Sustainable Business Practices

Restore

Blog Post #10

Kelsey Werner

Social side of Distribution- Guayaki

Fair trade, living wages, packaging made from recycled products, subtracting carbon emissions, no harmful synthetic agents, salvaged or recycled waste, bio-diesel, and 100% renewable energy. Sound too good to be true? Well, it isn’t. Welcome to Guayaki.

As stated on their website:

In 2009, Guayakí became the first Fair Trade Certified yerba mate supplier in the world through IMO’s Social & FairTrade Certification Programme – “Fair for Life”.  “Fair for Life” combines strict social and fair trade standards with adaptability to local conditions. The Certification guarantees that human rights are guaranteed at any stage of production, so that workers enjoy good and fair working conditions and that smallholder farmers receive a fair share. Fair trade improves the livelihood of thousands of smallholder farmers and workers by providing the means for social community projects and empowerment of people.

Guayakí is also a member of the Fair Trade Federation and guarantees living wages to the artisans who make our gourd and bombillas. Instead of purchasing gourds and bombilla from commercial factories, we employ Argentine artists who work from their home studios so they can spend more time with their families and create truly one of a kind pieces of art. At Guayaki, it’s not just about making a tasty cup of mate, it’s about meaningful work.

Our packaging material is a minimum of 100% recycled corrugated cardboard with 30% post consumer, although most are 100% post-consumer waste. Our packaging peanuts are made of plant based materials (dissolve in water) or salvaged and cleaned from other companies that we collect from inbound materials. Our plastic pallet wrap is recyclable. Our bottle shipper cases are completely recyclable, non-petroleum based, and made of 100% post consumer recycled corrugated board. This is a first in the industry – we are proud to say we pioneered these new boxes!  The paper used for inserts, invoices, brochures, etc is always made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper.

All invoices, flyers, brochures and other paper materials printed for our customers and vendors are 100% recycled post consumer waste material or the highest post consumer content available. We will never use virgin paper materials in anything we print for our business.  In our offices, we recycle, reuse, and reduce as a daily practice.  We use real dishes and cups (and gourds) and wash them instead of using paper or plastic.

Guayakí third party life cycle analysis shows that after growing the yerba mate, and adding up all of the carbon emissions, guayakí is subtracting carbon from the environment. For example, your purchase of one pound of loose guayakí yerba mate reduces atmospheric co2 by 573g.

Our mate tea box packaging material is recycled paperboard with 35% minimum post consumer, and printed with vegetable inks.  We package our bulk loose mate products and bulk tea bags in cutting-edge biodegradable and compostable bags made from tree pulp cellulose from sustainably maintained forests. They will compost in your home compost or landfill in 180 days. The packaging material is made from renewable, non G.M.O. wood-pulp sourced from plantations employing Sustainable Forestry Management Principles, who conform to the environmental standard I.S.O. 14,000 and have either achieved or are working towards F.S.C.

Guayakí does not use, nor allow within its facility, chemical cleaning agents, bleaches, synthetic and chemical based soaps, ammonia, chlorine, dioxide, commercial pest repellents, fumigants, or other synthetic agents which are harmful to ourselves and the environment. Pest management practices include the use of sticky traps. We do not fumigate nor do we use chemical killing agents. All cleaning products used within our facilities are 100% natural, bio-degradable and are approved for use within certified organic facilities. The primary industrial cleaning agents we use is TKO Orange Oil which is completely biodegradable, approved by the EPA and our organic certifiers.

Virtually all waste generated by Guayakí is either recycled or salvaged. All office paper, scrap paper, cardboard, cans, bottles, plastic, steel, and wood is salvaged and recycled. We also recycle all electronic and computer components which are no longer in working condition by taking them to a local facility for proper salvage, reclamation or disposal, thus preventing several known heavy metal sources from being land-filled. A few times a year, we even reuse our mate after it’s brewed for the bottles to use it as energizing compost for our gardens around our main office.

