When our favorite visual artist, Caro Arevalo, blessed the walls of our Kingston shop with her exquisite art, it became evident that our packaging also needed a facelift. We are proud to announce the release of the beautiful new Element Blends packaging featuring Caro’s hand-drawn artwork and perfected experiential elements for your Cacao journey. It has been a joyous process for our creative team here at Cacao Lab, and we hope to stay with this iteration of packaging for the foreseeable future. This process, however, led us to reconsidering how we do everything.
Sustainability Options: the okay, the bad, and the ugly
Sustainability is a key goal of most socially-aligned enterprises like ours. However, the concept of packaging sustainability is a murky one, as many options deemed “sustainable” often merely appear so. The term is “green washing,” and you likely are familiar with it. With our Cacao, verifying sustainability practices is simple: we are involved at every step of production. With packaging, our size means we cannot produce our own packaging—yet.
When exploring options for more sustainable packaging, our research left us in a similar position as we would be in the voting booth during a US election: we were left to choose between the lesser of two evils. On the one hand, we have recyclable bags which need to be thoroughly washed, and most recycling plants don’t have this capacity. Most of the time, they end up in the trash. On the other hand, we have compostable plastics which require collection at industrial composting facilities, which are also scarce. One packaging representative told me that even if these options were environmentally friendly as we would like to believe they are, there is not enough supply to satisfy consumer demand should some of the big brands decide to make the shift (which is scary for us small brands who would likely get pushed aside if supply dwindled).
Exploring Alternatives: looking past packaging
Enlightened to these facts, we expanded our view on sustainability to look for other places in our operation that we could cut down on waste. When planning this year’s production, it became evident we would need over 600 lbs. of plastic to package our products. To combat this, we’ve staggered our buying, only procuring ⅓ of the Cacao we normally would at a time. This has bought us a little time to roll out more sustainable delivery options, as we increase our localized partner network. We’ve also created low-packaging bulk options for our wholesale partners, and as the orders get bigger, the sustainability factor grows (more Cacao per ounce of packaging). It is our future goal that 30% of our products are delivered in low-packaging formats.
We also have a couple of programs that are in the pilot phase, currently. You may have noticed that we’ve broadened our line of ceremonial Cacao tins. Besides being incredibly easy to use in your morning ritual, there is a deeper aspiration for these tins. They are entirely recyclable when you’re done with them, but our hope is that you will keep reusing them. One of the programs we are pilot testing at our Kinston shop offers customers a discount for bringing their own container to refill their Cacao. The goal is to continue to open Cacao refill locations in more places or to partner with other brands and businesses that would like to offer this service. By decentralizing our delivery network, we can really make headway on our sustainability goals. Less packaging to location, less delivery emissions per pound of Cacao, and no new packaging for you to take home your fresh Cacao!