It’s no secret that we’re in the midst of a Food Tech boom. Companies are shipping perishable items all across the country, and one consumer complaint looms large: the amount of packaging required to protect all of that food. It’s a Catch-22 — the less packaging you use, the more you risk your food quality, resulting in disgruntled customers; on the other hand, the more packaging you use, the more annoyed your customers are about the waste.
By embracing biodegradable and recyclable packaging materials (and at times paying more for them on a per-unit basis), we’ve found the elusive magic bullet at Farmigo: food protection with less guilt.
Way back when, Farmigo orders arrived in bulk. Customers had to sort through and pick out what they’d ordered; it was clunky and time-consuming, and ended with loads of forgotten or misplaced items.
Next, we packed each member’s items into individual grocery bags, with refrigerated and frozen items in separate coolers. Better, but people still forgot items. Plus, the coolers posed a big logistical issue: they had to be stored for a week before they could be collected by our drivers again, and we had to spend lots of time cleaning them (often of forgotten and spoiled food items) for reuse.
Third time’s the charm? Not quite. We moved refrigerated items, like dairy, into the regular grocery bags in insulated sleeves, so members would only have to remember to get their frozen items from the coolers…but all of our cooler problems still remained a huge drain on resources, and we relied heavily on plastics.
All About Jute
We started exploring new materials, and stumbled onto TemperPack, a startup making fully compostable insulated padding out of upcycled jute fabric bags. Jute is a rapidly-growing plant that’s turned into everything from twine to carpets to coffee bean bags, and is naturally insulating. It’s also 100% biodegradable (and home compostable!).
This was the key. Over the next half-year, we co-developed custom insulated bags for our refrigerated and frozen items. Now, members receive their entire order packed ready to go — no more coolers, no more forgotten items, no more wasted labor, no more unnecessary truck trips spent collecting returned materials.
The shift to a more sustainable material let use reduce Farmigo operational costs by 3%, freeing up resources and savings we can pass along to you! Our warehouse team was able to transform how and when bags are packed, reducing mistakes and delays. Plus, everything is responsibly manufactured, and at the end of their lifecycle these materials don’t spend eons in the landfill. Major win-win.
But what about the ice packs?
Too many ice packs gets annoying fast, no matter how often you use them. We’ve heard you, and so we’ve just introduced an optional ice pack return program: if your Organizer is participating, bring your thawed packs to your pick-up spot to return. Just thaw and dry them off first! It makes reusing them way easier and more efficient.
If you can’t or don’t want to return them, the gel inside is made of water and Sodium Polyacrylate. In other words, it’s 100% water soluble and entirely non-toxic. Thaw, cut open, and pour down the drain or the toilet (or housing with older plumbing, we recommend the toilet). Try and avoid direct contact with the gel — it’s completely safe, but can cause very minor skin irritation. When you’re done, you can recycle the casing! Check your local grocery stores for plastic film recycling bins.
Tip: For any home gardeners out there, spread the gel in your garden to give a little moisture to your soil. You can also donate your cleaned ice packs! We’ve had Organizers set up donation programs with local food banks and meal delivery programs, boys and girls clubs, and medical institutions.
A Work in Progress
Having compostable and recyclable packaging may be a huge step in the right direction, but we know it’s not perfect. Many of our customers don’t have access to composting options, and would prefer reusable materials. We’re constantly thinking about ways to reduce our packaging while ensuring food integrity, and we’re nowhere near finished.
While we continue to grow, find new innovative partners, and iron out the kinks of startup life, we appreciate your patience and creativity. We’ve seen members and Organizers turn used packaging into planters, pet beds, and art projects, so keep up the good work!
Note: Our packaging partner, TemperPack, has developed an entirely new product line as a result of our partnership! They’re now selling the insulated sleeves to other food companies and progressing the conversation beyond how we protect food to how we protect food responsibly. As convenient options for food procurement and delivery grow, it’s critical that we think about the environmental impact of our behaviors. As a Certified B Corp, Farmigo plans to continue progressing the conversation forward, and demanding solutions that not only work for our business, but our planet.