Got sustainability? No? Go fish!
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A newsletter about branding, startups, and mission-driven companies aiming to make the world a better place.
👋 Welcome to For The Love, so happy to have you all here!
Today we’ll be discussing:
In honor of Earth Day, I’m doing a series on sustainability, starting with supply chains
A roundup of new launches this week, including a new collaboration causing the only time ever people got angry with Dolly Parton
A “buzzy” new way to wake up
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✌ For The Love of Doing Good
I recently watched the Netflix documentary Seaspiracy (well that and the rest of Netflix.)
It’s about commercial fishing...as you may have guessed from the title.
While there’s been some debate around the documentary’s adherence to facts, it does bring up some valuable points regarding the lack of transparency in the provenance of the things we buy.
In commercial fishing, supply chain issues include overfishing, bycatch (“a fish or other marine species that is caught unintentionally while catching certain target species and target sizes of fish”) which has been estimated to account for 40% of fish caught, and trawling, which not only results in bycatch but also damages the ocean floor.
But there are ways for brands to source their ingredients more sustainably and transparently — so I spoke to two founders doing just that.
Fishwife co-founder Becca Millstein explained:
“If you want to unpack seafood sustainability, you have to look at who is catching it and how, where they're catching it, and what it is.”
Fishwife is a line of premium tinned seafood sourced from small boat fisherpeople, and aquaculture farms on the West Coast of the US and Galicia, Spain.
“Right now we're sourcing our albacore tuna from the Northwest Pacific, which is a region where albacore tuna is really healthily managed and sustainably managed. And it's caught there by small boat fishermen who are catching hook and line.”
Hook and line fishing “greatly decreases or eliminates bycatch, which is the thing that people are so often very concerned about, and is one of the greatest sources of harm for our oceans — certain methods of fishing like trawling or big net fishing get a ton of bycatch, and we want to avoid that.”
Becca admits that transparency and sustainability are hard to navigate as a consumer.
“I think it is a really frustrating term because it doesn't mean one thing. So you can use that term without really backing it up, which is the problematic part.”
On top of that, what’s most sustainable can vary depending on the type of fish you’re catching.
“The product that we're about to launch in April is rainbow trout from this incredible trout farm in Idaho. The topic of aquaculture and fish farming is so poorly understood on a consumer level. The farmer we're working with — all the fish are totally traceable, from the egg that's harvested to what you end up getting, there's no antibiotics use, they're raised in amazing clean spring water that you or I could drink...So those are two fish and the two methods of getting them are so different, but those are both really incredible examples of sustainable fishing.”
As with other types of farming, it’s important to note that its environmental impact is dependent upon how they are farming. Not all aquaculture is equal. (More on that here if you’d like more info.)
The other key piece of the puzzle is diversity. It’s one of ocean advocate Alexandra Cousteau’s (Jacques Cousteau’s daughter, as you may have guessed) key pieces of advice for how consumers can make an impact:
“In the U.S. alone we have almost 700 different species that are not only safe to eat but also tasty, but we eat the same dozen species every time because we know what they look like, we know our family will eat them. We need to make different choices. If it continues to go on as now, we’re going to see some major collapses.”
And the Fishwife team are doing their best to help this cause along, as Becca told me:
“One of the big things that we are interested in encouraging is just like biodiversity in what you're consuming. We're launching rainbow trout — most people haven't had canned rainbow trout. So just diversifying the sort of seafood that you're eating.”
Another element of the fishing industry that’s important to the Fishwife founders is evolving and revitalizing local economies, both for fishing and canning. Becca explained:
“We have become really focused on building a domestic supply chain...there's a potential to really revive this industry, the canning industry which truly was decimated and if we can do that, and we can source fish domestically, which is currently what we're doing, and help grow that industry and support domestic fishermen and domestic canners, that is the goal.”
Their entire brand harkens back to traditional, independent fishing, beginning with the name. According to their website:
“The term ‘Fishwife’ dates back to the 18th century, and originally referred to the daughters or wives of fishermen who sold fish at the market. The term gradually evolved into a gendered insult for women who were brash, foul-mouthed, and brassy. We relate.”
As you can see, while they are serious about their supply chain, their branding is anything but — full of bright colors and cheeky illustrations rooted in Spanish conservas culture.
Another brand taking a playful approach to sustainability is Moonshot, whose focus is not on sustainable fishing, but farming,
Moonshot is a line of crackers “made with organic, regeneratively grown ingredients.”
Like Fishwife, their branding is bright, bold, and playful — each box depicting illustrations of the ingredients that went into that variety and joyful figures dancing around them.
I encountered this same optimism when discussing regenerative farming with founder Julia Collins.
Regenerative agriculture is a method of farming “based on enhancing the inherent strengths of agroecosystems, ultimately enabling a reduction of external inputs (synthetic fertilizers and pesticides) and increasing farm net income by reducing costs.” It increases biodiversity and the resilience of the land.
