Sustainability the Bignose & Beardy Way
When we started on our Bignose & Beardy journey sustainability was central to the plan. Not only with regards to the environment, but also sustainability with regards to our families and time. An out of control hobby, the cider business needs to fit in around our real jobs, so we are constantly ensuring the balance is right for it to be sustainable for all.
Every step of the cider making process from picking, to pressing to packing tries to support sustainability. The majority of our Bignose and Beardy apples are donated from private gardens and orchards locally. Windfall apples, as well as those still hanging on the trees for dear life and would have otherwise gone to waste; every apple gathered on our ‘apple picking’ days and donated by the sack load left at the cidery gate, are pressed and bottled. By default, these apples grow with no insecticides or pesticides. We swap this fruit for finished cider and everyone feels good. The balance of our fruit comes from commercial growers based just down the road. They do use sprays to keep their businesses viable. So we only buy fruit they can't sell, if we didn't take it, it would be left to rot. If there's one thing we despair of, it's waste.
We pick by hand using teams of volunteer members of our cider club as well as friends and family. These are happy, friendly outdoor days, (hopefully) in warm autumn sunshine, full of fresh air, long chats, tree climbing, stick sword fights and the satisfaction of a job well done.
Apple pressing uses a combination of solar, water and human power. We installed solar panels when we built the barn. These drive the mill and kettles for heating water for washing. Our hydra press uses mains water pressure to squeeze out the juice. All our other processes are manual and take place at the cidery in Framfield, our team all live within a few miles, and mostly with a few hundred meters. It's labour intensive at times, but it's good honest work and a tonic for the rest of the working week which involves commutes and offices.
The pomace, (the apple pulp left over after all the juice is extracted), is fed to Bignose’s happy pigs, and our neighbours's cows. We try to close all the loops in the process.
When it comes to packaging, our metal bottle caps are recyclable as are our light weight glass bottles. The cardboard cases the cider gets delivered in are also recyclable and are made down the road by Challenge Packaging.
We learned very quickly that we need to let the business grow at its own pace. Trying to juggle busy family lives with hectic jobs meant that every time we tried to push the cider, we got stressed out. Now if we find it's getting too much, we stop, put the idea aside and focus on the fundamentals. It means that we are growing slowly and that's ok.
We haven't got everything right. We want to close the loop on water and recycle it in the pressing process. We'll need to review our labelling soon and we're still searching for recyclable cups for hot toddies (we've found some great compostable plastic glasses, which we can also wash and reuse).
It's not perfect but we've made a start.