Don’t greenwash me, Talenti

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How is your ice cream made? How much energy is used? What kind of packaging is involved? These are the questions we have to begin asking ourselves, demanding something simpler, better and just as delicious. Photo: Icecreambike.net

There’s a saying that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Temptations

Recently I fell in love with a new ice cream brand—actually, a gelato—called Talenti.

These folks have churned out a small selection of the most delightful and imaginative flavors with a rich texture and perfect finish. Of their thirteen gelato flavors I’ve now tried five, which were each perfetto! My favorite being their unparalleled Sea Salt Caramel.

I’ve tried four of their five sorbettisdeliziosi—with my fave praise going to the Blood Orange.

The missing ingredient

But one thing really disturbed me about the company, and that was their packaging. Each pint-sized package is a clear plastic jar with a brown plastic lid.

Talenti

Talenti Gelato: The taste = mm, mm good. The packaging = tsk, tsk bad!

Oh, they look great, and this is likely why the company decided to use these materials. The sleek, upscale look clearly distinguishes them in the marketplace from so many other brands’ cardboard containers.

But for me, that’s just not good enough.

Add to that the fact that they have a global mission—to source from exotic locations—and we’re talking about a company with a whopping carbon footprint. That’s a hard thing to get behind at a time when relocalization is the key to better economic growth in harmony with resources.

It’s actually quite difficult to imagine a company that actually chooses to use plastic in 2011. I mean, where have they been?

Consumer demand for eco-consciousness

So I wrote in to the company using their online contact form, praising the amazing product on the one hand, but voicing my disapproval about the plastic packaging on the other. As I told them then, their packaging will never ever biodegrade. One hundred thousand years from now little pints of Talenti jars will still dot the landscape.

To their credit, I received a personal reply that actually addressed the content of my concerns. Sadly, beyond the specifics, the rest of their response was canned, and in my view wholly disingenuous.

The Texas two-step greenwash

Dear Lindsay,

Thank you for taking the time to write us.  I love hearing from our fans.

We understand and respect your point of view concerning our packaging and the environment.  When partnering with specialty and natural foods chains we took on a collaborative effort to discover the most environmentally friendly packaging. The paper vs. plastic issue has been strongly debated. At the end of the day, there is one thing everyone agrees on and that is to reuse and recycle. Many of our customers reuse our containers for a wide variety of purposes and we ask that you consider doing the same.

And thanks again for being a fan and do not forget to check us out on Facebook and Twitter!

With Warm Regards,
Alanna

It doesn’t add up

I checked out their Facebook reuse contest and, like the look of their packaging, it was cute. In spite of a  parent reusing Talenti to feed a baby—are we sure Talenti plastic is BPA-free?—the contest inspired many fans who had great ideas for reuse and took excellent pictures to document them.

Still, I’m sorry, but that kind of reuse encouragement is not good enough.

The idea that the company took into consideration environmental concerns and then settled on a petroleum-dependent, toxicity producing, non-biodegradable packaging choice reeks of insincerity.

That or stupidity.

Perhaps folks think that by simply encouraging recycling and reuse, that it meets their obligation to our shared environment. That one small nod toward reuse outweighs heavy issues of materials, resources, energy use and toxicity.

Finally, the claim that Talenti’s package decision was done in conjunction with the preferences of small specialty retail and natural food chains rings a bit hollow, too. Talenti’s where to find our products page lists almost entirely large-scale retailers. Really, am I supposed to believe that Pick & Save, Giant, and TEXAS Kroger are specialty or natural food stores?

C’mon, Talenti, this is the age of the Internet. And guess what? We, the American People are not entirely as stupid as companies think we are. Almost. But not entirely.

An easy fix

Talenti could reduce its carbon footprint by ditching conventional plastic in favor of a renewable source. They could source plant-based plastics, like hemp. They could take their own advice and reuse by choosing renewable resources for package production, relying on pulp-based packaging. Or they could really reuse and recycle by using 100% post-consumer waste sources. Or by insisting on Forest Stewardship Council-certified resources.

