If you’ve followed us for a while you know that, at La mala leche, we’re concerned about the idea of sustainability. But we’re serious, not greenwashing. Given the current landscape, in which more and more companies are getting on the sustainability train, we need to rethink how to communicate these issues.
It’s not enough to create a “sustainability hashtag”, because your product has an attribute that makes it less damaging for the planet, and to use this premise exclusively in your advertising. Speaking only about the good doesn’t give an accurate picture of what happens in a company. Especially when the good is insignificant or even not truly sustainable.
We’ve seen a lot of examples of this recently, so this is a good moment to make our own balance of the positive things experienced in these past 8 months since our launch, but without hiding that which isn’t so positive.
Thank you in advance for your understanding and affection in this exercise of and honesty.
10 things we’re already doing:
We’ll start with the muffins themselves and their ingredients which are:
1. From organic farms. Organic farming protects crop soils without further contaminating them with pesticides and phytosanitary products.
2. 100% plant based. By not containing cows milk and eggs, basics of the traditional muffin, we avoid the contamination derived by the production of animal ingredients (animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5% of worldwide human generated greenhouse gases, (FAO.org, 2019))
Furthermore, some ingredients are:
3. Local. Like the olive oil which is produced in our province, Alicante.
4. From small farmers. Like the apple compote, which is made with apples from farmers in Navarra and manufactured right there with organic apples and nothing more.
5. Fairtrade. As is the case for the cacao and chocolate chips.
At fairs and events:
6. We use ceramic mugs made by some artisan friends of ours, to avoid single use ‘cardboard’ cups (which, as you might know, are not 100% cardboard, but multilayer, and therefore can’t be thrown in the blue container).
7. Compensation of emissions. We almost always go to fairs in our food truck, given that it isn’t electric we decided to “compensate” its emissions via the Official UN carbon offsetting platform.
8. We prioritize second hand items. When we rebuilt the food truck, instead of buying fittings from places like IKEA, we bought everything from a second hand furniture app. You wouldn’t believe how good part of an Alicantian womans living room can look in our little shop on wheels! Beyond the second hand fittings, we recycled the shelf that was already in the truck, remnants of curtains and tiles that we already had at home etc. We’re big fans of upcycling and second hand things, in case you had any doubts!
With respect to packaging:
9. Bulk sales. Further down we will tell you what we are planning for the future, but for the moment, because we cannot completely give up plastic, we have decided to start selling in bulk (we’ll tell you in another post why bioplastics are not yet an option). Even though this format does not completely allow us to give up plastic we believe that this alternative is better than individually packaging each muffin in plastic. And believe us, packaging them individually would have made our lives so much easier.
10. Opting for objects that last. The bases of the exhibits that we send to the shops to display the muffins on is made of wood with a little bit of metal. They are designed so that they will last years and won’t need to be renovated after a while, as would happen if we had opted for a more wallet friendly option (like cardboard displays). Opting for durable objects is also a form of sustainability.
5 actions for the future:
1. Glass jars as packaging. At the start of the coming year we’re going to run a crowdfunding campaign (yes, FINALLY) to implement a glass jar packaging system, a material with one of the highest recyclability rates in Europe (74%, according to the most recent FEVE data). Furthermore, the jars can be reused for many things.
2. More plastic free packaging. The coming year we have planned to do a few tests of another non plastic format. What will it be? 🙂
3. Reused packaging. For the future online shop, the filling of the boxes we will send to your houses will be unused newspaper (unsold production excess), instead of buying and creating demand for paper filling that’ll only be used once.
4. Suppliers’ packaging. While we can ‘mostly’ control our packaging, that of our suppliers is much more difficult. There are primary materials, like the flour or the compote, that arrives in paper or glass. But other ingredients come in plastic. We know that, as we grow and have more influence to negotiate with our suppliers, we’ll be able to demand more changes. In addition, we plan to keep up with circular economy issues as we believe that therein will lie some of the solutions to the packaging problems at an industrial level.
5. Reforestation programs. Participating in a program that plants trees which absorb co2 is another of the options that exist to compensate for the emissions of our deliveries. We don’t know exactly how yet, but we’ll probably implement it for online customers and deliveries to our shop clients. While we shouldn’t lose focus on reducing emissions, trying to reduce the damage of those activities you can’t avoid is better than nothing.
What do you think? Too much imperfection? Well, anyway, it’s the truth, and believe us there’s no day we don’t think about how to improve this or that.
We could hide the “not so cool” details and say that we’re super sustainable, period. But we prefer to be honest and involve you in our process of continual improvement. By not telling people the things we don’t like, they don’t stop existing, right?
Author of the original version in Spanish: Estefanía Lozano
Translation into English: Anna Kommers