Can you hear that rustle in the leaves? Can you feel a ruffle on your cheeks? It’s the winds of change, people. Oh, they are a-blowing. And with change, comes many questions.
You may have noticed that we merrily rabbit on about happier, more sustainable ways to enjoy food and drink. At the same time, we beaver away on a bunch of juicy organic projects, but we don't always talk about them.
So here’s a jamboree of currant eco-adventures:
On the road again
- In our never ending quest to perfect the most sustainable delivery model, we’re trialing alternative fuels. In September a handful of our vans will run on CNG (compressed natural gas) made from food waste. Now, of course, we’re very careful about how we work so we have as little food waste as possible. We never send any food to landfill and leftovers go to charity. Anything not fit for eating now goes to make CNG. And we’ll be using that CNG fuel later this year. It’s closing the loop on our food waste, which makes us do a happy dance every time we think about it.
- Our uniquely designed delivery routes are already considerably better for the environment. We visit about 80 homes a day and a back of an envelope estimate reckons that you’d need at least double the amount of supermarket delivery vans to make the same amount of deliveries.
- We jiggle our delivery routes every day to make sure we’re only using fuel when we absolutely need to. (Good things really do come to those who don’t wait in!)
- An American study found that ‘grocery delivery trucks emitted between 20% and 75% less carbon dioxide per customer on average than passenger vehicles driving to the stores around Seattle, but only if grocery stores could choose drop-off times and optimise delivery routes. When customers choose, the carbon savings are significantly smaller.’
- We never air freight anything and haven’t for 30 years. Air freighting uses a hundred times as much energy as ships. We’ve always thought it was a bit of a bonkers way to get food from A to you. We support far flung communities in other ways, and food from far away comes by sea and land.
- As part of the Clean Van Commitment, we’ve pledged to have zero emission vans in cities by 2028.
Pack it up, pack it in
Ideally, we’d scrap plastic tomorrow and deliver everything loose in bags made from seaweed gel and rainbows. Thing is, we rely on packaging to keep everyone safe and healthy.
Like a well-rounded meal, Abel & Cole is a holistic system founded on sustainable principles – from delivery design to food waste via everything in between. We may not be dropping off your pasta in a refillable jar just yet, but the way we do our everything is healthier and happier. We consider the impact of every element of business, from how the farmers and makers grow, package and transport their gorgeous food, to having trained mental health first aiders in our office. We’re a B Corp™, too, and proud to be part of that super sustainable community.
However, we’re actively reviewing our plastic use and making changes where possible – taking time to make properly good decisions.
We aim to only use plastic when we need it – to keep food fresh and everyone safe and healthy – and our aim is that it is recycled, recyclable or compostable.
We’re reviewing our current packaging target, which is for all our packaging to be recyclable or compostable by 2025. We know it should be far more ambitious, which is ambitious. But who doesn’t love a mountain to climb and a purpose to fuel the trip?
Fruit & veg boxes
- Our boxes are returnable, reusable and recyclable. We’ve saved well over 60 million plastic bags by using boxes instead.
- This summer our lettuces will be protected by a home compostable bag – a new trial which we can then rollo losso out to other leafy veg
- We’ve switched plastic punnets to card (for fruit and veg that needs a bit of protection from the bigger kids). Please recycle or return them.
- The most delicate soft fruit needs more protection so this summer our strawberries and raspberries will come in a card punnet with a plastic film lid. By next year that film lid will be biodegradable.
- Card or paper dries some stuff out (like mushrooms and leaves) so we use some recyclable plastic. You can return all of it to us.
- We have over two thirds less plastic packaging in our weekly veg boxes compared to a supermarket organic shop.
- About 75% of boxes are returned to us, and one box can be used up to eight times. Please do remember to leave your boxes out for your driver.
- We’ve invented a better system to look after the boxes when we collect then, so we can reuse them even more. It's early days - but initial findings are positive.
- We reuse 80% of our fabulous Woolcool© insulation and any that gets damaged goes back to Woolcool© for cleaning and reuse, therefore closing the woolly loop-de-loop.
- Most of our packaging is already recycled, recyclable and/or compostable. Like BioD and Court Lodge who use 100% post-consumer waste (recycled plastic) to make their bottles, which you can then recycle in your curb side collection.
- We’re working our organc derrières off to make everything reusable or recyclable:
- Fish trays are recyclable, please wash them first.
- As you may know, black trays are not collected by most boroughs and councils, so we’ve encouraged farmers to switch to clear trays. Seasonal game is the only thing in our shop that still comes in black trays and they’re just using up the last few packs then switching to clear PET plastic.
- Currently unrecyclable packaging includes meat vac pack bags (all the trays are recyclable – but please wash them first) and bags for grains, nuts and seeds – this isn’t good enough we know and we hope to have alternatives very soon. In the meantime you can turn them into ecobricks.
- Milk bottles make up 40% of the plastic we use. Wait! Hold up! It’s udder control (oh good grief). The bottles are already 30% recycled and we're working to make that 100% recycled. We’re also working with a research team to analyse the impact of alternatives like glass.
We’re busy bees, believe. We know you rely on us to offer the most sustainable and ethical options and we’re working hard over the summer to review and research fab new ways to do what we do, but better.