None of this would stop Talenti’s fabulous designers from making a high-end looking package that is distinct from others on the shelf. And with the confidence born from a product that tastes as good as Talenti Gelato and Sorbetto, it should be a cinch to compete. Finally, making a shift to sustainable packaging would help position Talenti as an authentic thought leader in boutique style (if not grocery store available) products. In a social-marketing driven consumer landscape, this matters. We’re paying attention.

When hard choices mean no gelato

In the end, I’m one customer who will have to leave until Talenti makes those choices, putting as much thought into the company’s ecological footprint as they do into flavor. And I’ll continue to discourage others from purchasing Talenti as well. It’s time we all took our responsibility to our environment more seriously, eschewing greenwashing in favor of real eco-consciousness. This is even more necessary when it comes to our luxuries, like having some ice cream.

Fortunately for me, there’s a local on-site gelato maker in my town, just blocks from my house. I think I’ll go suggest they start making Sea Salt Caramel, too.

– Lindsay Curren, Lindsay’s List

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About Lindsay Curren

Lindsay Curren has no intention of ending up the Scarlett O'Hara of the 21st century, dizzy and confused as neo-Rome burns. Instead, the Staunton, Virginia based writer, designer and high-heeled survivalist writes Lindsay's List, the women's conservation blog and edits Transition Voice, the online magazine on peak oil and the coming life of sweaty labor and, hopefully, nicer manners.

Comments

  1. Good for you! I just discovered this brand yesterday, and while the sea salt caramel flavor is absolutely divine (and surely a fast track to diabetes), I was also disappointed with the packaging. I checked the FAQ’s on their website and was pretty surprised that there was nothing about BPA or the packaging at all, other than a link to the contest you mentioned above. I, too, cringed at the photo of the baby drinking from the container!

  2. I agree with your article, even though I doubt that the paper used by Ben&Jerry’s and all other American brands of ice-creams is not going to leave any footprint on our planet, dear. I also need to make a correction in your nice article. If you say that all flavors were perfect, in Italian you have to say “perfetti” not “perfetto” since plural takes an i. Same thing if you say that you tried four of their five sorbettos (by the way in Italian is Sorbetti otherwise you should say sorbets) would be “deliziosi” not “delizioso.” Perhaps before using Italian words you should check their grammar, first!

    • Thanks, I’ll make the Italian corrections right away. I love a good grammar (and spelling) policeman.

      I didn’t suggest that other ice cream brands wouldn’t leave a footprint. Just that none would leave as gapingly huge and irreparable one as Talenti since plastic never biodegrades. Talenti containers are here with us forever. And that, in any language, sucks!

      • I love Talenti, with it’s many options, gluten free, dairy free, vegan free, and the two things that keep keep me coming back is 1) the flavors and 2) yes the containers, I’m almost embarrased to say how many I have in my cupboard:) I reuse them for coffee grinds, cherrios, snacks on the go with the little ones, oatmeal, flaxseed, brown sugar…etc, good containers are expensive with these I get a treat and a container. I’ve even made noise makers for my toddler with the empty container:) green customer for life

        • To me there is almost nothing more hateful to do to our children (that otherwise seems benign) than purchasing anything with plastic on it, in it, or associated with it. The one exception is serious medical devices. Reusing is not really about buying something plastic and then thinking of a million ways to reuse it. Reusing is taking existing things and finding ways to reuse them. The bottom line is there’s nothing redeeming about businesses entering the marketplace today with a global aim and gobbling up resources on a global scale. All we’re doing is all but ensuring a horrific future for our kids, one bite (and cannister) of global scale ice cream at a time.

          If we really care about our kids, the time for talk is over and the time for changed behavior (including forgoing many many things) is upon us.

        • However there’s nothing green about petroleum based plastics even if they are BPA free. They are still plastic, they will never biodegrade, they’re an inert, dead substance offering no beauty to the world and both their manufacture and non-biodegradability make for bio hazards in the long run. Petroleum-plastics are inherently UNgreen and no amount of spin can change that. Talenti is NOT a green company on any level whatsoever. Good ice cream, terrible packaging. They couold do better if they cared more about the world that they do about the look of their ice cream on a store shelf. But they don’t. That’s a choice they’ve made. They could make another choice, and there’s still time to do that. But for now they fail the green test BOG TIME.

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