A Recipe for sustainability

Tava Boehm runs a business that uses plastics, but she is committed to reducing its carbon footprint and partnering with other businesses to achieve that goal.

A Recipe for sustainability

This project is about the increasing awareness, actions, and accountability of leaders and businesses who are faced with opportunities and challenges in relation to environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) concerns. The 52-week initiative will showcase what Triangle executives and selected companies are doing in order to combat climate change, diversity and equity, and how to navigate the new world corporate responsibilities.

This is an easy-to-relate story about turning lemons into lemonade. It's one that can be easily embraced by any business that has a plastics footprint.

Tova Boehm, who founded her premium soup business to fill in the gaps of seasonal farm employment during winter months, did not share Tova's passion for sustainable farming. Every business is responsible for global plastic pollution.

The Environmental Protection Agency's latest data shows that in the United States alone, 37 million tons plastic waste were generated in 2018. In 2018, less than 9 percent was recycled, and approximately 27 million tons were disposed of in landfills.

Boehm had higher sustainability goals. She initially wanted to be plastic free, but quickly realized this wasn't realistic.

Plastic waste is everywhere in the food industry. She explains that she had the idea to use glass containers to fill with soup. Customers would then bring back the empty jars to swap for the soup of the following week.

The subscription-based model that she had envisioned made sense, but according to market research, three quarters of customers were against the idea. Even those who were attracted to the glass jars' sustainability said that it was not convenient.

Boehm was also asked by the producer: how to store jars. How do you sanitize the jars to comply with health regulations?

She said that some businesses do this, but that you must wash, rinse and sanitize each jar, and then completely air-dry it before filling it.

Boehm began by looking at other options and chose a bio-plastic that was compostable, high-heat sourced in Oregon. She said that the plastic was so thin, she had to rubberband it. It also couldn't be put in the freezer. She then turned to single-use packaging. This was not what she intended and so she expanded her research to find ways to offset the plastic footprint.

She found her perfect partner at rePurpose, co-founded by Svanika Balasubramanian in 2017, while Balasubramanian still was an undergraduate student at The Wharton School. rePurpose global is the largest plastic action coalition in the world. It brings together businesses, brands, and individuals who are committed to reducing plastic pollution.

'Our Plastic Neutral or Plastic Negative certification program allows brands to communicate that while there may not exist a non-plastic alternative packaging solution or alternative for their company, it is aware of the impact its plastic packaging and products has on the environment, and they are taking action by funding global impacts projects', said Kaley, Corporate Sustainability Manager at rePurposeGlobal.

RePurpose partners include Burt's Bees, Colgate (NYSE: CL), Credit Suisse (NYSE: CS), Dalberg, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), and Murphy's Naturals. rePurpose's partners include Burt's Bees (NYSE: CL), Credit Suisse, Google, Dalberg and Murphy's Naturals. The annual membership fee is $1,500 or 10% of the plastic credits paid, whichever amount is greater. The organization actively removes more than 14 millions pounds of plastic waste each year and provides community support to 10,000 or so marginalized waste workers around the world.

Earn Plastic Neutral Certification in 2021.

Boehm monitors the plastic volume and reports it quarterly to rePurpose Global. She continues to investigate alternative packaging materials. She adds that plastic can be made in many different ways and recycled differently.

Others may call it a greenwashing tactic.

Cross said she has had this conversation with many experts. 'One thing that I've noticed in the larger space of plastics and sustainability is just how much scrutiny these solutions receive - such as our plastic recovery infrastructure and waste management development. Everybody has an opinion about greenwashing and it can be difficult for business owners to hear all the opinions. It's hard to decide.

Boehm chooses to go the sustainable route for her product and customers. She resisted promoting her soups vegetarian until recently for fear that she would lose a certain segment of the market.

The business has a unique feature: she uses a large percentage of grade B produce, another way to minimize food waste.

She said that the produce was not suitable for retail sales because it wasn't pretty. It might be blemished or super-ripe, or just misshapen, or jumbo sized, but it would make a great soup.

Her business is a bit surprising. Summer is her busiest time, and watermelon gazpacho is the best-selling soup. Watermelon gazpacho is the No. 1 soup in sales. It has North Carolina watermelon and peaches, tomato, cucumbers, and mint. We churn it out as quickly as we can.

Owner: Tova Behm

Based in: Chapel Hill

Started: 2010

2022 revenue: $221,000

Employees: 5

Sales channels