Earth Day Q&A with Leading Environmental Scientist
At Blueshift Nutrition, we not only strive to support our customers' health but also a thriving planet for current and future generations. Supporting our mission to tread more gently on our earth, we partnered with leading environmental consultant Andrea Asch a few years before launching Blueshift to help us integrate responsible practices into our business from day one.
Andrea is celebrated for her success in leading mission-driven environmental programs at notable companies like Ben & Jerry's for over 26 years. In honor of Earth Day, we sat down with her to get her perspective on everything from the topsoil crisis to how businesses can take small steps towards a more sustainable model.
Q: Your sustainability work with Ben and Jerry's was pioneering in its day. What initiative are you most proud of throughout your environmental science and consulting career, and why?
A: When I was hired by Ben & Jerry's to develop and lead their environmental program, I felt I had landed my dream job – I did! Over my career, I had the privilege of creating industry-leading programs and provided Ben & Jerry's the ability to demonstrate that having a leading-edge program was good for the environment, the community, and business. I was involved with a wide range of projects - from within manufacturing to creating an industry-leading dairy program. Just a few of the projects that I am quite proud of include:
- Developed and implemented a global sustainability dairy program – Caring Dairy, that compensates farmers for adopting sustainable/regenerative farming practices. The program focused on animal care, farmers and labor, and environmental practices. Rewarding farmers for changing practices that improved their business was very satisfying!
- Developed an aggressive corporate climate strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Completed an analysis of our largest area of impact, which was dairy, and developed a program to reduce agricultural emissions on farms.
- Established a comprehensive environmental program throughout the entire global business focusing on source reduction of waste, energy efficiency, and optimization of resources.
- Extensive evaluation of packaging alternatives throughout the entire business. Packaging is everywhere and rarely has a secondary use. We changed a lot of that. Our team improved how incoming ingredients that go into pints are delivered. We also evaluated a wide variety of packaging for the ice cream, from biodegradable to chlorine-free to reduced material usage.
Q: Sustainability isn't just good for the planet; it's good for business. What are some easy ways businesses can make small shifts towards a more sustainable model?
A: Many successful companies, including Ben & Jerry's, have demonstrated that focusing on key environmental issues is good for business. Savvy individuals seek companies that have defined their Purpose, Mission, and Vision statements. From there, the meaning of sustainability can be defined, and a program can begin to take shape. For new companies, these concepts need to be baked in from the start. More established businesses can evaluate what is most important and begin to communicate what changes are being made to address environmental opportunities. It's never too late to step back and take the long view of what matters to the planet, business, and the people who support the business.
Q: What made you interested in partnering with Blueshift?
A: From inception, Blueshift had the ambition to understand and initiate an approach that incorporated a better packaging design. Recognizing that packaging is a key aspect of the business, Blueshift leaned in to understand possible packaging opportunities and limitations. As an environmental professional, I appreciated the opportunity to engage at the start, which is a far better approach. Seeing the product commercialized is very rewarding. I take a lot of pride in the companies I work with; their success is important to me.
Q: You recommended Blueshift do everything in its power to reduce the plastic used in the pods, even though designing the pods so small makes them difficult to recycle. What's the reasoning there?
A: A fundamental criterion to packaging is to use as little as possible without compromising the quality of the product it is delivering. Using less of any material is always best. For the Blueshift pods, they are small by design to deliver their intended use. But sometimes, less is better, and I believe that is the current case for Blueshift. Packaging is constantly changing, and there will be better material to move towards in the future. Ultimately, there should be no waste, and all materials will have another use. Packaging fits into that category. Recycling can be an imperfect solution when better options may currently be or may become available as technology advances.
Q: Blueshift uses primarily organic fruits and vegetables in their beverages to reduce pesticide and glyphosate exposure and help regenerate soils. Can you speak to the topsoil crisis and how biodynamic and organic farming fits into that?
A: The loss of topsoil is one of our most critical issues that most people don't recognize as an issue. Soil is the skin of the planet and when it is not healthy, it doesn't function as it should. When the same crops are grown over and over again in the same spot, they need more chemical inputs to produce desired yields. Revitalizing soils through regenerative agriculture practices, including organic, will build healthy soil. When crops are rotated, cover crops are used between seasons, and no-till and low-till practices are used, soil microorganisms are able to do their thing - build healthy soil, which will lead to a reduction and elimination of chemical use. There are a variety of practices to utilize that will improve soil health, sequester carbon and improve the biodiversity of plants and animals. We are at a critical juncture in agriculture. We must take care of the soil if we are going to rely on healthy foods and ecosystems.
Q: What's your favorite way to connect with the earth?
A: There are so many ways I connect with our amazing planet. While my home is beautiful in Vermont, I spend winters in the desert of South Baja, Mexico. I love the mountains and water of the northeast but am now learning so much about the desert. Besides the warm weather and beautiful scenery, it is the migration of the gray whales that really brings me to Baja. I never stop exploring interesting places.
About Blueshift's sustainability journey
We are constantly striving to better support the health of our customers and the planet. Here's how we are committed to quality and sustainability in everything we do.
Reducing Plastic — The most effective way to reduce waste is to create less of it in the first place. We're proud that each pod uses less than half the plastic in just the cap of the water and beverage bottles we seek to replace.
Reducing our Carbon Footprint:
More efficient transportation and storage — We use far less fuel than needed to transport, warehouse, and ship ready-to-drink beverages you'll find at the supermarket. Our pods weigh about 40X less than a ready-to-drink beverage and take up 13X less cubic volume. It would take 13 fully-packed tractor-trailers to deliver the same quantity of standard beverages that Blueshift could deliver with a single tractor-trailer.
Using less energy to dry our organic fruits and vegetables — Unlike freeze-drying or heated drum drying, most of our fruit and vegetable powders are made with a patented gentle drying process that helps retain nutrient and flavor properties while saving energy. The method we use takes 50% less energy than freeze-drying – and 100% of the energy used in this process is derived from renewable sources. We also spare our fruits and veggies the harsh conditions – like intense heat or vacuum pressure and freezing – that can damage fragile nutrient, flavor, and color compounds so we can keep our drinkable supplements as close to nature as possible.
Preserving Vital Topsoil — As discussed by Andrea above, we are losing topsoil at an alarming rate. Organic and biodynamic farming practices help to build topsoil, so by using organic fruits and vegetables in our blends whenever we can, we are helping to rebuild rather than further deplete the topsoil required for continued food security.
We are proud of our efforts, but our sustainability journey is just beginning. We are looking forward to continuing to provide our customers with the same high-quality drinkable supplement experience while doing our best to support a healthier planet.
Happy Earth Day, everyone!