We All Love—and Need—Our Home

Earthbound Farm believes in sustainable practices that protect the home we all share: Planet Earth. With noble intentions, sustainability is a widely used word without a consistent definition. Here at Earthbound Farm, sustainability starts with certified organic farming and processing practices. But it doesn’t stop there.

Reducing Waste & Feeding Our Communities

In the produce world, the unfortunate reality of dealing with highly perishable food is that a portion of what we make will never see store shelves. There are a variety of reasons for this, ranging from the inherent by-product of harvesting and cutting our greens and vegetables, to produce that doesn’t meet our high quality standards, to finished product that expires before we can sell it. However, at Earthbound Farm, we are creative problem-solvers, with the environment and our communities in mind. Learn more below as to what we due to minimize waste the best we can.

When we harvest produce, despite our best efforts, not everything makes it into our collection bins. Fortunately, as organic farmers, we know how to take what’s left behind and reuse it to keep our soils healthy. After a harvest, we leave the excess greens right where they land in the field, so they start to deteriorate on the top of the soil bed. Then, when the crew is done harvesting the field, we run tractors through and mix it all back in, which, literally, helps to feed organic matter and nutrients to the soil, naturally. This is a vital part of how we continue to build the fertility and structure of our soils, which is critical to growing the highest quality produce. Learn more about the importance of soil health in organic production.

Once our raw greens make it to our manufacturing facility for washing and packaging, there are several reasons why we may end up with waste including receiving, manufacturing, and packaging. Waste can include raw or finished product that doesn’t meet our stringent quality standards; “culls,” which result from trimming romaine to make it consumer-ready; leaves and other debris that may simply fall to the wayside during their journey through the plant; or, finished product that is approaching or has surpassed its use-by dates. How the waste is handled depends on the kind of waste:

  • Recycled for Use in Animal Feed – All of the safe, organic material we recover that would otherwise be composted is donated to for use in animal feed, including radicchio cores.
  • Donated – While we try to balance our supply and demand as accurately as possible, it is an imperfect science, and sometimes we end up with a surplus of finished product due to its extreme perishability. For example, if the timing and quantities of customer orders are such that we have to hold product until too close to or past its sell-by date, we cannot ship it. (By the time it arrives and is on-shelf for consumer purchase, it will not meet our quality specifications.) However, the product is still perfectly edible if it doesn’t have to travel so far. So we donate this product to local food banks so they can provide fresh produce to the families they serve.

You Wish Our Packages Weren’t Plastic. We do, too.

Like you, we are legitimately concerned about the proliferation of plastic and its impact on our planet. That’s why we are always searching for better options. Why do we even use any plastic? Based on what is available today, plastic is the only material that will:

  • Protect freshness and prevent cross contamination
  • Protect (in the case of the box) delicate greens from bruising and crushing
  • Offer visibility to the product so shoppers can evaluate quality and freshness in the store

Let’s start by talking about the two different types of packaging we use: bags or wraps made of plastic film and our rigid plastic boxes, which are called ‘clamshells’ in the produce industry. If you look strictly at the weight of material being used, then you’d think the film bags are a better option because they weigh less which means they’re using less plastic. That’s not necessarily so.

We use no virgin plastic to make our plastic boxes. Ten years ago, as we carefully evaluated the lifecycles of packaging materials, looking for the most ecological options available, our research pointed to 100% post-consumer recycled plastic. And that’s what our clamshell boxes are made from – mostly beverage bottles and other #1 PETE plastic that has been used and recycled. So rather than adding to the plastic burden on the planet, we’re using plastic that’s already here and making it into something else useful, keeping it out of landfills and, more importantly, out of the ocean and other parts of the environment. Bonus – production of post-consumer recycled plastic requires significantly less energy and water than virgin plastic.

FAST FACTMaking our clamshell packages from 100% Post-Consumer Recycled PET (PCR PET) creates a market for recycled beverage bottles, keeping about 40 million pounds of plastic out of landfills every year.

Although #1 PETE is the most widely recycled plastic, we understand that thermoformed plastics (like our clamshell boxes) are not always recyclable – it depends on your local recyclers. But many places do recycle them and in that case, they may come back to us as recycled material that can be used to make more boxes. If more of us who use plastic switched to post-consumer recycled plastic, there would be a stronger market for recycled PETE and much less of it in landfills and oceans.

Our film wraps and bags, while using much less material, are all made from virgin plastic because there isn’t a source for post-consumer recycled film that works for our products. Yet. That’s something we’re working on, too.

But, we know that’s not enough. We’d love nothing better than to jettison plastic from our supply chain and we’re working on it. We hear you. We’re concerned, too. We hope it matters that we’re constantly seeking alternate materials to meet the needs of our products, our retail customers, and consumers.