The Earth is a vast place with many natural resources; so many resources, in fact, that we may be tempted to think that they’re endless. The truth is, though, that our resources are finite, and this has led to more and more companies adjusting how they operate to lessen their impact on the environment. This effort to responsibly use the available resources without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs is generally referred to as sustainability, and at Silva we’re proud to do our part to protect the planet.
What Is Sustainability?
In a business context, sustainability can best be defined as a company’s strategy to reduce or reverse any negative impact of operations on the environment. There are many different ways this can be realized, and the concept of sustainability affects businesses that don’t even have direct interactions with the natural environment. For food growers, processors, and manufacturers, there are several common areas that sustainability focuses on:
- Soil health: Soil is obviously a crucial need for any kind of farming, but there are many farming practices that deplete the natural nutrients and other properties that benefit crops. Fortunately techniques like crop rotation, reduced tillage, and cover cropping can prevent soil erosion, enhance fertility, and reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
- Water management: Depending on the part of the country a farm is located, water use is a major concern. Effective and sustainable water management means not only how much water is used but also the quality of the water and the potential for harmful substances to affect the crops as well as nearby flora and fauna. These concerns can be addressed through efficient irrigation practices and water conservation efforts.
- Biodiversity: Biodiversity can best be described as the presence and interplay of various plant and animal species within an ecosystem. In agriculture, this means having a diversity of crops, livestock, organisms in the soil, and plants in the surrounding area. Biodiversity in this context is valuable because it leads to healthier soil, a greater variety of pollinators, resistance to diseases and pests, and a reduced chance of erosion.
- Chemical usage: Many pesticides and herbicides used today are synthetic, and there is some evidence that overuse can have a negative impact on the environment. Responsible use of these and organic pesticides can lessen this impact, and other efforts like ensuring biodiversity can potentially reduce the need for them overall.
- Climate resilience: Growing crops in places in the world where they don’t naturally grow generally requires more water and other resources, and it can also have indirect effects on the environment. Growers have begun to address this by selecting crops that fit the native environment.
- Local food systems: Since a significant driver of climate change and air pollution is automobiles, one way to reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint is to focus on crops that are produced and sold locally; this means fewer gasoline-powered trucks transporting produce over long distances.
- Upcycling: Upcycling is a newer concept in sustainability that refers to the “creative reuse” of waste or byproducts of agricultural processes. An example of upcycling at Silva is the use of lemon peel; though the peel is typically thrown out after obtaining the juicy pulp, it can be dehydrated and used as a nutritional additive in a variety of applications. Using as much of the agricultural product as possible leads to less food waste and overall can help food manufacturers do more with less.
Sustainability and Growing Regions
In practice, sustainability is more than just putting a few token policies into effect. Successful businesses must evaluate their operations in a holistic way to ensure a balance between financial realities and protecting the planet. Ultimately this means partnering with both clients and vendors so that all parts of the supply chain are operating efficiently and with the same overall goals in mind. If only one part of that chain is operating in a sustainable way, it will be much harder to see benefits to the environment.
At Silva, for instance, we are committed to working with a wide range of growers all over the world. This gives us flexibility to offer only the best ingredients that are grown and harvested through methods that meet our standards for quality, safety, and sustainability. Because of these relationships around the globe, we are able to be nimble in finding the lowest cost at the same time as mitigating risks (such as crop failures) and still delivering the quality that our clients expect.
Examples of Environmentally Friendly Crops
While all fruits and vegetables can be grown in sustainable ways, they aren’t all equal in terms of what it takes to produce them. Some crops seem to just naturally require fewer resources to produce (either generally or in particular climates), and that makes them great candidates for sustainable agriculture. Below are some common examples of environmentally-friendly crops:
- Leafy greens: Leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach are overall fairly weather tolerant and are able to be grown in various climates. Also, for how much volume can be produced, they require relatively few resources.
- Root veggies: Unlike most other fruits and vegetables, root veggies are capable of being grown in cooler months; this gives farmers longer growing seasons and makes use of land that would otherwise be unusable. Examples of root vegetables include potatoes, beets, onions, radishes, and turnips.
- Mushrooms: One of the most ecologically friendly of all plant foods is mushrooms. Mushrooms require less water, land, and resources to grow than the vast majority of other plants, and they’re also nutrient-dense and growable all over the world. Moreover, any byproducts of growing mushrooms are easily recyclable. Examples include shiitake, champignon, portobello, or boletus luteus.
- Apples: A major reason apples are also environmentally friendly is that apple trees are perennials; so rather than using resources to harvest and regrow every year, the trees bear fruit again and again. Additionally, even though monoculture crops like apples are generally less sustainable, the trees themselves are a good source of carbon sequestration capacity.
- Ancient grains: While some grains are known to require substantial quantities of water and fertilizer, some ancient grains like quinoa, amaranth, and barley actually use fewer resources and have less of an impact on the surrounding environment.
Silva: Trusted Source for Dehydrated Ingredients
At Silva, we are dedicated to providing high quality dehydrated ingredients in ways that are both sustainable and ecologically sound. From selecting the right growing regions to upcycling to working with like-minded partners, we know we will continually be able to offer premium ingredients while protecting the planet. To find out more about our products and processes, please contact us today.