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03.12.2020

Sustainability at The Spice House

Dried herbs in packages made with sustainable materials.

In the early days of the spice trade, all packaging was eco-friendly. Wooden barrels protected spice cargo in the holds of sailing ships. Equally sustainable burlap sacks replaced barrels as technology improved. You will find an ornamental barrel or two in our shops. A few of our spices, including Green Cardamom Pods, still come to us in sturdy burlap sacks.

The arrival of plastics a half century ago and the more recent boom in e-commerce have made the spice trade less friendly to the environment. Over the past year, we have thought carefully about how The Spice House can improve the spice buying experience and reduce our impact on the environment. Here is what we are doing.

The Flatpack

This may be the most significant spice innovation since ground pepper. The Flatpack is fresh spices with free shipping—always. Whether you buy one or 100, the Flatpack always ships for free. We launched the Flatpack last November. It was an instant success. Who doesn’t love free shipping? The Flatpack also looks good. But the real winner is the environment.

The Flatpack in its paper green envelope.
An average spice order is six glass jars which is close to three pounds. Add the shipping box and the entire package weighs even more. Put those same six spices in Flatpacks and the total weight is a pound—including packing materials. Reduced weight lowers shipping cost, requires less fuel to move, and leaves less material to recycle at the end of the game.

The Flatpack is not going to save the planet by itself, but it is one small step in the right direction. Think of the impact if all e-commerce retailers offered something like our Flatpack.

Shipping Boxes

Much as we love the Flatpack, there is no replacement for a glass spice jar. We love our glass jars, which now sport handsome labels in many colors. A metal cap stamped with our logo is crownlike atop the jar.

The jars are sturdy, but they are glass and need to be protected from the violence of shipping. In the old days, we wrapped each glass jar in tissue paper or bubble wrap. Tissue paper is recyclable, but we used a lot of it. Bubble wrap is great for protecting jars, but it is tough to recycle.

The only way to improve this situation was to invent something new. We started with math and analyzed tens of thousands of spice orders over many years to understand what kind of boxes we should design.

Packing at The Spice House. Custom shipping boxes made of recyclable materialsWe ended up with a fleet of modular shipping boxes and custom inserts that work with any order. Whether you need a single jar of Ceylon Cinnamon or our massive 24-jar Essential Spices Collection, your order will ship in a sturdy box with custom inserts to protect the jars. The box and inserts are 100% recyclable. We are most excited about that 24-jar box:

Sustainability in Our Operations

As spice people, we are concerned about the planet that grows our spices. We also like the business efficiencies that come with sustainability. As every kid now learns in kindergarten, we must reduce, reuse, and recycle. Here’s how we do it:

Reduce

The Spice House spent its first 60 years making smaller orders for just-in-time delivery to each of our stores. We have expanded our warehouse in each of the past three years to make room for more spices. This allows us to place larger orders, reducing the number of trucks driving to our locations by more than 50 percent, while maintaining our commitment to quality and freshness.

Reuse

Most businesses reuse pallets and other storage devices. We also reuse the big cases that store and transport our gift boxes. Our glass jars arrive empty in utilitarian cases. We fill the jars and put them back in their original case. Many of these cases are reused multiple times. We’ve also taken a hint from our spice trading ancestors and are now using reusable airtight gamma seal barrels for bulk storage.

Recycle

This one is easy. We recycle more than we throw away. We have two equally sized dumpsters behind our warehouse. The recycling dumpster fills up first, and there is always plenty of room in the garbage dumpster. Most of the packaging we receive is corrugated cardboard and we recycle all of it.

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