Summary

At Thistle, our mission is to make it easy for everyone to get and stay healthy while improving the sustainability of our food system.

Our co-founders, Ash Cheriyan and Shiri Avnery, started Thistle with a passion to improve health and wellness for people and the planet through food. Shiri has a PhD in Environmental Science and Policy, with an emphasis on the intersection of climate change, air pollution, and food. Ash and Shiri were driven by the fact that two of the greatest challenges of our generation -- our growing health crisis and current climate emergency -- pointed to a common solution of eating more plants and eating less meat.

What You Eat Impacts the Planet

Eating plant-based foods is the single most impactful way to reduce your overall environmental footprint. From climate change to natural resource depletion to pollution to habitat loss and species extinction, abstaining from meat and dairy could cut global dietary greenhouse gas emissions in half (and almost 75% in the US and other heavy meat eating countries), air and water pollution by ~50%, and freshwater withdrawals by 20%.

Perhaps even more stark is the impact of reducing demand for animal agriculture on land use. The loss of natural habitat due to agriculture is the main driver of the current mass extinction of wildlife: we have lost nearly 70% of all wildlife populations in the last 50 years (and in some regions, closer to 95%) due to severely degrading about three quarters of land on earth.

If all people worldwide were to stop eating animal products, the area of land used for global agriculture could be reduced by ~75%! This would lead to an even more significant (and additional) decline in greenhouse gas emissions, as land no longer required for food production could remove ~8.1 billion metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere each year as natural vegetation reestablishes and soil carbon re-accumulates. For context, this represents ~25% of annual global energy related CO2 emissions that could be sequestered. 

We know that going completely plant-based may be hard for many, but the good news is you don’t have to go completely vegan to make an impact: reducing the amount of animal products you consume, avoiding the worst offenders as much as possible (beef, lamb, and dairy), and choosing responsibly sourced options when you do eat animal products makes a huge difference for our planet. We support this journey by offering sustainably sourced meat options for flexitarian meals that are still 90% plant-based: meat options include a 3 ounce portion of poultry, pork, seafood and eggs, instead of the typical 6+ ounce portion Americans generally eat, and never beef or lamb, which have a disproportionately negative impact on the environment. Since 2013, we’ve helped tens of thousands of customers reduce their meat consumption for the benefit of the planet. 

Building a More Sustainable Future

We’re committed to a more sustainable world through a variety of other measures as well:

  • Powered by 100% Renewable Energy: As of July 2020, all of Thistle’s meals are made and packed in kitchens that run on 100% non-polluting renewable energy from wind and solar!
  • Carbon Neutral Deliveries: Thistle offsets emissions from delivering meals to our customers by purchasing verifiable carbon offsets.
  • Thoughtful Sourcing: Thistle uses organic ingredients where possible and where it matters (e.g. from the Dirty Dozen list and beyond) — but more importantly, we design menus to take advantage of local and seasonal harvests in California, Oregon, and Washington to minimize food miles. We are proud to work with mission-aligned farmers and food crafters whose practices we can support.
  • Community partnerships: We donate meals to a variety of organizations that feed those in need. In 2020 alone, we donated more than 25,000 meals to several organizations. In Northern California: Berkeley Food Pantry, East Oakland Collective, Vacaville Fire Department (during the Lightning Fire of 2020), and Replate. And in Southern California: Food Finders and LA Community Fridge
  • Minimized Food Waste: Thistle produces half the average food waste of a normal restaurant, and less than 15% the waste of the average consumer buying groceries and cooking at home. In 2020, we cut our food waste in half and repurposed over 20,000 pounds of leftover ingredients into our weekly soup production. With ingredients that we can’t use for soup, we minimize food that goes to waste by composting it or donating to Replate, a nonprofit organization that brings those ingredients to communities in need. Eating with Thistle means you’ll reduce your own food waste, too: by ordering only what you need from Thistle, you can reduce your food waste by up to 85%! 

Our Packaging Now: Reuse and Recycle

Packaging remains our #1 most urgent sustainability challenge — and we have been trying to address it for quite some time. Our meal container packaging is currently: 

  • 100% recyclable
  • Made with 65% less energy than normal PET
  • Made from 15% post-consumer recycled plastic
  • Made using 15% solar energy

We ask customers to return their bags and ice packs (just leave them out to be picked up during your next delivery) so we can wash and reuse them. 

Improving Our Packaging: More reusable and next-generation compostable

Many of you have asked why we haven’t made a switch to compostable packaging. The reality is that many of the commercially available solutions on the market today, at least those that work for our purposes, are not necessarily better for the environment and in some cases could be worse when when you consider the full lifecycle of the product: how materials will be manufactured, transported, and disposed of by the customers. Some considerations include the following (and a good summary can be found here):

