Insomnia Cookies is a chain of late-night bakeries selling (and delivering) 12 types of cookies, as well as brownies, ice cream, cookie cakes, ice cream sandwiches, and milk. According to the founder Seth Berkowitz, its main demographic is college students. Because college students tend to be more liberal and environmentally conscious than the average American, I urge Insomnia Cookies to make a bigger effort toward sustainability. Doing so will likely help expand the company’s customer base, especially those who are vegan and/or those with a dairy allergy. Additionally, the company does not disclose where it sources its ingredients from or what appliances/processes are used in production. Until Insomnia Cookies is transparent with its customers, it cannot be considered environmental or ethical.
The ingredients in the chocolate chunk cookie are as follows: wheat flour, soy flour, sugar, brown sugar, butter, margarine, eggs, natural vanilla flavor, salt, baking soda, and milk chocolate chunks. The margarine used contains palm oil, which is notoriously unsustainable due to its farming practices that contribute to rainforest destruction, biodiversity loss, climate change, and displacement of Indigenous peoples. Although Krispy Kreme, the parent company, has announced to buy palm oil certified under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, there is no indication that they are requiring Insomnia Cookies to do so. Chocolate is also a contributor to climate change - 1 kilogram of chocolate produces 19 kg of greenhouse gases. According to Healabel.com, many of the other ingredients used to make Insomnia’s chocolate chunk cookies are unsustainable including butter, flour, eggs, sugar, and vanilla, as they all require large amounts of water, chemicals, energy, and/or land. Sourcing these ingredients from farms that have sustainable growing practices could make a big difference.
Insomnia cookies are freshly baked at each individual location so it avoids the conveyor system altogether. It is a well-established fact that even small bakeries emit pollutants, primarily from the oven, such as volatile organic compounds. VOCs can form ozone (better known as smog) by reacting with nitrogen oxides and/or carbon monoxide in the atmosphere in the presence of sunlight, compromising air quality. As of right now, Insomnia does not calculate and/or publish its pollution emissions so there is a lack of transparency in that respect. There are three main stages to cookie production: mixing, sheeting and cutting, and baking. However, Insomnia does not indicate the types of appliances used in these stages which is problematic because there is a large difference between ovens that are gas-fired versus those that are electric. The company can make the production more sustainable by investing in energy-efficient appliances that reduce overall energy consumption and just by being transparent.
Insomnia Cookies was founded in 2003 by Seth Berkotwitz who was at the time a student at UPenn. His business model is catered to college students who crave sweets late at night. Considering the amount of dairy used in the products (they also sell ice cream and milk), Insomnia Cookies cannot be considered sustainable unless it sources its ingredients from local organic farmers which is unlikely. Without knowing its supplier, it is impossible to tell how serious Insomnia Cookies is about sustainability. The company does earn points for its labor practices. All of its 1000 employees are paid at least the minimum wage and receive social benefits, including sick leave, parental leave, paid vacation, retirement savings, insurance, and dependent care.