Boulder County food producers are taking the lead in a new line of attack against waste. Their approach will be new as they’re looking at pollution reduction through packaging that will be supported, in part, by a $100,000 Boulder County grant.
“As far as I know, this is the first EPS Pollution Prevention grant program that focuses on addressing issues in the supply chain for food and beverage industries,” said Tim Broderick, Senior Sustainability Strategist for Boulder County. “We’re looking beyond the end-of-life diversion to the landfill. We want to collaborate with companies and look at how products are designed.”
The hospitality business responded with enthusiasm. “We received more than 30 applicants from eligible companies. They had so many great ideas that we enlarged our participant spots from 3 to 5,” said Broderick. Even the county contributed an extra $5,000 to accommodate the larger capacity.
Future Fit Foods (FIF) of Longmont and Boulder is one of these eager participants. Co-founder Paloma Lopes, formerly the Sustainability Director for Kellogg, said her company is focused on creating a new generation of nutrient-dense, affordable, and plant-based convenience foods for consumers. Their products aim to be even better-made than the food has been in the past.
Lopes shared that the company is using the grant money to evolve packaging for its Suppas line of products. These nutrition-packed, wholesome soups are made for people to pack and take with them on the road, or to cook in their own kitchens. While the product is top line, company management felt the packaging could be improved by making it easier to compost.
“We’re looking really hard at the best possible packaging. We want something that’s easier to compost so we’re looking at replacing the corrugated box with a reusable sleeve,” said Lopes. The new sleeve is reusable more than once, and Lopes claims it can be used as many as 20 times. With that usage, it’s been shown to reduce carbon emissions by 80% versus using cardboard.
Confirming the packaging that works best and determining how to implement the change takes research, planning, and time. The same research is also used by The Tea Spot, an online tea retailer with a Louisville warehouse. The retailer has been in business since 2004.
Anna Brumbaugh, sourcing and customs project manager, discussed the company’s status as a B Corp and the fact that it donates 10 percent of revenue to wellness initiatives. “It was a natural transition for us to focus on our impact,” said Brumbaugh. She explained that management was already looking to improve its packaging but had to consider how their tea is shipped and that some of it is meant to be aged, but still needed to retain its flavor profile.
“We needed something with good integrity,” Brumbaugh said. “Ultimately, we chose a compostable stand-up pouch that has our tea sachets in it. We’re now looking for material to overwrap the tea satchel.” She is particularly grateful to participate because of her roots. “I grew up in Boulder. I was born and raised here, I was an ‘Eco Elf’ in first grade. I know this community provides the perfect environment to have an initiative like this.”
Lopes agreed, “We could have founded our business anywhere, but we chose Boulder County because the collaborative nature of this food ecosystem in Boulder is hard to beat. This area has led a movement in natural foods and recycling. It’s great to see that we’re not just stopping there and that there is an appetite in our community to pursue superior, long-term, circular packaging solutions like reusability and compostability.”
Ideally, this program will do more than reduce waste as it deters trash from entering the landfill. Its carbon-positive behavioral footprint will be bigger, setting a pattern for other innovative endeavors going forward. “In the end, we’d even like to make a replicable program that goes beyond packaging,” said Broderick. “We’d love to see what this community can do.”