  • Compostable materials can be more resource intensive than plastics to produce, leading to greater contributions to global warming, pollution, and resource scarcity, especially when not sourced sustainably. Unfortunately, suppliers are often not transparent with their supply chains and sourcing practices.
  • This type of packaging is currently only compostable under very specific conditions, which are in resource intensive industrial facilities — it’s not your backyard compost heap — that not only require a ton of energy to break down materials, but are only accessible by a small percentage of Americans. If people don’t have access to commercial composting, the packaging ends up in recycling, which ends up polluting the recycling stream (because they are not actually recyclable), or it ends up in landfill or the marine environment where it has many of the same problems as traditional plastic (at least the bioplastic types of compostable containers that best worked for our purposes). 
  • Most of the more environmentally attractive paper or molded fiber based compostable packaging doesn’t work for our needs. Thistle meals are packaged and delivered or shipped to customers, which requires packaging to be more durable, leak-proof, and spill-proof than most compostable solutions out there offer. We found in testing that these packages led to a tremendous amount of wasted food due to issues in transport, as well as to reductions in shelf life for the customer. This not only leads to a poor customer experience, but also a higher environmental footprint due to greater food waste.
  • The molded fiber containers that had greatest success in our testing were unfortunately found to contain forever PFAS chemicals that are linked to cancer and other health impacts, and can contaminate food and the environment. 

The point here isn’t that plastic is a good solution, of course — it is absolutely not! -- only that currently available compostable materials are not necessarily a panacea despite marketing claims, that this is a complicated issue without a simple, single answer that often involves environmental tradeoffs, and that it’s important to dig into the details of source materials, manufacturing, and end-of-life to make the right decision. 

Now the good news! Packaging innovation continues to progress: we are extremely excited about the next generation compostable containers we’ve begun to test. These are not yet widely available on the market but we’re pursuing potential partnerships with a couple of companies that offer containers composed of materials that either do actually degrade in your backyard (and don’t require tons of energy and special facilities to break down), or are both industrially compostable and recyclable in case compost isn’t available in your city, all while not leaving behind nasty chemicals. 

Better yet is the potential for reusable containers, since reusable packaging is preferable to any single use option. While the pandemic unfortunately caused some delays in this project last year, we were still able to conduct tests with our partner, robotics startup Dishcraft, to pilot fully washable and reusable packaging in 2020. We gained valuable insight and now we’re ready for a larger scale test with about 500 customers right around Earth Day 2021 -- so when this reusable packaging arrives at your door, be sure to tell us what you think!

As your partner in health and wellness, we hope you will continue to support us and our efforts to create a more beautiful, sustainable world for generations to come. Have a sustainability idea for us? Drop us a line at hello@thistle.co.


Get meals delivered to your door
We believe eating delicious is crucial to a healthy diet. Each week, our team of chefs design a new menu for what's in season, fresh and flavorful.
TRY THISTLE
Posted 
Apr 7, 2021
 in 
Thistle News
 category.
Summary

At Thistle, our mission is to make it easy for everyone to get and stay healthy while improving the sustainability of our food system.

Our co-founders, Ash Cheriyan and Shiri Avnery, started Thistle with a passion to improve health and wellness for people and the planet through food. Shiri has a PhD in Environmental Science and Policy, with an emphasis on the intersection of climate change, air pollution, and food. Ash and Shiri were driven by the fact that two of the greatest challenges of our generation -- our growing health crisis and current climate emergency -- pointed to a common solution of eating more plants and eating less meat.

What You Eat Impacts the Planet

Eating plant-based foods is the single most impactful way to reduce your overall environmental footprint. From climate change to natural resource depletion to pollution to habitat loss and species extinction, abstaining from meat and dairy could cut global dietary greenhouse gas emissions in half (and almost 75% in the US and other heavy meat eating countries), air and water pollution by ~50%, and freshwater withdrawals by 20%.

Perhaps even more stark is the impact of reducing demand for animal agriculture on land use. The loss of natural habitat due to agriculture is the main driver of the current mass extinction of wildlife: we have lost nearly 70% of all wildlife populations in the last 50 years (and in some regions, closer to 95%) due to severely degrading about three quarters of land on earth.

If all people worldwide were to stop eating animal products, the area of land used for global agriculture could be reduced by ~75%! This would lead to an even more significant (and additional) decline in greenhouse gas emissions, as land no longer required for food production could remove ~8.1 billion metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere each year as natural vegetation reestablishes and soil carbon re-accumulates. For context, this represents ~25% of annual global energy related CO2 emissions that could be sequestered. 

We know that going completely plant-based may be hard for many, but the good news is you don’t have to go completely vegan to make an impact: reducing the amount of animal products you consume, avoiding the worst offenders as much as possible (beef, lamb, and dairy), and choosing responsibly sourced options when you do eat animal products makes a huge difference for our planet. We support this journey by offering sustainably sourced meat options for flexitarian meals that are still 90% plant-based: meat options include a 3 ounce portion of poultry, pork, seafood and eggs, instead of the typical 6+ ounce portion Americans generally eat, and never beef or lamb, which have a disproportionately negative impact on the environment. Since 2013, we’ve helped tens of thousands of customers reduce their meat consumption for the benefit of the planet. 

