May 9, 2021 by Mel Saunders
Steps Towards Sustainability
Sustainability has been on my mind a bit more than usual lately, as I’m sure it has for a lot of us. I like to think of myself as an environmentalist; over the last few years I’ve learned a lot and made many changes both personally (going veggie then vegan) and in our home (composting, for example) as a result of what I’ve learned.
As I’m sure happens to many of us, I sometimes have waves of laziness or feelings of “what’s the point, when Amazon exists?!” but in general, I feel like I’m a fairly eco-conscious individual, and that’s been reflected in how I choose to run my business (you can read about some of my eco-friendly practices here)
Then, as I was unwrapping many Mars bars to make my Mars Brownies, the irony somewhat slapped me in the face. I may ensure my packaging is lovely and plastic-free and recyclable, and get several of my ingredients from the local farm or refill shops, but there’s an Awful Lot More I could be doing. So I decided to commit to paper (metaphorically speaking, as we’re online) a few areas in which I can improve, to hold myself to some accountability:
Move my flavours over to more natural/homemade ideas, and cut down on the palm-oil-filled, plastic-wrapped chocolate bars and biscuits. For example, having “Mars-inspired” brownies instead of using the actual thing. How hard can nougat be to make?? (I’ll get back to you on that one).
Include more vegan products. I’ve been a bit shy about this, because I started the business before becoming vegan myself, and I haven’t wanted to alienate my current customers. I know my vegan products are just as good as (if not better than!) the “normal” options - because I’ve made damn sure they are - but the fact is an awful lot of omnivores automatically don’t try the vegan option, thinking it’s not for them. So this becomes a difficult business vs ethics decision; I feel hypocritical making money from products containing animal ingredients when I’ve made the choice not to eat them myself, but am not quite ready (and don’t feel I have the customer base/all-round vegan baking skills) to fully move over to being a 100% vegan bakery. There’s also a part of me that feels that continuing to provide both options is a great way to get people who may not have considered trying vegan products to give them a bash, and realize that they’re just as bloomin' delicious as everything I bake!
Investigate our energy suppliers and switch to green energy. This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while, and for whatever reason, just haven’t. Partly out of apprehension of it being more expensive and having to try and justify the extra cost to Mr Birdsong, and partly just because I hate life admin and am an excellent procrastinator! But neither is really an excuse, so on my to-do list it goes because it’s one of the most important ways to make an impact.
Measure and look at ways to reduce my water use. As you can imagine, baking days use an eye-popping amount of water - washing up between each batch, washing my hands approx. every 30 seconds, and often having to run the dishwasher at least twice! Now, this is all absolutely necessary in the running of a hygienic bakery, where I have to reuse equipment because I don’t have six of everything. However, I’m sure there are ways to cut this down so I plan to run some experiments, starting with measuring what I actually use so I have a starting point to work from.
It’s a fine line between thinking “I’m a tiny business, I can only do so much and I’m doing my best” and “I’m already doing [insert token gesture here] so I don’t need to bother doing anything else”. It’s really easy to feel guilty about everything I’m not doing. None of us can be perfect, but if I’m talking the talk I need to make sure I’m also walking the walk as much as I can. It’s up to me (well, all of us really, this doesn’t just apply to businesses!) to continue exploring ways in which I can do better.
Because we all need to; there is no Planet B.
Full disclosure - I am currently managing around 95% vegan personally. I still have to taste test my new products and also sometimes the leftovers are just too tasty to resist!