Episode 186: Nichole Towell and Nikki Cossio
Oct 27, 2021
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In the grand scheme of things, the focus of sustainability is to reduce our environmental footprint on the world. While we, as consumers, can help with minor tasks such as recycling, at-home composting or trading home items for more reusable ones, the true difference makers are large companies. When it comes to agriculture, most of the practices used are not very earth-friendly.
Andrew Duda began Duda Farm Fresh Foods after successfully growing celery as his first crop. He chose celery because 100% of the crop is usable from the leaves to the bottom of the stock, leaving none to waste. Nearly 100 years later, Duda Farm Fresh Foods is continuing that legacy by supporting internal efforts to reduce their environmental footprint. At the forefront of this initiative over the last three years is a team within Duda called the Growing Greener Generations Team. The team includes representatives from all spectrums of the company allowing a widespread contribution and input.
For Nichole Towell, Senior Director of Marketing and Packaging Procurement at Duda, her focus has mainly been on sustainable packaging. Aside from wanting companies to be more sustainable, consumers want transparency around sustainability. They want less plastic all around or if plastic is going to be used, they want to know it’s recyclable or has some recyclable material. Nichole and Duda are working with advancements in their packaging process such as including a “how to recycle” label as an educational tool for the consumer. This label will explain how to recycle each piece of the packaging they receive. Nichole says it’s been a great communication piece to explain to consumers that may not know what is and isn’t recyclable in their packaging and what to do with it.
“No one individual, one company or one sector of the supply chain could or should be expected to come up with sustainable solutions on their own. It’s about working collaboratively and each taking responsibility to do their part.” – Nikki Cossio (25:14 – 25:23)
A vital partnership in working towards more sustainability all around has been one with Measure to Improve. Measure to Improve helps agricultural producers and processors measure, improve and credibly promote their sustainable efforts for consumers. They show companies how to stay ahead of mandates and appeal to the environmentally conscious buyers. Nikki Cossio, Founder and CEO of Measure to Improve, and her team have been an integral part to the Growing Greener Generations Team for the last three years by showing Duda ways to continually track what they’re doing and how to get better at it. Since then, she’s been able to build upon their programs and even start on ones that focus solely on farming.
While the focus for Duda has been packaging, for Nichole, the natural next step is compostability. Unfortunately, the technology hasn’t caught up yet. The process isn’t as simple as creating compostable packaging with important other factors involved; It has to reduce its environmental impact, it has to be affordable, and it has to keep food safety and shelf life in mind.
Nichole is confident that Duda will be able to reach these goals in the not-so-distant future as the technology improves more and more. With partnerships with Nikki and the team from Measure to Improve, Duda is spearheading chain-wide initiatives to reduce their environmental impact along the way and hopefully inspiring other farms to do the same.
How to get involved
- Join The Produce Moms Group on Facebook and continue the discussion every week!
- Reach out to us – we’d love to hear more about where you are in life and business! Find out more here.
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