This image shows one of our sun houses for evaporating salt brine.

7 Ways We Practice Sustainability as a Small Business

From eco-friendly packaging to energy-efficient operations, explore the innovative ways we prioritize sustainability as a small business.

7 Ways We Practice Sustainability as a Small Business

As a business, we believe embracing sustainability is a key responsibility in our production journey. We understand the decisions we make affect not only our local environment, but also the sustainable options available to our customers. By supporting establishments that employ eco-friendly production methods, buyers can play a constructive role in advancing overall sustainability and eliminating the demand for harmfully produced goods. 

At J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works, we believe in harnessing the power of nature, utilizing innovation, and fostering local connections to create a delicious product that not only enhances your culinary experiences but also minimizes our environmental footprint. If you’re looking for ways you can implement sustainability practices in business or in personal life, dive into the small but mighty ways we practice sustainability as a small business! 

This image shows salt forming in one of our brine beds through the process of evaporation, a sustainable way we utilize the sun's energy.

1. Harvesting the Sun’s Energy for Sustainability 

Producing salt in a landlocked state that has, admittedly, some crazy weather, comes with its challenges. Still, we opt to work with what nature provides us (and when it chooses to provide it)! A lot of people are surprised when they visit us for a production tour and we don’t take them through an underground salt mine. While mining is one way to harvest salt, the method we have available to us is through brine extraction and evaporation. 

Our production facilities are equipped with sun houses and solar panels, allowing us to harness clean, renewable energy. Our sun houses are vital for creating a more stable weather environment, trapping the heat of the sun and making it powerful enough to allow for salt brine evaporation. This not only reduces our reliance on traditional power sources, but also reflects our dedication to minimizing our environmental impact. 

There are many ways you can use the sun, too! Perhaps this means swapping out your electric dryer for a clothing line outside (sun dried linens are AMAZING!), growing your own food, or even opting for solar powered battery packs to recharge your devices on the go. Installing a home or business solar panel system can also be an option, too, but is not necessary if you’re looking to start your solar-powered journey.  


This image shows our use of glass jars for our salt rather than plastic packaging for our products. Glass is a more eco-friendly and sustainable alternative to plastic.

2. Swapping Out Pesky Plastic

In a world overrun with plastic, we’ve chosen a different path for our products. Instead of contributing to the plastic epidemic, we use glass packaging. Not only can glass be more sustainable, but it also ensures the purity and freshness of our salt remains intact longer. In addition to glass packaging, we also offer bulk options so glass salt grinders and jars can be used again and again! 


Did you know, storing and preparing food in plastic containers can sometimes lead to microplastic contamination? Additionally, plastic containers can retain stains, smells, and even flavors, affecting your ability to use them for other purposes in the future. Glass is a great storage material as it is long lasting and can be used to store a variety of things. If you can, investing in glass containers over plastic is a great way to guarantee your storage solutions stay useful for years to come! 


3. Sustainable Sourcing: Less Miles, More Impact

Choosing to source our materials locally as much as possible isn’t just about reducing transportation emissions; it’s about building a robust local economy. By supporting nearby businesses, we not only reduce the carbon footprint associated with transportation, but also contribute to the growth and prosperity of our community. 

For example, we often work with a local printing company on our paper marketing materials. We also source ingredients for our flavored salts locally, like apple wood for our smoked salt and ramps for our ramp salt. 

Local sourcing goes beyond business materials, as well. Even as a general consumer, a large impact is made when you choose to shop locally over shopping online or even in big box stores. Next time you’re in need of something, whether it’s business cards, salt, coffee beans, spices, etc., check what’s around you before opting out for online retailers! Some of your local shops may even offer online ordering and delivery options, like us!


This image shows some piping ready for use to make repairs in our sun houses.

4. Ingenuity at Every Turn

In our salt-making process, we embrace ingenuity as a core principle. We continually explore innovative ways to make the most of what we have rather than buying something brand new to make our jobs easier. This might mean our facility looks a little rough around the edges, and we may have to work a little harder than a machine would, but we would rather maintain the beauty of our natural environment than obtain new tools and materials with every season. 

Using what we have extends even further as we also utilize the natural by-products generated during the salt-making process. This includes the mineral-packed super liquid, nigari, and iron from our brine, both of which we harvest and use in various ways! 

Making what you have work is one of the easiest ways you can practice sustainability. While it can be tempting to change your wardrobe every season, always get that next phone upgrade, or buy new home decor with each holiday, try using what you already have first. You never know, shoulder pads may come back in style!


5. Supporting Local Businesses: A Positive Economic Flow

Our commitment to sustainability extends beyond our immediate operations. We actively curate our mercantile stock from small local businesses, creating a positive economic flow within our community. By supporting local producers, we contribute to the livelihoods of our neighbors, fostering a sense of interconnectedness that goes beyond mere transactions.

Additionally, by carrying local small businesses in our shop, we connect people to a plethora of amazing small and local producers. Think Amazon for small Appalachian businesses and that’s us! So, if you find sourcing small, locally made products to be a hassle for you, find a shop near you that curates local goods like we do. You would be surprised that there are many shops all over the world a lot like ourselves that cater to connecting producers to the local community. 

This image shows one of our employees hand labeling a salt jar.

6. Simple Methods, Big Impact

Sometimes, the simplest solutions have the most significant impact. Akin to our earlier topic of making what we have work, we also don’t overcomplicate our process. For example, in our production, we opt to use gravity instead of pumps whenever possible for moving our brine. This minimizes energy consumption and our need for new tools.

Additionally, we utilize a very hands-on approach when it comes to the salt making process. Not only does this allow for rigorous quality control, but it also means we use less nonrenewable resources as a whole. We harvest and clean our salt by hand, hand sift our salt into its various sizes, and even hand package and ship all in the same facility. Sure, we may be choosing the harder, longer way to do things, but this allows us to have a very close relationship to our product as well as take care of the environment!


7. A Commitment to Recycling

Recognizing the significant environmental impact of paper and cardboard waste, we prioritize recycling as an essential practice. Our approach involves not only reusing cardboard boxes and being mindful of paper consumption, but also engaging in regular recycling efforts. This simple yet effective strategy allows us to minimize waste and make a positive contribution to a more sustainable business environment. 


Conclusion on Sustainability

Whether you have a small business or not, implementing methods towards a more sustainable life doesn’t have to be a challenge! By embracing sustainable practices as a small business, we hope to inspire others to take meaningful steps towards a more responsible future. From harnessing solar power and using glass packaging, to supporting local businesses and embracing simplicity in our salt-making process, we believe we have a special responsibility as a business to work towards operating sustainability. 



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