Sustainability and being aware of our environmental impact is important in both our family life and in our work life at Doña Cholita.
At home we look for everyday ways to improve our sustainability commitment and reduce our footprint. We teach our kids about the importance of recycling, how to be more self-sufficient by growing our own fruit and vegetables and how it is important to support local businesses and farmers’ markets.
In our work life at Doña Cholita we are always looking for new and innovative ways to improve our sustainability commitment. Jefte and I want to ensure that the business has minimal environmental impact, that our business model is scalable and secure and that our team of staff is happy and cared for and that each one feels a part of our business as we grow and prosper.
Here are just a few ways in which we are working towards Doña Cholita’s sustainability commitment.
Solar Panels and Sustainability
We have 16 solar panels that power the Doña Cholita tortilleria. As our business and production grow, we plan to increase the number of solar panels to ensure our power supply is protected and in keeping with our sustainability commitment. It’s nice to know that the sun helps to bake our tortillas!
Organic Ingredients and Sustainability
We use organic ingredients in our white and blue corn tortillas and totopos. Using organic ingredients ensures that our products contain fewer pesticides and are gentler on the environment (and our bodies) than non-organic varieties keeping our sustainability commitment on track. The use of organic ingredients does mean that our products have a higher price point than other non-organic brands in our range, but we are making products that we feel are ethical as well as delicious.
Packaging and Sustainability
The primary purpose of our product packaging at Doña Cholita is to guarantee freshness. We also want our tortilla and totopos packaging to have the least possible impact on the environment that we can achieve.
We have done a lot of research trying to find the perfect environmentally friendly bag for our tortillas. There are some really innovative packaging products out there that guarantee freshness while being gentle on the environment. We are working towards introducing these styles of packaging as our business grows. Right now it’s not feasible for us to meet the minimum order requirements for these packaging ranges (in the vicinity of 100,000!) but we are setting business goals to make this a possibility.
While our packaging is not yet recyclable, it can definitely be repurposed. The tortilla packaging we use is a sous vide bag that is super tough and can stand high temperatures. The bags can be microwaved and, if you have a heat sealer at home, they can be reused. The enclosed moisture sachets in our tortilla bags can be repurposed to keep moisture away from your stored items such as shoes, leather bags or important documents.
Our totopo bags have resealable zip locks. This means that the bags can be wiped clean and repurposed for storage of non-food items such as garden and laundry products.
Staff and Sustainability
To ensure Doña Cholita’s sustainability commitment to our staff we provide ongoing training and support to enable them to confidently perform their roles in a happy workplace.
Corporate Relationships and Sustainability
We are in the process of changing banking institutions from one of Australia’s ‘Big 4’ to Bank Australia. Bank Australia is a 100% customer owned bank. They have been carbon neutral since 2011 and have a dedicated fund that distributes 4% of after tax profits to projects such as the Bank Australia Conservation Reserve – a 954 hectare property in Victoria’s Wimmera region that provides a home for endangered native species.
We also have plans to change Energy providers at the end of our current contract. We have a couple of providers in mind that are carbon neutral businesses and green energy supporters.
Risk Management and Sustainability
We always keep a deep freezer full of tortillas as a backup supply in the event that a restaurant we supply runs out of stock or a retailer needs emergency deliveries outside our baking schedule. Every few months we need to turn over this stock, which we donate to local food charities. Our last donation was to Liberation Larder in Byron Bay who feed those in need in the local community.
Food Waste and Sustainability
While we work to minimise food waste through our controlled food production systems and procedures, we do sometimes create tortillas that are not fit for sale for a variety of reasons. We give these waste tortillas to a local farm as food for their pigs and we compost any surplus. Sometimes we soak the waste tortillas in water and feed them to our chickens at home.
Support Local and Sustainability
At home we like to buy local fresh food and food products or grow and make them ourselves. We make our own sourdough bread with a culture we started when we first moved down here, kombucha, pickles and sauerkrauts. If we are strapped for time we will always substitute for a locally made equivalent. We have discovered some fantastic local food products made by conscious small food producers who we love to support.
When it comes to Mexican ingredients, it’s a little trickier, but we’re always experimenting with ways to source them locally or grow them ourselves. At home we have a fruit and vegetable garden and chickens. In 2017 we really want to focus more on this part of our home life. We ‘checked out’ of the city to live more sustainable and self-sufficient lives. It’s not always easy when you have two small children and a business to run, but we’re working on it!
As Doña Cholita continues to grow as a business, employing more local staff and expanding our production and distribution, we will continue to seek new and innovative ways to uphold our sustainability commitment. There’s always plenty more to do!