Our marketing cargo vehicles run on bio-diesel! This further outlines our commitment to environmental sustainability and lessening our impact on global warming.

Guayakí is proud to have converted its entire operation to 100% renewable energy by transferring all of its conventional electrical power usage to renewable solar energy. We offset over 55 tons of our corporate CO2 footprint … locally. In tandem with this commitment, we have purchased enough solar power to offset the carbon 1 energy market in a similar way the purchase of a Guayakí product helps drive more reforestation.

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Guayaki is making outstanding efforts in order to protect the environment and all people who are affected by its product. It is rare to hear of a company doing this much. It gives me a bit of hope that this sort of business model is possible and also successful. I believe in what Guayaki is stands for. They walk their talk and carry out their mission of restoration all along their supply chain.

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Sustainable Business Practices

Market Driven Restoration

Restore

Blog Post #12

Kelsey Werner

Social side of Consumption- Guayaki

Waylon Lewis is an editor for the Huffington Post who writes monthly articles about various ‘green companies’. He seems to be quite pessimistic about these small businesses, believing that after only a few years of operation they will sell out to ‘the man’. They will then lose their specialness as the large corporations trade quality for cheap ingredients and bottom lines. However, according to him, Guayaki Yerba Mate is different.

Lewis sat down for an interview with two of the founders of this company (Alex Pryor and David Karr) and gave this report:

“In short, Guayaki is healing our earth through business. Not fruity, unprofitable, airy-fairy business that’ll never make it. Rather, Guayaki represents a new paradigm: the better their business does, the more nature heals. Here’s how it works: mate (pronounced mah-tay) is shade-grown. In Paraguay, only 7% of the Rainforest remains (called the earth’s lungs, the rainforest absorbs carbon emissions and cools our planet, cleans the air we breathe, and provides habitat for a remarkable diversity of tribes, wildlife, and healing plants). Whenever you buy Guayaki mate, it’s grown in the forest. (Beware: many other mate companies are not shade-grown). Shade-grown products monetize the forest, thus protecting it from the bulldozer and the torch.

When you drink Guayakí, you’re helping to preserve the forest. It’s that simple. You’re helping to create jobs down there, so that natives don’t have to give up their traditional way of life and move to the city, where things often go downhill for them, fast. And a shade-grown plant like yerba mate allows the communities and farmers to earn fair-trade income without selling the precious land for destructive mono-crop agriculture (soy milk, anyone?). In other words, Guayakí creates markets for rainforest-grown yerba mate that provides a long-term sustainable economic alternative to rampant deforestation for lumber, cattle grazing, and monocrop agriculture” (Lewis).

Guayaki Yerba Mate has been able to capitalize off of the responsible consumption trend. “The natural products, eco, fair-trade marketplace is fundamentally different that other markets: it’s about changing the world for the better. That’s why consumers will pay something extra. It’s about being responsible for our products from beginning to end, from farm to table. It’s about the notion that we, as businesspeople and conscious consumers alike can live a good life, make good money, and at the same time do so in a way that’s of benefit to others, not at the expense of others” (Lewis). They are able to empower consumers to really make a difference with their purchases. This restorative model brings about sustainability and generates life.

Lewis believes that this company has the potential to become “the next great green fad. Its potential for market growth is enormous, and largely unrealized” (Lewis). It is a market solution that is shifting from a specialty product to the mass market. Guayaki Yerba Mate gives back to both the environment and the locals. “To date, the company says it has restored 20,000 acres of forest. As part of the Clinton Global Initiative, it committed to restore 40,000 acres of the Atlantic Rainforest in southern Brazil and create living wage jobs for 250 families in the area’s indigenous Marrecas community” (Tozzi). Guayaki brings an economic alternative where the consumer’s purchase literally drives this restoration. They balance economic, social, and environmental goals. Guayaki is proving that it can be profitable to restore communities and the environment (Tozzi). They deliver on their promises and truly walk their talk. “In this day and age of “conscious consumerism,” they’re poised to become everyone’s favorite company” (Lewis).

