Our packaging predicament
One of our obsessions at Our perfect Farm is values consistency. One manifestation of that, consistent with our obsession with delicious food and happy pigs, is increasing our use of renewable resources.
We work to make each part of our food production renewable. We use hay mulches in the place of plastic ground cover, plant rotationally to build soil nutrients and quality, graze rotationally to amend the soil with birds, pigs, and cover-crops. Instead of a gasoline-tractor, we’re using labor, and instead of a combine, we’re using… more labor.
When it comes time to package all these delicious things we grow, we find ourselves facing a mountain of plastic options. We find the same options you see in your local grocery store: a familiar mix of shiny plastic clamshells, plastic clips, and shrink wrap options for individual vegetables. Then there’s tape to secure the boxes, and twist ties and rubber bands to close bags. Plastic, plastic, and more plastic. Even recyclable labels are almost always on a backing that is not recyclable. Some of that plastic seems nearly unavoidable. The Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration regulate food packaging. The rules require non-permeable barriers that are either sanitized or single use.
As I was exploring food packaging options, I remember thinking that even if we used a wax coated box (the most common organic farm solution) again and again, it is still not recyclable, not reliably compostable, AND we would still have to line the box with something like a plastic bag. 😬
And then there’s politics. The companies that provide most food packaging options, including recycled, recyclable, and compostable options hate our family and invest in social policies that weaponize that hatred. Not only does it matter what materials, it matters what the company does with the money we give them.
The right packaging materials for us are sustainable. As much as possible, they are 100% recycled and 100% recyclable. We want labels with recyclable backing, compostable twine, and cellulose tape. If we have to have disposable linings they have to be compostable. And it all has to come from a company who uses the money we, and our customers and community, invest in their products to do good in the world.
As it turns out, this is a startlingly high bar.
After a lot of research, we made the joyous discovery of a few companies that are making exciting products from renewable materials.
We ordered the elusive recyclable labels from EcoEnclose and 100% recyclable, 100% recycled boxes from Pratt Plus. These options cost more money than some others, but that cost is more palatable than the environmental and social costs of the other options we found.
Our approach isn’t perfect yet. Or maybe the approach is perfect even if we still have a ways to go for outcomes, maybe it’s exactly the kind of perfect we’re interested in at Our perfect Farm.