No food system can be sustainable if it requires more resources than it yields. We take environmental responsibility very seriously, going beyond Fair Trade and Organic certification to work toward becoming a carbon negative business.
CLICK BELOW TO SEE WHAT WE DO 365 DAYS A YEAR TO NOURISH OUR PLANET!
Farmer participating in Rice Fund Surin’s monthly organic agriculture training session.
Children at Acropagro in Peru smiling next to freshly planted tree sapling
Decomposing Alter Eco Truffle wrapper, the first of its’ kind
SUSTAINABLE SUPPLY CHAIN
All of our coop partners maintain their fields within both the American and European standards for organic certification. Transitioning to sustainable farming methods can take years, and often causes temporary losses in yield as the farmers and the land adjust. Programs like organic agriculture training at Rice Fund Surin, our Thai rice partner cooperative, give farmers vital support and encouragement as they make the change.
All of our co-op partners also have specialists on staff to assist and train member farmers in sustainable methods, and to help them achieve diversity in their fields and their diets. Endemic farming is an important part of this training; reintroducing ancient traditions helps to preserve local culture while improving yields, as these methods often come from centuries of hard-earned experience.
COMMITMENT TO ZERO IMPACT
Tractors, factories, trucks, boats, offices: they all require energy to function. Much of this energy still comes from the burning of fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas, which release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere and contribute to extreme weather patterns that imperil everyone on earth – especially our food producers. As part of our commitment to environmental sustainability, we work closely with our global farmer communities to integrate environmental responsibility into the core foundations of all our relationships. We do this because we truly believe it’s possible to have wholesome food that is not just good tasting and good for you but good for our community of producers and for the planet. We do this because we care.
First, we calculate our total carbon emission each year. In 2011, our total emissions came out to be 31.5 metric tons of CO2. This includes every aspect from the energy used in our San Francisco office, to diesel used in tractors on the farms; the energy it takes to dry our rice in Thailand to office level business travel; from shipping ingredients to our chocolatiers in Switzerland to the gas needed for delivering quinoa to your kitchen table.
We work hard to continually reduce our carbon footprint by taking the necessary steps to minimize the existing amount emitted each year in every part of our supply chain. For example, by implementing an in-house localized co-packaging system at our sugar cooperative, Alter Trade in the Philippines, our impact was reduced by over 11 MtCO2e! The trucking emissions from transport of our sugar in Oakland, Ca. to the packaging facility in Sacramento, Ca. were entirely eliminated from our supply chain and instead contributed to financial sustainability for the cooperative through vertical integration.
Did you know? It takes the same amount of carbon per pound of quinoa to travel from San Francisco to Tucson (850 miles) by land as it does from San Francisco to Bolivia (5,000 miles) by sea!
INSET – THE NEW OFFSET
Alter Eco founder, Tristan Lecomte, began a carbon insetting program called Pur Projet. This organization is driven by a very dynamic network of more than 50 organizations, representing 150,000 planters in 30 countries of the global South. Aside from internal efforts to reduce, Alter Eco works closely with Pur Projet and our farmers to plant trees for the amount of CO2 we produce. “Contrary to offsetting, which consists in handling carbon compensation in other places by uncorrelated people and means, the insetting includes the handling of carbon compensation into the commercial dynamics of the company” (Pur Projet).
Our ultimate environmental goal is to be a carbon negative business, offsetting more than we emit. To this end, we partner with Pur Projet on reforestation projects to identify opportunities within our own supply chain. Our partners in the Peruvian Amazon, ACOPAGRO cooperative, strategically plant native trees in the forest, naturally sequestering CO2, replenishing the forest canopy, increasing biodiversity, protecting against soil erosion, and preserving the fragile ecosystem that provides their livelihood. So far, they have planted more than 2,000,000 trees. Since 2008, Alter Eco has funded the planting of over 7,423 trees!
Alter Eco has been working tirelessly with our partners and packaging manufacturers to source uncompromisingly and truly eco-friendly packaging. It came of no surprise to us that no one had anything available, so we pushed further into the supply chain and worked with the individual sources to see what we could do. Three years later, after many trials and tribulations, we were able to come up with a wrapper that not only protects the delicate flavors of our truffles but also actually disappears easily and safely when finished with it.
The end result is a wrapper made of certified Home Compostable* (as opposed to industrial compostable) metalized Natureflex printed with certified Home Compostable non-toxic ink. The “metalized” part is an extremely thin layer of aluminum (measured in microns- you can see through it) in order to protect the chocolate from oxidation (preserving the yummy freshness of your chocolate!). The Natureflex is made from FSC certified eucalyptus and birch trees, sourced from specific plantations in South America and South Africa. With ink, there are a myriad of pigments which can contain heavy metals and evil binders. Ours were sourced from the most pure pigments with renewable binders.
*To be Home Compostable, all materials must break down to carbon-dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass at a rate consistent with known compostable materials, such as cellulose, and leave no toxic residue. To be truly compostable, the end result of the decomposition must be usable humus. The idea is like a forest floor- it never gets too hot, and it’s exposed to a varying range of moisture, temperature and microorganisms. In short, the conditions are varied which makes the process slower and more challenging.
What’s next? We will be launching our Home Compostable Rainbow Quinoa Pouch in the Fall of 2014 using a similar construction of materials to the Truffles.
Our ultimate goal? To ensure all our packaging, across our entire line of products, have as little impact as possible on the environment by achieving Home Compostable certification with OK Vincotte. It’s a long process involving lots of testing, but hey, we think it’s worth it!