By Tristan Woodsmith
Sustainability has always been among our core values at Fungi Perfecti and Host Defense. As our production and operations expanded – or rather, “mushroomed” – so has our environmental footprint, and the need to formalize our commitment to sustainability. In 2018 we established a Sustainability Committee. Comprised of an interdepartmental team of passionate individuals, this committee manages sustainability efforts by carefully assessing the environmental impact of our activities, identifying opportunities for improvement, and determining the most impactful areas of action. One of the main goals of the Sustainability Committee is to ensure that broader principles of sustainability are being incorporated into our everyday decisions. This "sustainabili-team" is developing practical standards and metrics to help apply these principles throughout the company and promoting an ambitious, long-term sustainability strategy.
As a result of the efforts by this dedicated team, we have committed to not only being carbon neutral, but climate positive! What does climate positive mean? For us that means, first and foremost, establishing a baseline and actively reducing our carbon footprint. By adopting efficiency measures, we made significant progress toward carbon neutrality. Then, we took it a step further by sponsoring offset projects that actively reduce carbon emissions, establish carbon-sequestering forests, and help improve the lives of people living in poverty in the process. Between our internal emissions reductions and the carbon-offsetting projects we’ve sponsored, we have gone beyond achieving net zero carbon emissions to eliminate additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This is climate positive. Many choose to offset an additional 10% beyond carbon neutral, but for us that was just not enough. We’re proud to say that as of 2020, Fungi Perfecti and Host Defense are climate positive, offsetting more than 10 times our baseline emissions: >10X CLIMATE POSITIVE
Setting a Baseline
So, how do we measure becoming “climate positive”? It starts with setting a baseline. Before we can determine where we need to go, we must first figure out where we are. We began by conducting a thorough assessment of our carbon emissions for 2018. This “baseline year” gives us a starting point so that we can track future progress by direct comparison, quantify our accomplishments and ensure we have set ambitious yet realistic goals.
After establishing a baseline, one of our first goals was committing to carbon neutrality. This process entailed setting emissions reduction targets, and offsetting existing emissions starting in 2018. While researching carbon offsets we thought: Why stop at carbon neutral? That’s when we decided to go beyond neutrality to be climate positive. And not just by 10%, but by greater than 10 times!
Internal Reduction Efforts & Joining the Climate Collaborative
The Climate Collaborative is a group of concerned businesses from the natural products industry working collaboratively to reverse climate change. In joining this group, we made public commitments to address climate change in the following areas: energy efficiency, packaging, transportation, renewable energy, and forests. Additionally, we have made an internal commitment to decreasing e-waste. The following are areas where we feel we can make the most impact given the scope of our business activities, and have taken active steps in each area to actively reduce our footprint.
- Energy Efficiency - We have been working closely with our energy supplier to increase energy efficiency, including upgrading inefficient lighting with Fluorescent and LED bulbs which produce the same amount of light using far less energy, and installing more efficient HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) equipment in our production labs. We have significantly improved the energy efficiency of our information technology (IT) systems, reducing the average energy consumption for our computer workstations and servers by roughly 70%. We also consolidated multiple office locations under one roof in 2019, which reduces energy use and greatly increases operational efficiency.
- Renewable Energy - We installed a 12 KW grid-tied photovoltaic system on the roof of our main lab. These solar panels will produce an average of 12,000 KW per year, which is roughly 3% of our total electric consumption at that facility. While this may seem small, we have the potential to expand this system to 100 KW in the future, generating nearly 30% of the electricity needed for this facility on-site. Currently, 98% of the power that we purchase through Mason County PUD comes from renewable sources.
- Packaging - We have always been aware of the environmental impact of our packaging. From the beginning, we have used either glass, or 100% post-consumer recycled plastic containers for our Host Defense products, and the cardboard cartons contain 85% recycled fiber. Our Primordial chocolate is packaged in biodegradable, plant-based materials.
- Forests – While a majority of the paper and cardboard we use for our printed materials and packaging is recycled, there is still room for improvement in this area. We are in the process of conducting a thorough assessment of our supply chain to ensure that the paper and cardboard we use is the most environmentally friendly option available.
- E-Waste – This term refers to electronic products that have come to the end of their “usable life”. Computers, monitors, batteries, and other electronic equipment contain many toxic materials that can contaminate the environment if they are not disposed of properly. We collect and recycle all of our e-waste, and have sent over 3 tons to be responsibly recycled in the last 5 years!
Carbon Reduction, Sequestering & Offsetting
Carbon offsetting is an oft-debated topic, and at first, we were curious about transparency in the industry, and wanted to ensure that our efforts were going to a good cause. After doing some research, we decided to support only Gold Standard carbon offset projects. The Gold Standard ensures that not only do these projects eliminate carbon emissions, but they promote sustainable development worldwide. Here are some examples of the carbon offset projects we support:
- Honduras Coffee Growers Clean Water Project – This carbon reduction project provides clean drinking water to rural communities across four regions of Honduras. By providing families with simple, safe and effective water filters, the project promotes sustainable development and improves the health and well-being of communities involved in the coffee production process. Avoiding indoor wood burning for boiling water improves air quality, reduces deforestation and frees up time spent by families gathering firewood. Improving access to clean drinking water not only helps the people living and working in Honduras, it makes the coffee supply chain more resilient by allowing producers of quality coffee to avoid fuel, medicine, and clean water costs and invest those savings in their farm, their children’s education, and their livelihood overall.
- WithOneSeed Timor-Leste Community Forestry Programme – WithOneSeed community forestry program, developed by xpand Foundation, is the first social enterprise acting on climate change through community-led forestry in Timor-Leste. Small holder subsistence farmers receive an annual incentive payment for planting, managing and maintaining forest trees on their land. The WithOneSeed program has embraced the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. Programs such as the WithOneSeed community forestry can deliver a reduction in poverty and reduce the global environmental damage by reforestation and the building of carbon sinks.
- Biogas Digesters for Farmers in Vietnam – In rural Vietnam, family farms are building digesters to manage waste and gain access to clean energy. One digester produces enough methane to provide free low-cost energy for cooking or other needs in several homes, saving families money. By channeling and reusing methane from the waste, biodigesters reduce emissions from this greenhouse gas that is 25 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide. Also, families do not have to use firewood, helping to protect local forests. By redirecting methane, we can have a direct effect on improving quality of life in Vietnamese communities while helping the planet.
As you can see, we’ve been hard at work addressing sustainability in many different areas. By tracking metrics throughout our operations and supply chain, we have been able to identify the most impactful areas, and take meaningful steps to help reverse climate change. In addition, by choosing to offset our remaining emissions by >10x, we are working to ensure that our business has a positive impact on the environment. We have expanded employee training to include education about climate change and the importance of sustainability, to support a healthy, sustainable company culture. By looking beyond the bottom line of the traditional business model and considering People and Planet, we can ensure that our actions result in positive environmental, social and economic impacts. This is the absolute measure of true profitability, and the definition of sustainability.
To the earth!