News From the Farm | January 9, 2017

A note about our ‘Stop Waste’ boxes

Welcome back to Full Belly veggies!  We hope that you had some wonderful meals during our holiday rest.  We are excited to be your fruit and vegetable farmers for 2017.  We appreciate all of you who are continuing members, as well as all of you who are trying out a Full Belly CSA box for the first time.  We have had a lot of rain and some nice cold weather over the last few weeks, so our fields are muddy, slowing down the process of getting your veggies out of the field, to be washed, and packed.  You may notice that the cold weather brings out the sweetness in our greens and carrots.

One of the chores of our winter break every year, is to collect and count our inventory of ‘Stop Waste’ CSA boxes.  For our members who have been with us for awhile, the hard plastic green boxes that we pack your vegetables in, are old friends.  We call them our Stop Waste boxes, because they are an alternative to the ubiquitous waxed cardboard boxes, usually used to pack produce, that go straight to the landfill after use.  But the hard plastic boxes are expensive — we paid $12.25 for each one when we first purchased them in 2013, so we try to encourage all of our members, including those who get home delivered veggies, to make sure that all of the boxes are returned to the farm.

The Stop Waste boxes are an interesting study in the fact that purchasing permanent packaging can really pay off if the packaging is returned. There are many environmental benefits to reducing the waste stream represented by waxed cardboard produce boxes, but our analysis shows that we are also breaking even financially, which is good news, because it would be hard to justify otherwise. The up-front cost of the Stop Waste boxes was high, but over time, the savings of not having to continuously purchase additional waxed cardboard boxes, justifies the up-front investment.

The financial break-even is true despite the fact that all of our boxes are not returned to the Farm.  We lose some every year.  In the first 18 months, we lost an average of 35 boxes per month.  We do know that about 20 were stolen from one site during that period, and perhaps our systems for collecting them and encouraging our members to return them has improved subsequently. In 2015 we lost an average of 16 boxes per month and in 2016 we lost an average of 8 boxes per month.  Such improvement!

Our goal in 2017 is to keep all of our boxes in circulation.  We want all of them returned to the farm every week.  We will need the help of our members to achieve this goal — Please remember to return the Stop Waste boxes to one of the CSA sites near you.  If you are a home delivery member and you have any of our boxes, please contact us and we will help you to figure out how to get the box back to the Farm.  Thank You!

—Judith Redmond