The environmental impacts of producing plant-based meals
The sole reason we decided to make the leap from being a restaurant to launching a product range was to share our delicious vegan recipes with a wider population. More people = more plant-based food consumed = bigger positive impact on the planet.
But when we were first thinking it all through, there was one consideration we were particularly concerned about...
Could it cause negative impacts on the environment (waste, energy, transportation) that outweigh the positives (less water, reduced carbon emissions, no deforestation)?
After researching the matter, we discovered that the short answer is yes, it could. But, as we learned, it definitely doesn’t have to.
There are 3 main areas where this can happen:
- Waste - from cooking at scale
- Waste - from our packaging
We’re on a never-ending journey to learn about these issues and improve as the options develop to support us and in turn, helping protect our planet. We’re not perfect and we will no doubt make mistakes, but for a young company with minimal funding we’re already making great strides in the right direction.
Waste from cooking
To ensure that not a single scrap goes to landfill, any waste from our cooking process goes to a renewable energy plant, where it’s turned into biofuel. Through this we get biopower, a form of green energy that does not depend on the elements, allowing for environmentally conscious power as and when required.
The service we use diverts waste away from landfill, instead putting it to use in the form of mechanical treatment (separating and categorising each material), anaerobic digestion (breaking down organic waste to form biogas or biofertiliser) and energy from waste (creating power through combustion).
At the other end of the chain, we have the possibility of food waste either in store or in your home after you’ve bought it. However, we have practically removed this issue all together by freezing our meals on production.
UK consumers dispose of roughly 33% of the food that they purchase. By cutting out these habits we could have the same incredible effect on carbon emission reduction as removing 20% of the nation’s cars off the road. Choosing frozen food would reduce food wastage dramatically due to a longer shelf life, as well as guaranteeing greater levels of freshness.
Waste from packaging
Ah the mine-scattered land of product packaging! Is plastic the devil? Is glass actually worse than plastic? Is ‘compostable’ or ‘biodegradable’ any good if we don’t have the facilities nearby the deal with them? Why aren’t there more sustainable solutions? It’s a never-ending debate that we’re still in the very early stages of.
The short answer here is that as yet, there are no perfect solutions. This means you have to 1. Choose something that you believe to cause as little impact as possible and 2. Keep your eye on developments and be ready to switch packaging as new, improved options appear.
This latter point has led to us having 2 new packaging designs in 18 months.
Our standpoint is simple: staying in the loop is the best thing we can do for our planet right now.
Our number one rule is that we use no material that can’t be recycled. In addition to this, we ideally also use recycled materials over raw, and ones that are light to move around (less transport emissions) and easier to recycle (less energy and water required in the process).
It’s a widely known fact that the transport industry is one of the main contributors to climate change. So, wouldn’t delivering lots of individual meals to people at home increase this negative impact?
Thankfully, there are courier services out there that have this at the forefront of their minds too. Which is why we chose DPD as our delivery partner due to their ongoing commitment to running a carbon neutral delivery service.
What is carbon neutral delivery?
Carbon neutral delivery means reducing CO2 emissions as much as possible and offsetting the rest.
DPD’s reporting on their CO2 emissions has been externally audited since 2012. They continuously measure their emissions, make improvements to reduce them and offset the rest. Reduction strategies include optimised routes and constantly increasing the number of alternative energy vehicles in their fleet.
To offset their remaining transport emissions, DPD finance renewable and cleaner energy production projects by purchasing carbon credits. Together with EcoAct, the European leader in the Carbon Market. They have an offsetting programme that complies with the most rigorous international standards.
Putting sustainable practices in place isn’t a one-time exercise. It’s an ongoing process and is always at the forefront of our minds. What’s great to see is that the more us little fish do to demand better solutions, the more the big boys take action. So remember that if you ever wonder if your actions make a difference… because they certainly do!