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Market Driven Restoration

Lewis, Waylon. (2010). Saving Our Rainforests: Just a Sip Away? Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/waylon-lewis/saving-our-rainforests-ju_b_414167.html.

Tozzi, John. (2010). Guayaki Wants to Take Yerba Mate from Niche to 7-Eleven Staple. Bloomberg News. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-09-29/guayaki-wants-to-take-yerba-mate-from-niche-to-7-eleven-staple.html.

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Market Driven Restoration

How a History of Exploitation has turned into a Sustainable Industry

Restore

Blog Post #8

Kelsey Werner

Social side of Production- Guayaki

Yerba mate has been a part of South American culture for many centuries. It is a communal ‘Drink of the Gods’ that is deeply rooted in the tradition of many people groups. The Misiones region in Argentina is one of the largest producers of yerba mate, which comes from the leaves of this medium sized tree. It was native to this area and grown small scale for consumption by the local people. However, when Europeans arrived in the Americas in the 15th century, they brought with them some drastic changes. Jesuit priests who established religions missions in the area observed the local Guarani people consuming this beverage. They learned about its nutritious and energizing properties and quickly adopted its use. The colonialists greatly increased the demand for this product. The yerba mate plant was domesticated in the 18th century and plantations were established not long after. Yerba mate turned into a lucrative business that exploited the land and the local people.

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Yerba Mate Plant

 

Unsustainable growing practices have led to the degradation of the environment. The typical commercial way of cultivating yerba mate necessitates direct sunshine in order to grow the plants faster. Acres and acres of the rainforest have been chopped down for yerba mate and other cash crops. Inadequate soil management practices and continuous monoculture has led to soil erosion and degradation. The decreasing yields have led to even more rainforest land being cleared in order to find and use soil that has not yet been stripped of its nutrients. The already fragile rainforest ecosystem is being destroyed.

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Soil Erosion in a Conventional Yerba Mate Plantation

 

Small-scale farmers became increasingly marginalized throughout this history. However, in response to this “small and medium-sized yerba mate farmers initiated a series of social movements in order to revitalize declining livelihoods in the 1990s. With the ten largest companies controlling 80% of yerba mate production in Misiones, small and medium-sized farmers began to organize into cooperatives. As cooperatives promoted an ethic of solidarity, integrity, and equality, combined with an institutional structure and economic power within the yerba mate market, cooperatives began to find their voice within the political economy of yerba mate” (Montagnini 62).

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Yerba Mate Harvesters

 

Many cooperatives have been able to transform production practices into ones that help preserve the environment and empower the local people. They began to use more sustainable growing methods that do not involve destroying the rainforest. Many farmers have begun to implement shade-grown and intercropping practices. These agroforestry techniques have served to be “a useful tool to rehabilitate land degraded by intensive agriculture. Agroforestry systems (SFS) can minimize erosion, reduce or eliminate the uses of fertilizers due to increased nutrient cycling or the use of nitrogen fixing trees, reduce or eliminate the use of agrochemicals due to weed suppression and/or pest management, and provide additional income to the farmer through diversification of products” (Montagnini 63). In addition to the environmental benefits, there have also been many social benefits. These cooperatives have led to more jobs, better working conditions, and higher wages.

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Shade-Grown Coffee Plants

 

Guayaki is an organic, fair-trade Yerba Mate company that gets its product from these local cooperatives. They focus on quality instead of quantity and ensure that the mate is grown sustainably for the environment and the local people. They partner with farmers to train, advise, and support them. They then will buy their product if the farmers agree to continue their conservation efforts. Guayaki helps promote preservation and restoration of the land and the people. It has been a positive step towards transforming an exploitative industry into a sustainable one.

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Guayaki Products

 

Organic Yerba Mate

Montagnini, Florencia, Eibl, Beatriz I., and Barth, Sara R. (2011). Organic yerba mate: an environmentally, socially and financially suitable agroforestry system. Bois et Forets des Tropiques, 308 (2), 59-74.

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