Sustainable Baking and Being Environmentally Conscious

Jun 17, 2021 | Cookie Decorating Resources, Small Business | 5 comments

So… you want to talk about what we can do in the baking community to counteract climate change and pursue a sustainable baking ethos… so do I. So, here we go. I’m going to approach this from a practical perspective – nothing overly complicated but also keep in mind that not everyone is in a position to do some of these things, so please read with empathy and to understand (not to retort). 

Before we get into it, there’s some background we need to lay down so we’re all on the same page:

  • There is a huge percentage of people who still don’t believe climate change is a problem. This leads to issues with implementing legislation at scale — you and I alone cannot prevent climate change, we need change AT SCALE to reverse some of the damage we’ve done. Yes, every bit counts, but if a huge majority of the largest operations in the world aren’t doing their part, even if the rest of us try to offset it, the course is already set.
  • Whether you like it or not, climate change is a hot political topic. The Pew Research Center conducted a study in 2019 showing how Americans feel about climate change – read it HERE.  There are a TON of other peer reviewed studies on climate change, and the consensus of the scientific community is that it’s very real. 
  • Regardless of whether or not someone “believes” in climate change, sustainability is how we keep from over taxing this lovely planet we call home.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about some of the things we encounter on a day to day basis. My hope is that by sharing my insights with you, you will gain more empathy for your fellow humans, small businesses and perhaps even pick up a few tips along the way that may help in your personal conservation efforts. 

I’m going to break down who is doing what in each section for the most clarity. 

What we do at Borderlands Bakery / In the Baking Community

There are 2 types of comments I get most often:

  1. “I can’t believe you used *garbage* to pack my order” – this is coming from people who get padding in their boxes to help bolster their items, and we reuse previous packaging for padding- like amazon bubbles, packing paper from other packages, and the receipt paper (totally new and clean), that would otherwise go in the garbage. We sanitize everything before it goes in a package and while it may not be what some would expect it is one way we do our part at Borderlands Bakery. This will not be changing, there is no real cost saving for us, and is more about recycling and sustainability than anything else.
  2. “Please stop using so much single-use plastic.” This comment is a bit more complicated! I totally understand the sentiment, so let’s start our conversation here.

In the baking industry, we often use: paper towels (holy SHIT do you guys have any idea how much paper towels Americans use? It’s astronomical, a little googling will give you a ballpark idea), cello bags, piping bags, plastic wrap, various packaging — this seems to be the greatest culprit in our world.

When you ask someone the single use plastics question, you need to keep in mind what’s practical, what someone might be doing that YOU don’t see, and resist the urge to judge someone on a single piece of data. Not everyone understands why they would be paying more for their baked goods to come in responsible packaging. For many bakers it’s just not feasible to spend extra on biodegradable packaging. You as a consumer can ask for sustainable packaging but will go even further would be to offer to pay for that packaging! Who knows, this could be the motivation that more bakers need to invest in this packaging.

There are plenty of companies now that offer biodegradable versions. Some are exponentially more expensive. Clearbags has a whole eco friendly option. Pricey but worth it if you’re able to offset the costs.

One of my favorite *new* (as of this moment) packaging companies is Good Natured Products – by far one of the most affordable eco friendly companies I’ve found for bakery packaging, and offers a great selection. 

If you ship, some of my favorite companies for mailers/tissue are: 

Please note that most of USPS’s packaging is recycled, and you can keep recycling them. This is our default carrier for all Shop Borderlands orders. 

Also, please, for the love of the planet, pick up some of our eco towels – made with leftover plant fibers and is biodegradable. Each towel replaces 7 rolls (minimally) of paper towels and it has changed my life in and out of cookie decorating. If you’ve been following Borderlands Bakery for a while then you’ll know how much I love these towels:

Sustainable Baking Compostable Cellulose Towels

Borderlands Bakery Compostable Cellulose Towels

Grab them in our Shop. I use these in my kitchen daily- they are superior to paper towels when it comes to wiping counters, appliances, equipment. 

It stays moist for quite a while, making it optimal for wiping your brushes and scribes off onto, and cleaning off your piping bags.  Many folks use them to wash dishes. Honestly, any time you’d use a paper towel or a sponge, this guy can help.

You can also find cellulose towels on Amazon for way cheaper than I can ever offer it. I’d love for you to purchase from our shop but I know it’s not affordable for everyone. 

There are some companies starting to explore biodegradable piping bags. Some you can find on Amazon. Very rare still. A lot of detail piping is based on touch/feel and using reusable silicone piping bags isn’t always preferred, but you can try. 

We DO and will continue to include sample piping bags in orders. If you are willing to rinse out your piping bags after use, they can be recycled.

