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Eco-friendly Practices: Fifty Shades of Green

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“Going green” not too long ago was a bit rudimentary like one shade, say jade: recycling glass, plastic and cardboard, using energy-saving lights, even carpooling with co-workers. But now, it’s morphed from just jade into 50 shades of green—which encompasses use of multiple new technologies to conserve resources while simultaneously being allowed to maximize growth and output.

Many quality suppliers are global in nature, whether concentrating on one key nutraceutical, or providing a wide-range of materials of natural origin. Good sustainable practices filter down to the consumer who, now more than ever, places more trust and loyalty in the supplements and functional foods/beverages they choose to use and exemplify their own commitment to a healthier planet.

Here are several suppliers on the cutting edge of using novel sustainable practices to ensure longevity of output with minimal environmental harm.


Eco-Forward Practices:

“Our industry has a global footprint unlike any other; BI, alone, sources from over 40 countries,” commented Rikka Cornelia, product manager. Due to this extensive supply chain, BI believes sourcing is the point where the company can make the greatest impact when it comes to the environment. BI’s eco-friendly and sustainable practices are embedded in our supply chain, required by our quality program.

Rupa Das, BI’s vice president of global quality and compliance manages the company’s worldwide vendor surveillance program. This strict vendor quality management system ensures all materials meet stringent specification standards and adhere to GMP (good manufacturing practice) and regulatory requirements. The program provides clear guidelines on specifications, test methods and product quality to suppliers; regular audits of the manufacturing and lab facilities to assure compliance with GMP and GLP (good laboratory practice); random audits of traceability to assure usage of correct raw materials; random sampling and testing to ensure compliance with specifications; and oversight of the supplier’s entire QA/QC (quality assurance/quality control) program.

Vendors are first qualified based on paper documents and samples. After clearing this initial pre-screening, the second step is an on-site visit. This allows for two-way education to take place. BI can learn about harvesting practices and processes directly from the vendors, as well as educate them about GMP, GLP, GAP (good agricultural practice), HACCP (hazard analysis critical control point), etc. It also allows BI to look at long-term product sustainability and any economic compliance issues. Lastly, BI conducts ongoing monitoring of each vendor to ensure continued compliance and consistency of material received.


“BI’s quality program has always been the foundation of our business,” said Cornelia, adding that outside factors can sometimes drive BI to make better changes. For instance, with California facing one of the most severe droughts on record this year, BI was motivated to evaluate its water usage and discover ways to reduce consumption. Last year, Cornelia reported, BI significantly reduced its annual water consumption and saved nearly 2.5 million gallons of water year-over-year. This significant reduction in water usage was attributed to several factors both big and small including the addition of a more efficient steam sterilization unit, retrofitting existing steam units to make them greener, and adjustments to BI’s irrigation schedule.


Cornelia expressed that these practices “are part of our quality program not only to ensure current product is of high quality, but also to guarantee that future product is as well. For our customers, it can be utilized as a marketing tool with the increased consumer demand for ethically sourced, quality ingredients. But most significantly, it means peace of mind for our customers.”


As of right now, according to Cornelia, BI plans to continue to “uphold our strict vendor qualification requirements, developing our sophisticated supply chain even more so.”


Eco-Forward Practices:

Jen Johansen, vice president of quality and regulatory affairs explained that Nutrex Hawaii’s microalgae farm, located on the pristine Kona coast of Hawaii Island, was carved out of land that had been a barren lava flow. In addition, the company has taken the following steps:

Green Operations: “The active and very efficient photosynthesis of our microalgae sequesters carbon dioxide and produces oxygen—the main byproduct of its microalgae production,” she described. Nutrex Hawaii’s patented Ocean Chill Drying system dries its spirulina in just three to seven seconds, relies on very cold deep ocean water to provide de-humidification, and uses less than one percent oxygen to preserve the phytonutrients.

Water: Water is essential to Nutrex Hawaii’s continual production. The supplier uses local fresh water from Hawaii Island’s pristine aquifer. To minimize water waste and return essential nutrients back into its growing ponds, the majority of the fresh water used is recycled and returned to the pond for the next growing cycle.

Sustainable Crop: “Spirulina is one of the world’s most environmentally efficient crops,” Johansen pointed out. Spirulina produces 20 times more protein per acre than common crops such as beef, corn and even soybeans while using 10 times less water to produce it. Efficiency is assured through Nutrex Hawaii’s patented process, which converts spirulina from the pond to the bottle in under 30 minutes.

Reduced Carbon Footprint: Nutrex Hawaii, Johansen reported, recently added a 2,280 solar array panel that’s run by Neighborhood Power Company to produce 1,147,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year. The energy production is sufficient to power the farm’s production during daylight hours, and is projected to reduce the company’s greenhouse gas emissions by 791 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year—that’s equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of 167 passenger vehicles.


