BEE GREEN - Our Environmental & Social Commitments
Over the last 15 years, we at Volcano Island Honey Company have been calling ourselves a business with an “uncommon philosophy”, referring to previously uncommon business practices that incorporated a deep environmental and social ethic.
Fast forward to today, the business world has changed. Or maybe the 60’s “back to nature” generation has grown up and has money to burn! Consumers are now demanding organic, natural, recycled, carbon neutral, “eco” products. Here at Volcano Island Honey Company, caring for people and the environment has always been our goal. We are glad that our uncommon philosophy has become more common and recognize that there is still a long way to go. Sometimes it seems impossible to close the gap between what we believe and what we are doing.
Despite our best efforts, our business can not be considered wholly “sustainable.” In operating the business, we still consume non-renewable resources. As a small, family-owned business, sometimes we cannot afford to make all of the changes we want to- such as installing a full solar system on the farm. In some cases we want to go “all the way”, but the products are not available.
We would like to package our honey in glass jars that are made from 100% recycled glass, but could not find a source. Americans only recycle 25% of their glass, which makes it impossible for U.S. glass manufactures to have a higher percentage of recycled glass in their products.
Larger businesses like Patagonia have created a demand for organic cotton and are helping to transform agricultural practices. (By the way, we highly recommend Patgonia Founder Yvon Chouinard’s book Let My People Go Surfing.)
We at Volcano Island Honey Company are proud to be a part of a growing movement among small and large businesses that focus on the “triple bottom line”- environmental, social and financial.
- We are committed to continuous improvement in our beekeeping techniques and use nonviolent and non toxic methods to harvest honey and in all aspects of production. We harvest only surplus honey stored by the bees leaving the bees enough honey for their needs and we never feed sugar to our bee colonies. Volcano Island Honey Company uses no toxic materials at any point in the husbandry, harvest or production process.
Honeybees have the lowest negative environmental impact of any agricultural endeavor. Their footprint is small, less than an acre for 100 or more colonies, while their positive effect is large - pollination of flowers growing within 2-4 miles in every direction from the colonies.
We utilize the beeswax, a byproduct of honey production, to make organic beeswax candles and organic wax foundation for the hives.
We have just started making our own organic wax foundation. Foundation is a sheet of wax with hexagonal patterns that beekeepers place in the hives to start the bees started making honeycomb. By making our own organic wax foundation we are reviving a lost art, closing the sustainability loop (by not having to ship in foundation), and promoting the health of our hives. Our wax foundation making project is supported with a grant from Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education. Michael Krones from Hawaiian Queen Company is our partner and technical advisor on the project.
Pictured at Right: Donelle is dipping a board into hot wax. The board is then cooled in water, the wax sheet peeled off and run through the embosser.
- Our products, processes and facilities are third party certified organic by Quality Assurance International (QAI), the largest organic certifier in the country.
- We source organic and local ingredients whenever possible. The ginger in our ginger honey is organic and comes from Kauai. The lilikoi (passion fruit) in our lilikoi honey is wild harvested on the Big Island.
New Leaf Paper 100% Recycled, 50% post-consumer waste, processed chlorine free. Manufactured with electricity that is offset with Green-e® certified renewable energy certificates. Ancient forest friendly.
Printed with soy based inks at Hagadone Printing, a Hawaii-based company that is a leader in environmentally responsible printing.
Boise Aspen 100, 100% post-consumer waste, processed chlorine free.
Our Customer Commitment Card and Holiday Newsletter are printed on 100% recycled paper.
- VIHC has a comprehensive recycling program. We recycle all recyclable plastic, cardboard, office paper, metal and glass at our local recycling station.
- We use both sides of office paper whenever possible.
- In 2007, we made a transition to an email holiday newsletter (instead of snail mail) to customers with email addresses.
- We reuse the cardboard boxes that our jars come packaged in to repackage the finished product.
- We are a designated Stryrofoam peanut drop off site and we re-use the peanuts in our shipping department. (Read more below about our efforts to stop using Styrofoam peanuts).
- Gray water from the sinks and washing machine in the production building is recycled into the landscaping.
- Glass manufacturing is extremely fossil fuel dependant and large fossil fuel furnaces are kept burning 24 hours a day. New glass is made from sand, limestone & soda ash. Limestone & soda ash are carbonates and release additional CO2 during manufacturing. When recycled glass is used, it is easier to melt, uses less energy and has no carbonates. The glass manufacturing industry likes to use recycled glass because it saves them energy and, therefore, money. All glass manufactures use recycled glass (called cullet) in the manufacturing process, but the percentage of cullet can vary greatly from 5% to 50%.
- Volcano Island Honey Company sources glass jars from manufacturers that use 35- 50% cullet (recycled glass) in their process. We were unable to find a manufacturer of glass jars that used a higher percentage of recycled glass in manufacturing.
- In the United States, only 25% of glass containers get recycled, therefore there is a shortage of recycled glass cullet available for glass manufacturers. Please re-use or locally recycle your glass jars.
