Be a standard bearer in the effort to make sustainably produced chocolate and work to reverse climate change. Period. Full stop.
Our concern about sustainability, the environment, and climate change long predates the founding of Xocolatl Chocolate. So when we created Xocolatl we knew we wanted to create something more than a chocolate company. The goal was to build a business that lived up to our values. Building an environmentally sustainable business has been a priority from day one. So, what does that mean? Where do you start?
Elaine and Matt’s son looking out over rainforest on a cacao farm in Nicaragua.
From the very beginning we worked to source sustainably grown cacao, sugar, and other ingredients, as well as packaging and supplies (not always successfully), and we did other things like recycling, using an electric car for deliveries, and composting the cacao husks leftover from our chocolate making, but we knew this wasn’t nearly enough.
We knew we needed to measure our impact on the environment. So that’s what we did.
In 2021, we commissioned a friend (and former Xocolatl Chocolate Maker) who was completing a graduate program at Georgia Tech to do a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of our chocolate bars. An LCA measures the amount of Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG) that are released in the process of making a bar of our chocolate—and we included everything. We gathered information from farmers (on three different continents) on the vehicles they use to transport beans to the fermentary, from the mill that makes the paper for our wrappers (good news, they’re 100% recycled paper made in a factory powered by 100% renewable energy), from our own power bills, and dozens of other inputs to calculate the total emissions related to making a bar of chocolate. The result?
- The first thing we realized was that the vast majority (over 80%) of our emissions come from the electricity we consume at our shop and factory in Atlanta. Fortunately, before we even got the results of our LCA, we signed up for a program with our power company to purchase Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) for 100% of the power we consume at our shop and new factory.
RECs work as if we are using renewable energy. Power companies produce a certain amount of renewable energy every year. While they can’t send that energy directly to our factory, we can pay a premium for our portion of the total they produce. For example, if they produce 1 GWh and we use and buy .05 GWh, then they can’t sell that .05 GWh to anyone else. The more the demand for renewables increases the more the power companies will produce. Most states have similar programs, but if you’re in Georgia you can do the same for your home or business and sign up here.
The Renewable Energy Credit summary from our February 2023 factory power bill.
- In 2022, we purchased 25 tons of carbon credits protecting rainforest and an orangutan habitat in Indonesia and another 25 tons of carbon credits protecting rainforest in Brazil earlier this year. We have concerns about the efficacy of carbon credits, but we think Pachama is working to raise carbon credits standards through their use of hi-tech data monitoring systems.
- We pay to literally suck carbon dioxide out of the air. We use Climeworks, a Swiss company that built a facility in Iceland that extracts carbon dioxide out of the air and stores it deep underground where it mineralizes to stone permanently. This is way more expensive than carbon credits (85 times more expensive), but we’re going to have to do more than protect existing rainforests to save our climate. As of April 2023, our monthly subscription paid to suck nearly 1,500 kgs of CO² out of the air. You can read more about this amazing company and set up your own monthly subscription here.
- We use an app that calculates the CO² emissions related to shipping our online orders to customers and we pay to capture the equivalent amount of CO². Since we started a year ago, we’ve captured emissions related to shipments that have cumulatively traveled more 450,000 miles.
- In the past, we donated leftover cacao husks to local gardeners and farmers, but the reality was we were still throwing a lot of cacao husks in the trash. Last May we set up a composting service with Compost Now. Since then we’ve composted nearly 4,000 pounds of cacao husks, food waste, and paper products. That’s the equivalent of eliminating over 4.5 tons of GHG emissions.
Our Impact Report from Compost Now. That’s a lot of tomatoes!
- Starting this month you’ll notice a new badge on different areas of our website letting you know that we are purchasing 10kgs of carbon credits for every single order on our online store. These credits support a variety of projects from hydroelectric energy in Chile to helping to transition families from traditional three-stone cooking fires to much more efficient wood burning stoves in Malawi (where Elaine was a Peace Corps volunteer!).
For every order we
Offset 10 kgs of CO2
- Transparency. We will continue to provide you with the raw data both on our Greenhouse Gas emissions and all of our efforts to reduce and offset our emissions and waste.
No Finish Line
Most companies that have done what we’ve done would claim to be carbon neutral. Hell, based on the accepted standards we could probably claim to be carbon negative (meaning we’re removing more GHG from the atmosphere than we’re responsible for pumping out). But we think there are a lot of issues with how companies calculate these things (carbon credits in particular). Because of that we’ve attempted to go beyond the accepted standards for being “carbon neutral”, and we know the reality is we all have a lot more work to do.
Over the next year we plan on transitioning all of our packaging into compostable or recyclable materials, doing a full Greenhouse Gas Inventory (adding up the carbon footprint of everything we use not related to chocolate making—our farmers’ market tents, paper clips, etc), updating our LCA to include all of our new production equipment in our new factory,and identifying ways we can further reduce our carbon footprint instead of offsetting it.
This is a long journey and there is no finish line, but we’re going to keep building a chocolate company that makes as small an impact on the environment as possible and one that brings joy to your day.
With love for you and our planet,
Elaine, Matt, and the whole Xocolatl team
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