Tipless Piping Bags S or M

Here are a few biodegradable piping bag options:

There ARE a bunch of biodegradable trash bag options on the market now though!! Get rid of all your disposable zip lock baggies and use reusable ones

What I do personally, that you may be curious about:

Here are some things that I personally do and you can try, within reason, also recognizing that some of us are in a position where we *can* do these things and others are not. Empathy, remember?  I.e. driving electric is simply not an option for a lot of people so please don’t approach this from a place of judgement.

  • Donating to conservation and education efforts. If people don’t know this is a problem, they won’t bother trying to solve it.  I have a monthly donation to Sea Legacy. Some other organization I like are: https://www.worldwildlife.org/ , https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/ , https://www.climaterealityproject.org/ 
  • Driving electric, having solar panels (side note: we do not yet know the long term effects of the process of producing electric powdered stuff– maybe the batteries are super toxic in the long run, we are still learning– this is the thing with science: learn new things, do better, we’re encouraged to change our mind when we learn new things)
  • Easy-ish: use reusable water bottles, reduce single use plastic where possible, use cellulose towels, reusable grocery bags, etc.
  • I pay extra for wind energy to be used at the primary energy source for things in my home- energy we use beyond solar panels
  • When we ship large boxes, we pay extra at UPS to offset carbon emissions (I don’t know how much of this is actually… legit, I haven’t done my homework yet… )
  • Eating more plant based – as a meat eater this is super challenging but we have upped our veggies, shop more locally and reduced red meat quite a bit in the last 2 years. We also get Imperfect Foods deliveries – a perfect way to reduce food waste. If you sign up using my affiliate link, we both get a discount! 
  • Research your clothing choices – the textiles and fast fashion industry is one of the most environmentally hazardous (as much as I love Lululemon leggings for example, they are… not good in this area)

What we can all do, but takes effort and (often uncomfortable) activism:

  • Considering that a significant portion of the political leadership in our country (and others) don’t believe climate change to be a problem, you can call them, write them, etc. to share your views on the topic – it makes a difference
  • Vote leadership into government who will advocate for the planet – I know you guys hate it when I “get political”, but facts are (voting records of most govt officials are public), democrats are more likely to put environmental legislation in place vs. republicans – I lean liberal (with many conservative friends who I love and respect, because your political standing is rarely 100% indicative of what kind of person you are, compromise is key), and this is something I urge people to do the most *because* it will impact the *change at scale* which we desperately need
  • Educate yourself. (this applies in today’s climate more than ever) Please, please, no more getting your news, facts/figures from memes. Find primary sources (sources, question it, look at verified and peer-reviewed articles). Keep in mind that “documentaries” all have an agenda.  I know this takes time and effort, and that so many of us are not trained to do so. But if you’re someone who questions what other people are doing, you need to question yourself and hold yourself accountable, too. 

OK, so that was a lot of info. If you guys have any other comments, questions, discussion points etc., please feel free to share them below! Thank you all as always for being here, and thank you for those of you who are doing your part!


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5 Comments

  1. Kristen Chang

    GREAT to read all of this. Thank you
    You have an amazing company

    Reply
  2. Azalea Cardona

    Love this article. Climate change is real, I leave in Puerto Rico, we see it very clearly on the coasts, no denying, sea levels are rising.

    Changes need to be done. Thank you for this article.

    Reply
  3. Veronica McMaster

    I encourage all who CAN to adapt a vegan based diet.

    Want to save the oceans? Stop eating fish/marine life….

    Want to save the rainforest? Stop eating factory produced livestock which require an unsustainable amount of land to feed and raise….

    Cowspiracy and Seaspiracy are great places to start on Netflix. Additionally, Game Changers (also on Netflix) is a great place to start regarding understanding plant based eating and it’s impact from a health/athletic/human perspective.

    This is a great read Lisa, and thank you for using your platform to help address this GLOBAL issue. We only have one home….and it’s terrifying the rate at which we are destroying it.

    We all get uncomfortable and cranky when we read about all of the things we need to do as individuals to help move the needle….but we’ve got to cool this planet down. And addressing how we get food to our table (how billions and billions of us as individuals get food to our table) will be the BIGGEST impact we make on our planet and it’s rate of warming.

    I’m closing in on a year now eating vegan. At first it seemed daunting….but now it’s LIFE CHANGING how much better I feel as a whole. Individually and as a global citizen.

    Reply
  4. Kat

    Great article! Thank you for offering visibility into your efforts 🙂 I love supporting your company!

    Reply
  5. Stevie

    Thanks for this Lisa!

    Reply

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