Dr. Earth is a gardening supply company that has been producing organic plant food and fertilizer since 1991. They obviously have long seen the value in organic fertilizer such as this one. It improves water movement into the soil and adds structure to it, which can lessen the amount of water gardeners need to give their plants. It also feeds beneficial microbes instead of harming them like synthetic fertilizers (think Miracle Gro). Dr. Earth is a sponsor of the sustainable food trade association.
This fertilizer consists of all the right stuff, including composted food waste to lower waste outputs from supermarkets. Dr. Earth does a great job of educating their costumers on the environment and gardening for the sake of sustainability and garden health, instead of their profit. Where they miss the mark, however, is their lack of clear communication on their production and treatment of employees. While this fertilizer is good for the planet, they have a ways to go to make sure that Dr. Earth as a whole is meeting the Voiz standard as well.
This fertilizer is organic, meaning that there are no synthetic additives in the ingredient list. It is made up of mined rock minerals, natural plant, and animal materials (fish and fish bones). The nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium ratio is 4-4-4. Since it adds up to under 16, we can be confident that there is no shady business of synthetic materials being added. There is no chicken manure in this recipe, unlike many other organic fertilizers, so that most likely lowers the harmful level of salt. While the compost does not have chicken manure, which is toxic to animals, the fish and fish bones could prove to be harmful when dogs consume it. Dr. Earth is unique, because they take their compost from supermarkets, and recycle food grade waste when many supermarkets don’t have compost programs.
Even though all of the materials used are from the earth, some need to be mined, like the mined rock phosphate and other minerals. This harms the ecosystems that are being mined in, and the minerals are all nonrenewable resources. I would like to see an initiative from Dr. Earth to reduce the impact they put into the earth through their mineral extraction.
Dr. Earth’s fertilizer is certified organic by 4 different certification organizations: the Organic Material Review Institute, the Organic Input Materials, the California Certified Organic Farmers, and the National Organic Program. All of these certifications ensure that the materials and inputs used in the fertilizer are organic, and therefore anything farmed with this fertilizer and other organic materials can also be considered organic as well. The differences between these organizations are the level they certify (state, federal, independent), and how scrutinous they are.
Their website boasts that the fertilizer is “sustainably made in the USA,” but there is no details to back up what steps Dr. Earth takes to make their fertilizer sustainably, or even where the factory is located in America. For me, and most of my generation, it’s not enough to simply say that a company is sustainable. I want to hear the hard facts and the commitments that they are making to their values.
Since there is no information on their website on the production process of the organic fertilizer, here is the industry standard for organic fertilizer production: first the raw materials are pretreated by being dried, cut and shredded, then stored. The compost, waste, material mixture is placed in a pile and routinely mixed by a machine called a windrow for 4-6 weeks. The machine is used at most each 2-3 days, so the output of energy is relatively low. The use of the windrow allows for mixing of the materials and for air to reach the bacteria. This process requires some use of oil, because of the machines needed to mix the fertilizer and to cut the materials. It’s impossible to truly evaluate the whole span of their impact in their production, due to their lack of transparency. We can assume that there is a lot of carbon emissions involved in the transport of their minerals, but there’s no way to know if their factory is close to their distribution center, or if they get their compost locally.
Just as Dr. Earth does not has any information on their manufacturing, they also do not have any literature on their labor practices. It is imperative that they release information on how they treat their employees in both management and in production, so that their customers can better hold them responsible.
Dr. Earth does have quite a bit of social and environmental initiatives, though, to offset their impact on the earth. They claim to remove 5 million pounds of plastic annually from the ocean through joining OceanBound. They do this by paying workers in the global south to pick up the trash that is found in and around the ocean. There is not much information about this on the internet that I could find backing this up, besides the ocean bound site and Dr. Earth itself. OceanBound seems to recycle plastic and sell it to companies, and most Dr. Earth invested in the company or has ownership. I wish that the connection was more clear, but I am happy that they are taking steps to clean the ocean and promote a circular economy. So while there are a lot of good things happening at Dr. Earth, like their organic materials and their social initiatives, it is tarnished by their cloudy communication with their consumers.