kit company, Blue Apron, will bring in terms of waste: plastic-use

At a time when we are waking up and realizing the enormous impact  of ‘single use’ plastics on our environment, meal kit companies are making the problem far, far worse. Fact: every piece of plastic ever made still exists in the world today.  Biodegradable plastics are still not the answer, they are made by adding metals to the plastic, causing oxidation, which breaks the bags down into pieces. These metals leach into the immediate environment, and the pieces of plastic still persist, they are just smaller, harder to clean up, and if anything, more dangerous.

300 Million tons of plastic is produced every year, only 10% of it is recycled, and of that 10%, we, the U.S., are sending container loads (an estimated 6.6 million tons) of it to China to be re-processed. Think about the carbon footprint of that little statistic for a moment. In addition, it’s hard to know exact numbers, but recycling aside our best guess is that more than 8 million metric tons of plastic are dumped into our seas every year.

When plastic is recycled, it is often down-cycled. Bottles don’t turn back into more bottles, they turn into flip flops, and textiles for clothing and blankets, for example. And what of contaminants found in some plastics? Harmful chemicals we are only now learning can be endocrine disrupters? They too leach into the environment. One way we see this is when bits of plastic are eaten by fish, these endocrine disrupters are absorbed by the fish, and we eat the fish. The endocrine disrupters stay in the environment, like the plastic, they don’t disappear.

Now consider that just ONE meal kit company, the same one featured above, ships more than 8 million meals PER MONTH. That’s tens of thousands of these (and this is just one of six major meal kit companies operating in the US):

platic-waste

By comparison, this is what somebody cooking from a South Shore Organics delivery, or a CSA share, or a trip to the farmers market is likely to be left with for waste:

img_3872

No matter which way you cut the cake, the truth is, we desperately, desperately need to cut back on the amount of plastic we are using. We MOST DEFINITELY need to cut back on how much ‘single use’ plastic we are using. And although some meal kit companies will take the packaging back after a few deliveries, once you have emptied, rinsed, and compacted it, they are not cleaning it for reuse. They are not allowed to. They are discarding and recycling it, allowing it to be turned into something else, and they are buying new plastic bags for their next delivery.

In terms of plastic use, meal kit companies have one of the worst environmental impacts of all food systems. That’s a hard fact to swallow, just ask the fish, seals, and albatross’s to name a few.

Sources:

“The Trashy Consequencies of Meal Kit Companies” By Ellen Cushing for Buzzfeed, November 2015
“Dear Blue Apron, You are Making it Worse” By Nathaniel Johnson, August 2014
“The Truth About Recycling” The 5Gyres Institute
World Economic Forum, “The New Plastics Economy, Rethinking the Future of Plastics” WEF
Brad Plumer, “China Doesn’t Even Want to Buy Our Garbage Anymore” The Washington Post