She approaches sustainability in her supply chain in three ways:
Sourcing ingredients from climate-friendly farmers. “Since we forge direct connections with farmers, we know exactly where and how our food is grown — which includes its climate-friendliness and human impact. Most brands utilize suppliers for their ingredients, making it difficult to trace their sourcing and impact.”
Shortening the supply chain and minimizing their carbon footprint — the wheat is grown 2 miles from where it’s made into flour which then travels 85 miles to the bakery.
Working with farms practicing regenerative agriculture, prioritizing new topsoil creation. “These practices require strong knowledge of how to cultivate a healthy ecosystem in a particular location and stem from indigenous peoples’ deep understanding of place and species interdependence. When soil’s health is properly maintained, it attracts microbes that will turn plant matter into more healthy soil. At scale, this process sequesters carbon, replenishes topsoil, and helps tackle climate change.”
This is quite different from most agricultural practices in the US at the moment. Julia explained:
“The approach to farming that is most prevalent in the US right now is a continuation of practices that were employed during The Green Revolution. In the global charge to feed a rapidly growing population during the early-to-mid 1900s, agriculture shifted toward the use of heavy machinery and nitrogen-based inputs in order to boost crop yields. Unfortunately, we now know that this approach to farming has taken a massive toll on soil health, biodiversity, the natural carbon cycle, and the overall food system. For decades, farming for efficiency and not necessarily the health of the soil was actually ‘the norm.’”
However, this is starting to change.
“Today, about 5% of the US food cropland is actively managed for soil health. However, there is a powerful and growing movement of farmers who are not only implementing regenerative farm management practices but also spreading the word. As Indigenous People have for millennia, these intrepid farmers know that we can rebuild healthier soil and create more resilient farm systems.”
And farmers (and brands) are further incentivized by growing demand from customers. Julia likens it to the growth of organic farming.
“The growth of the organic movement over the last twenty years is a perfect precedent for how rapidly we might see the expansion of regenerative agriculture. Consumers are increasingly demanding that brands take a stand on the environmental issues that matter to them the most. With 55% of CPG growth from 2015 to 2019 coming from sustainability-marketed products, we’re already well on our way to truly widespread adoption.”
On top of that, regenerative farming can actually be more profitable for farmers. As Julia explained to me:
“Over time, practices like minimizing soil disturbance, cover cropping, increasing biodiversity, and livestock integration can minimize the on-farm input costs associated with fertilizer and pesticides. We are also seeing more opportunities for farmers to earn premiums through carbon farming, ecosystem services, or by connecting with buyers who will reward them for their land stewardship.”
Julia feels so strongly about regenerative farming, she’s not only prioritizing it for Moonshot but also building a platform, Planet FWD, to connect other food brands with regenerative farmers.
Both Moonshot and Fishwife are dedicated to building more sustainable supply chains for themselves, but also strengthening these industries, making sustainable options available to others as well.
As environmental advocate (and legend) David Attenborough said:
“The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water, and air. It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it.”
🔥 For The Love of Newness
Common Heir is a new skincare brand “that’s all results, zero plastic,” launching with Vitamin C formula packaged in biodegradable capsules and cardboard.
“Beauty beyond the binary” — Good Light is multipurpose skincare “for all people regardless of your gender identity or sexuality.”
Occo is a line of perfectly portioned spices, so you don’t end up with a ten-year-old jar of Marjoram with no idea how to use it.
Recess has expanded past CBD with Recess Mood — a line of “sparkling water infused with magnesium and adaptogens to calm the mind and lift the mood.”
Jeni’s Ice Cream and Dolly Parton collaborated on Strawberry Pretzel Pie ice cream which was...very popular.
In anticipation of travel again soon (I hope) Away added accessories including neck pillows and compression socks.
Brightland, Instagram’s favorite olive oil, launched candles made from their signature oil.
🔍 For The Love of the Details
As the world starts to open up, our wake-up routines are sure to be something we’ll have to get used to again. Some of you may have been able to eliminate the use of an alarm clock entirely given that you don’t have to commute, get dressed, or shower.
That being said, if you’re this guy, I’m not 100% sure that the alarm clock is the problem...
First off, he appears to be late for work, while sleeping on his couch, fully dressed. He’s in a shirt and tie. Is this how he finished work yesterday during a pandemic? Collapsing on the couch immediately and then dozing off for over twelve hours, sleeping so heavily that you need a wrist shock to wake you up?
Is he an enterprise sleep deprivation salesman? A demotivational speaker?
Also, can we talk about the design of this device? It’s a rubber ring without a face, just a lightning shock symbol on it.
It makes me think that his job is “house arrest.”
I appreciate that we’re starting to see “get back to work” ads as we emerge from our houses, but perhaps this guy needs to confess to the authorities and just return the money.
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A few more things...
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Written by Aja Singer, a brand and creative strategy consultant interested in all things startup, mission-driven, and community. Born in Canada. Based in Brooklyn. You can also find me on Instagram and Twitter.