Our jar lids are made from steel. The company that we purchase from:
- Uses steel that is made from 20% - 100% recycled steel and is recycled indefinitely.
- Recycles all steel scrap, old steel equipment and machinery, cardboard angles, litho solvents, aluminum, wood pallets, paper products and cleaning solvents.
As part of our commitment to the local community VIHC provides local community members (kamaaina) with the same very expensive, exclusive, gourmet honey at affordable prices. We package this honey in plastic tubs. We are currently:
Testing reusable glass tubs with lids and trying find an inexpensive source.
The cardboard boxes that we use to pack your order are from Tharco and contain an average of 59% recycled fiber content, of which 44% is post-consumer material.
Our cardboard case boxes contain 35% recycled material.
- Styrofoam peanuts are really bad for the environment. We have investigated many alternatives: corn starch peanuts, ExpandOS, Corru-Fill®, Geami, PackTiger™, Cushion Cubes, and our own shredded paper. Some of these alternatives work with our glass jars, but the cost of shipping these products from the U.S. mainland is prohibitive. We are working with Sustainable Island Products and Xpedx in hope that one of these companies will be able to build the capacity for manufacturing or shipping some of these alternatives to Hawaii. We have high hopes that we will be able to eliminate Styrofoam peanuts this year. We do collect and re-use peanuts locally to keep them out of the landfill.
- Please re-use your peanuts or donate them– contact the Peanut Reuse Hotline at 800-828-2214 or for the nearest collection center.
Eco Six Pack
- Our custom-designed "Eco Six Pack" holds up to six 8 oz. and/or 20 oz. jars, and can be shipped using no additional packing material (peanuts or bubble wrap).
- Ordering more jars at a time not only helps reduce waste, but also saves you money!
- When you order 1 jar of honey, shipping costs $22 - but when you order 6 jars, shipping still costs $22: a savings on shipping of over 80% per jar!
- Click here to read more about our collaboration with a packing company to custom design the Eco Six Pack, published in Packaging Digest (November 2009).
The glamorous side of sustainability- Andrea is subjecting a sample Eco-Pack to the drop kick test. Trying to eliminate the need for Styrofoam peanuts, we are testing a new Eco-Pack that works with 20 oz. jars and a combination of 8 oz. and 20 oz. jars.
We run our large farm truck on half B100 (biodiesel) and half regular diesel. The biodeisel comes from Pacific Biodiesel on Maui and is made from recycled vegetable oil.
Biodiesel has cleaner emissions as compared to petroleum diesel, net carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere are reduced by 78.5%.
VIHC is committed to purchasing the most environmentally friendly products possible:
- VIHC purchases Tork toilet paper from Sustainable Island Products. SCA, which manufactures Tork products was named the 2nd greenest company in the world in 2007.
- Natural dish soap used in production and packaging is from Seventh Generation.
- Hand soap in guest and employee restrooms is from Dr. Bronner’s.
In October 2008, Tracy Solomon LLC- Sustainable Business Consulting conducted an Energy Audit. Tracy found that VIHC is already very energy efficient, but some consolidation, equipment maintenance, insulation, and behavioral changes could reduce electrical usage by 20-30%.
Pictured: Tracy Solomon and Richard Spiegel.
Volcano Island Honey Company is certified as a Green Business by Green America (formerly Co-op America) a national organization.
- VIHC is a good example of value-added, sustainable, diversified, organic agriculture and employs community members in the economically depressed area of Ahualoa in Hamakua district on the Big Island of Hawaii to produce our products.
- We are committed to managing business activities with integrity while creating and implementing employment procedures that encourage continuous personal growth, and open, honest communication.
- Employees work a four day, 36 hour work week. The company makes every effort to be flexible with regards to scheduling in order to allow employees to take care of family and personal needs. Employees can bring children to work when childcare is not available or school is closed. The teenage children of many of our employees and friends have had their first summer job at VIHC.
Having the ability to care for people in our community, visitors to our farm and each other is important to VIHC. To increase our ability to respond appropriately to an emergency, employees are trained in Basic First Aid and CPR by the American Red Cross.
Pictured: Candice and Christina practice rolling over a couple of unconscious beekeepers, played convincingly by Richard and Donelle.
- VIHC represents the state of Hawaii nationally and internationally in the media and at trade shows. We educate people about sustainable agriculture in Hawaii and the production and export of a local, high quality, gourmet, organically grown and produced agricultural product.
- As part of our commitment to the local community we provide Big Island residents with our exclusive, gourmet honey at affordable prices.
- School classes from all over the island are welcome and come for inspiring, educational tours and a taste of our delicious honey. Each child leaves with their own tiny jar of honey and a spoon.
- VIHC are committed to educating about bees and sustainable agriculture. Educational and Non-profit organizations can attend educational tours free or at nominal fee.
Every year we donate 1/2 % of gross sales to various socially and environmentally responsible non-profit organizations. We also donate our honey to different non-profit organization and educational institutions for fund-raising silent auctions.
The following are the non-profit organizations that we support: