Our culture loves all things delivered.  But this comes at a cost.  The cardboard boxes and plastic waste are piling up, putting a strain on landfills and recycling centers around the world. Forbes reported that roughly 165 billion cardboard packages are shipped in the U.S. each year, which equates to more than 1 billion trees.  Our obsession with convenience has consequences whether we see them or not.

[photo: NBC News]
Equally devastating is the rapidly growing mountain of meal-kit ice packs.  One of the leading meal kit companies alone sends out roughly 192,000 tons of freezer-pack waste every year.  According to Mother Jones, that’s the weight of nearly 100,000 cars or 2 million adult men.  Meanwhile they suggest you keep them to chill your beer this summer….really? I don’t think Marie Kondo would approve of a freezer full of nordic gel packs accumulating weeks over end.   

We believe, however, that the solution is simple.  We reuse our packaging. Each week, our customers’ old baskets, ice packs, and insulating foil are picked up on delivery, then washed and reused to reduce waste.  With the core principle of reuse, Patagonia says, “As individual consumers, the single best thing we can do for the planet is to keep our stuff in use longer.”  It would be a contradiction if we advocate for sustainable agriculture and reducing food waste while filling landfills with single use packaging.  So we choose to ‘keep our stuff in use longer’.

[photo: FH Customer]
When we started in 2012, with reusable totes, we envied the marketing appeal of cardboard boxes.  They were an inexpensive four-sided canvas, perfect for clever branding that looked hip and professional. Our tan totes, by comparison, felt like the generic Tupperware you bring your lunch to work in every day.  But we were delivering to the same houses in Metro Atlanta each week in our refrigerated trucks – rather than shipping around the country – so the opportunity for waste reducing, cost saving, and reusable packaging prevailed over glamorous marketing.

The recent picture below, for example, is of a basket with our original (not glamorous) logo – proving it’s been in circulation for 7 years and reused at least 364 times.  That’s 364 freezer packs, insulating foils, and cardboard boxes NOT filling a landfill.  And that’s just the impact of one customer!  Multiply that thousands of times over, year after year, and our community’s waste reduction in Atlanta becomes significant.

[Original Logo: 7 Year Old Basket]
It’s certainly worth noting that Fresh Harvest is not perfect.  We can get better and so can our customers.  For now we still utilize plastic in the form of lettuce bags or clamshells for berries (some are compostable). We are currently testing compostable baggies to eventually reduce plastic waste to zero.  As for our customers, we love you guys, but this entire model falls apart if baskets are not returned. Fresh Harvest was losing around 20,000 dollars-worth of reusable baskets per year.  Thankfully, in mid 2018, we had a design workshop with 50+ FH customers focused on solving this particular issue and those numbers have improved dramatically since then.  Trashing your packaging is more convenient than remembering to put it out on delivery day.  But it has serious consequences.  Our customers, however, are participating in a system where their convenience (home delivery), is actually contributing to a cleaner planet.

[photo: FH customer]