What's Up, Joyce?
Okay... So, I've gotten several emails asking me, "Joyce, what's with all the social and environmental preaching?" Those of you who've known me for some time have probably never considered me to be very socially or environmentally active. I'll admit that while I've always practiced recycling, turning off the lights when I leave the room, and have just generally tried to be kind to people, I have never been very vocal about all this.
Birth of Max
Well folks, the birth of our son Max changed everything for me and put a lot of things into perspective.
As any of you parents out there know, there's nothing like having a child to get one thinking (and obsessing) about what kind of parent will I be, what kind of person will my child become, what values will I instill, and what kind of world will I pass on to him (or her). We worry about the world he'll grow up in, and in 20, 30, 40 years from now when he's an adult, we wonder what burden's will he carry that we left behind. Is he going to be proud of what his parents did, or will he look into our aging eyes and ask...
"What were you all thinking? - were you even thinking?!!"This really started to seep into everything I did both personally and professionally, and it eventually became the driving force in developing Coco-Zen's business philosophy.
On Being Planet & People Friendly
Fair Trade & Organic Chocolate
When I first decided to go into the chocolate biz, I did a lot research on cocoa and chocolate production, as I was going to have to source ingredients. While I figured that organic chocolate was a "no brainer", I was shocked to learn about the devastating impact that traditional cocoa farming has on the environment and the communities where most of the world's consumed cocoa is produced - we're talking child labor & slavery! This is how I came to discover Fair Trade chocolate. Check out our links to the left for more information on & Fair Trade.
Although it does cost a little bit more, I feel good about using only Fair Trade and organic chocolate in everything we make. I'm proud that ALL our items are Fair Trade Certified™ and that we promote Fair Trade in general. Besides, there's plenty of cheap chocolate out there, and as a die-hard chocoholic, is cheap chocolate what I really want to be selling??
Recyclable, Reusable & Biodegradable Packaging
Having spent a good part of my career in retail marketing, I thought that developing a product brand and it's packaging would be a cinch. Well, I've come to find that trying to be a "green" retailer is not that easy. There are very few resources for green packaging, especially when it comes to food-safe packaging.
So why the tin cans?? After days (and many late nights) of researching on the internet, I finally settled on using steel cans (better known as "tin" cans or "tins") to package our chocolates. Not only did I need something that was sturdy enough to protect our delicate truffles, but I wanted the container to be both reusable and recyclable - after all, reusing is the best form of recycling. So, why not use paper like most confectioners? Well, what most people don't realize is that paper cannot be recycled if it is soiled (contaminated) with food. Yup - all those pizza boxes and stained coffee cups you've been putting the recycle bin - NOT RECYCLABLE!! With steel, food just needs to be washed off before being recycled. Plus, steel can be recycled over and over indefinitely. Most other recyclable fibers can only go through the process a few times before becoming unusable.
As for the inner packaging (which does get soiled from the chocolates), we use candy cups, pads and sheet made from "glassine" paper which is 100% biodegradable. So you don't have to feel quite so guilty about throwing them away (or better yet, composting). We'll soon also be replacing our plastic bags (used in the Everyday Truffles tins) with biodegradable cellulose bags which biodegrade in 30 to 90 days in soil.
With regards to our printed materials, we now print only on 100% recycled paper. While most of our printed materials were already made of 100% recycled paper, our sticker labels were not (couldn't find a printer company that could do that). However, I've just redesigned our labels so that they are now paper "sleeves" (using recycled paper) that can be easily removed and recycled separately from the tins. We'll be debuting the new labels next month - keep an eye out!!
While I believe we've made a good start, I'm constantly on the look-out for new and better ways to keep our packaging as planet friendly as possible.
Daily Business Activities
Lastly, I try to be mindful of how daily business activities can affect the environment. Whether it's buying renewable energy to power up our business (see previous blog post), or limiting most business communication and documents to electronic format to avoid printing on paper, or just shutting down my computer each night, I try to always abide by Coco-Zen's planet & people friendly philosophy.
For those of you who wonder, yes, I do try to practice the same philosophy in my everyday life and that of my family. While I'm definitely no saint, I've gotten a lot better and more diligent at running a "greener" household - I'm really good at recycling now (my research has taught me a lot & I'll be posting tips on Coco-Zen's website); I buy organic and Fair Trade whenever possible; I bring my own reusable bags to grocery stores (Costco & Target, too, when I can remember); I've discovered and have been using flushable/biodigradable diapers for Max (check out www.GDiapers.com - they're the coolest).
I know these are just a few miniscule efforts in the grand scheme of things, but I figure every little bit helps. Hopefully, our son (and any future children my husband and I decide to have) will pick-up on these ideals and practices, and they will become just "normal" everyday habits.
So, There You Have It!
Although the original impetus for practicing and advocating social/environmental responsibility are based on somewhat selfish reasons (because of my son and not because I'm some social-environmental activist) I hope to contribute in some way to making this world of ours a better place for future generations. I've committed to running Coco-Zen as socially and environmentally friendly as possible, and I try to promote awareness wherever and whenever I can.
I hope this rather long blog post satisfies all you inquisitive folks out there. I love the questions and (most) of the comments we get, and I hope to share more of my thoughts & learnings as we continue along our chocolate journey.
Wishing you peace, love & chocolate!
Founder & Chocoholic