We recently teamed up with Tyndall Sustainability, named after John Tyndall who discovered the Greenhouse effect in 1859. No, that’s not a typo. 1859. We wanted to take an evidence-based look at the total Greenhouse gas emissions related to our products. We know we’re doing our best on packaging by promoting Circular Economies and local products but farming, processing and transportation have environmental implications too and it was largely those that we wanted to be helped to think more on. Below are a few talking points!
DRIED FRUIT IS A HOTSPOT
The processing of dried fruit is intensive where not naturally sun dried. I have asked (30th September 2020) our suppliers whether the various dried fruits we sell are naturally or machine-dried. To make 1kg of dried fruit it takes a disproportionate amount of fresh fruits compared to the relative reduction in consumption. 1kg of dried apples requires 5.65kg of fresh apples. With most of the water removed it would make sense in terms of a customer’s spend, and their nutritional intake (most notably sugar), to eat less dried fruit per sitting than you would fresh fruit. This would save money and emissions, so long as the fresh fruit alternative had not been air freighted in! Buy fruit that’s in-season here now and freeze it for winter?). It could also aid health; I think dried fruit is healthy when eaten in moderation and hope that the 1 : 5.65 ratio is of help, though that is the extreme example. From an emissions perspective dates are the best. Mango the worst.
WHAT > WHERE!
Tyndall Sustainability only studied 103 of our products, not including the honey and apple juice etc. that we get from Bristol, but they made a valid point with respect to transportation implications vs. farming methods (though you’ll read below that there are caveats to be made to the agricultural inputs analysis). An average transportation of goods within the UK produces 0.023 Kg CO2e. Items coming from far away (sour cherries from Uzbekistan) incur 0.41 Kg CO2e. Compare this with the agricultural inputs of mango 5.829 Kg CO2e and the transportation is a comparative slither of the total. If mango were viable to be farmed in the UK the results would be similar. Location matters but it’s not the biggest contributor.
After delegating to the scientists, and asking for an evidence based review, I still saw fit to contest the agricultural inputs findings. My main contention related to the following:
Within this assessment, meta-analysis and specific Life Cycle Assessments were researched comparing conventional and organic approaches, yielding little tangible evidence to alter organic figures.
How could organic farming methods not result in significantly less greenhouse gas emissions? The report suggests that it’s not certain that they don’t, but that there’s currently minimal evidence that they do. When I questioned how organic methods could possibly be as bad at producing greenhouse gas emissions the response was that ‘soil needs different minerals to thrive and produce good product. To get this you need to have some sort of fertiliser to keep the soil producing, and both release similar levels of emissions’. I responded with ‘Obviously we’re not comparing the non-organic farming with the idealistic version of organic farming, where crops are rotated and nitrogen-fixing plants are permitted time to grow and die and fertilise the soil naturally between harvests, and where fallow years are incorporated. We’re talking about industrial farming and therefore monoculture farming whether organic or non. Still, and sorry to labour the point because you’re the one with the expertise, but it’s surprising that manure, which is a natural by-product which can presumably be found locally, is as co2-causing as NPK which requires manufacture and, in most cases, greater transportation.’
Anyway, we wait on the science to prove organic farming to be beneficial in terms of lower emissions as well as its positive effects on biodiversity, soil degradation, flood and drought prevention, human health, and pollution of the water courses. And not only do we need to convert to organic farming to a greater extent than a measly 2% but, in a lot of cases, we need to do it better. On this topic, a good film to watch is Kiss The Ground which was released on Netflix Sep ’20.
It may be obvious by now but to stress that the numbers within the report are largely based on non-organic farming techniques when most of what we sell, by weight at least, is organic. That I find it surprising that there's little differential in organic and non-organic farming techniques with respect to emissions, and that I expect further research to prove differently, won't stop me taking the results seriously as, having read the methodology and caveats, I still think they're a good guide. Meanwhile, Tyndall Sustainability are continually reviewing contemporary research.
When you next visit please feel free to quiz us on this stuff, we’ll have the report and data table that Tyndall Sustainability produced to hand.
Smaller Footprints’ packaging footprint is remarkably small. Summated across all 103 products analysed the total CO2e amounts to 1.38% of the total CO2e breakdown. In context, Tesco’s latest report outlines their packaging contribution to be 7% of their carbon footprint.
Tesco are the best supermarket for reporting such figures so I suggest there's a good chance they're most motivated to have their figure low. You can help us reduce our packaging further by supporting the suppliers who have implemented Circular Economies (no recycling required). They collect up empty containers to refill as they make deliveries:
Cleaning Products from SESI (Sustainable Ethical Supplies Initiative)
- Washing-Up Liquid
- Laundry Liquid
- Laundry Powder
- Fabric Conditioner
- Dishwasher Powder
- Multi-Surface Spray
- Toilet Cleaner
- Rinse Aid
- White Vinegar
- Cream Cleaner
- Glass Cleaner
- Hand Delicate Laundry Liquid
- WHO-approved Hand Sanitiser
- Bodywash (soon)
Shampoo and conditioner from Suma
Body lotion by Bramley
Fab Fudge from Westbury-on-Trym
- Pecan & Maple
- Rocky Road
Chocbox by Greg
- Salted Caramel pieces
- Dark Chocolate pieces
- Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans
- Ethiopian Lekempte
- Honduran Octopeque
Apple Cider Vinegar
Loose teas had a Circular Economy, before covid-19
Herbs & Spices (as of November ’20) from Rupa Spices, a start-up in Clifton
- Cardamom Pods
- Garam Masala
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS PROMPTED BY THE DATA
Pearl Barley: from Scotland and low overall emissions. Not far behind are quinoa, polenta and lentils, all of which win-out against rice and pasta! Eek!
Hazelnuts and peanuts appear better environmentally than almonds (we’re trying to find a European supplier of organic almonds), nut butters or anything processed such as them having been roasted and salted.
Groundnut oil takes a lot of processing / extracting and it’s the only oil that we don’t have a circular economy for (we do for Olive, Rapeseed, and Sunflower). We’ll stop selling groundnut oil.
Dates, raisins, sultanas, blueberries, sour cherries (despite a trek), and currants are the best of the dried fruit. Mango the worst, followed by apple ring and prunes.
I intend to have the product data applied against sales figures to ascertain an overall emissions figure for Smaller Footprints' operations, and then "offset" that, backdated to 01 November 2018.
Me (Grant) alongside Ben from Tyndall Sustainability.