“‘Malama ‘Aina’, which translates to ‘respect the land,’ is our motivation,” Johansen asserted. “Nutrex Hawaii’s corporate philosophy is to leave the land and environment in better condition than when we started. Some of these measures, such as the solar array panels, also result in cost savings making it a win-win.”


The solar array panel installation reduces Nutrex Hawaii’s greenhouse emissions and costs, which Johansen said creates a win-win for our bottom line and the environment. These efforts also help build trust with Nutrex Hawaii’s consumers and partners.


“We continue to look at ways to improve our operations to reduce our environmental impact and cut cost,” Johansen related.

Aker Biomarine (Oslo, Norway)

Eco-Forward Practices:

Aker BioMarine, the largest vertically integrated supplier of krill-derived products to the nutrition markets, has built what it believes “is the most appropriate infrastructure for the harvest of krill, and addresses sustainability on several different fronts, from third-party research to environmental partnerships to technological developments,” described Marte Haabeth Grindaker, sustainability director. Aker BioMarine was the first krill supplier to obtain MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certification, and was recently recertified for the sustainability and 100 percent traceability of its krill products for another five years.

The company uses a unique, patented technology called Eco-Harvesting, which brings live krill aboard the ship. This reduces the waste incurred by traditional methods when a proportion of the catch at the bottom of the net is rendered unusable through pressure from the rest as it is hauled aboard. This technology also successfully prevents birds, marine mammals and fish from consuming any of the catch.

Aside from implementing cutting edge technology, Aker adheres to strict regulations developed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resource (CCAMLR)—the authority that regulates krill harvesting. Beyond that, Aker voluntary works with the World Wild Fund for Nature and other environmental non-government organizations (NGOs). Earlier this year, Aker Biomarine was instrumental in forming the Antarctic Wildlife Fund (AWR), a first-of-its-kind partnership between industry, academia and NGOs operating in Antarctica focused on better understanding of the marine ecosystem and krill’s vital role as a keystone species.

Aker also recently achieved an “A” rating in the 2015 Reduction Fisheries Sustainability Overview from the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), a grade no other fishery in this report earned, Grindaker reported.


“Aker BioMarine’s commitment to sustainability was established from inception and has continued for nearly a decade,” Grindaker explained. “Since Antarctica is a vulnerable place, Aker’s team was determined to create a fishery that would last. The effort we put behind sustainability allows us to be seen as a role model for other fisheries. What we do impacts the wider ecosystem and that cannot be overlooked or ignored.”


Grindaker asserted that krill (and other marine based omega-3 businesses), will thrive only if they are sustainable. Sustainability shouldn’t be considered a bonus, she emphasized, it should be a prerequisite for doing business in the omega-3 market, because consumers are more educated and are paying closer attention to product certifications. “Consumers are demanding to know where and how products are made. And consumers aren’t the only ones asking. Every part of the supply chain—and even brand marketers—are interested in tracing products back to their original sources,” she said.


According to Grindaker, Aker BioMarine will continue its commitment to protecting Antarctica’s ecosystem on many levels. Currently, the company is excited about the various research projects funded through the Antarctic Wildlife Fund (AWR); three unique projects (studying whales, penguins and krill) were chosen to receive research grants this year, Grindaker reported. “The AWR is leading the way to uncover data that will help determine the impact of the krill fishing industry on the Antarctic marine ecosystem as well as fill in any knowledge gaps related to this area,” she said.


Eco-Forward Practices:

According to David Peele, president, in late 2011 two biomass boilers became operational to supply the steam for the facility. The biomass boilers replaced three diesel-fired boilers. The biomass boilers use hardwood chips as fuel. “This represents a major shift in our energy needs to a renewable sustainable source,” he comments.

The clary sage biomass that remains after extraction is being land applied as a “green fertilizer.” From an agronomic viewpoint, Peele said, the clary sage biomass provides a source of phosphorus and potassium. In addition the organic matter content of the soil is increased providing for improved soil conditions and better water retention.


“The biomass boilers were installed both to meet our internal renewable, sustainable goals and to reduce the cost of energy,” Peele explained. “The land application of the clary sage biomass is the best alternative for the environment. It is not the least expensive alternative however it is the best practical disposal option.”


These practices, Peele pointed out, have a direct effect on the cost of production for its products by lowering Avoca’s energy costs.


According to Peele, Avoca Inc.’s continuing quality improvement/optimization programs are looking to reduce water consumption and switch to LED lights. NIE

For More Information:
Aker Biomarine (U.S.), (206) 855-6736
Avoca Inc., (252) 482-2133
BI Nutraceuticals, (310) 669-2100
Nutrex Hawaii, (800) 395-1353

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