Building a More Sustainable Future

We’re committed to a more sustainable world through a variety of other measures as well:

  • Powered by 100% Renewable Energy: As of July 2020, all of Thistle’s meals are made and packed in kitchens that run on 100% non-polluting renewable energy from wind and solar!
  • Carbon Neutral Deliveries: Thistle offsets emissions from delivering meals to our customers by purchasing verifiable carbon offsets.
  • Thoughtful Sourcing: Thistle uses organic ingredients where possible and where it matters (e.g. from the Dirty Dozen list and beyond) — but more importantly, we design menus to take advantage of local and seasonal harvests in California, Oregon, and Washington to minimize food miles. We are proud to work with mission-aligned farmers and food crafters whose practices we can support.
  • Community partnerships: We donate meals to a variety of organizations that feed those in need. In 2020 alone, we donated more than 25,000 meals to several organizations. In Northern California: Berkeley Food Pantry, East Oakland Collective, Vacaville Fire Department (during the Lightning Fire of 2020), and Replate. And in Southern California: Food Finders and LA Community Fridge
  • Minimized Food Waste: Thistle produces half the average food waste of a normal restaurant, and less than 15% the waste of the average consumer buying groceries and cooking at home. In 2020, we cut our food waste in half and repurposed over 20,000 pounds of leftover ingredients into our weekly soup production. With ingredients that we can’t use for soup, we minimize food that goes to waste by composting it or donating to Replate, a nonprofit organization that brings those ingredients to communities in need. Eating with Thistle means you’ll reduce your own food waste, too: by ordering only what you need from Thistle, you can reduce your food waste by up to 85%! 

Our Packaging Now: Reuse and Recycle

Packaging remains our #1 most urgent sustainability challenge — and we have been trying to address it for quite some time. Our meal container packaging is currently: 

  • 100% recyclable
  • Made with 65% less energy than normal PET
  • Made from 15% post-consumer recycled plastic
  • Made using 15% solar energy

We ask customers to return their bags and ice packs (just leave them out to be picked up during your next delivery) so we can wash and reuse them. 

Improving Our Packaging: More reusable and next-generation compostable

Many of you have asked why we haven’t made a switch to compostable packaging. The reality is that many of the commercially available solutions on the market today, at least those that work for our purposes, are not necessarily better for the environment and in some cases could be worse when when you consider the full lifecycle of the product: how materials will be manufactured, transported, and disposed of by the customers. Some considerations include the following (and a good summary can be found here):

  • Compostable materials can be more resource intensive than plastics to produce, leading to greater contributions to global warming, pollution, and resource scarcity, especially when not sourced sustainably. Unfortunately, suppliers are often not transparent with their supply chains and sourcing practices.
  • This type of packaging is currently only compostable under very specific conditions, which are in resource intensive industrial facilities — it’s not your backyard compost heap — that not only require a ton of energy to break down materials, but are only accessible by a small percentage of Americans. If people don’t have access to commercial composting, the packaging ends up in recycling, which ends up polluting the recycling stream (because they are not actually recyclable), or it ends up in landfill or the marine environment where it has many of the same problems as traditional plastic (at least the bioplastic types of compostable containers that best worked for our purposes). 
  • Most of the more environmentally attractive paper or molded fiber based compostable packaging doesn’t work for our needs. Thistle meals are packaged and delivered or shipped to customers, which requires packaging to be more durable, leak-proof, and spill-proof than most compostable solutions out there offer. We found in testing that these packages led to a tremendous amount of wasted food due to issues in transport, as well as to reductions in shelf life for the customer. This not only leads to a poor customer experience, but also a higher environmental footprint due to greater food waste.
  • The molded fiber containers that had greatest success in our testing were unfortunately found to contain forever PFAS chemicals that are linked to cancer and other health impacts, and can contaminate food and the environment. 

The point here isn’t that plastic is a good solution, of course — it is absolutely not! -- only that currently available compostable materials are not necessarily a panacea despite marketing claims, that this is a complicated issue without a simple, single answer that often involves environmental tradeoffs, and that it’s important to dig into the details of source materials, manufacturing, and end-of-life to make the right decision. 

Now the good news! Packaging innovation continues to progress: we are extremely excited about the next generation compostable containers we’ve begun to test. These are not yet widely available on the market but we’re pursuing potential partnerships with a couple of companies that offer containers composed of materials that either do actually degrade in your backyard (and don’t require tons of energy and special facilities to break down), or are both industrially compostable and recyclable in case compost isn’t available in your city, all while not leaving behind nasty chemicals. 

Better yet is the potential for reusable containers, since reusable packaging is preferable to any single use option. While the pandemic unfortunately caused some delays in this project last year, we were still able to conduct tests with our partner, robotics startup Dishcraft, to pilot fully washable and reusable packaging in 2020. We gained valuable insight and now we’re ready for a larger scale test with about 500 customers right around Earth Day 2021 -- so when this reusable packaging arrives at your door, be sure to tell us what you think!

As your partner in health and wellness, we hope you will continue to support us and our efforts to create a more beautiful, sustainable world for generations to come. Have a sustainability idea for us? Drop us a line at hello@thistle.co.


Get meals delivered to your door
We believe eating delicious is crucial to a healthy diet. Each week, our team of chefs design a new menu for what's in season, fresh and flavorful.
TRY THISTLE
Posted 
Apr 7, 2021
 in 
Thistle News
 category.