Tag Archives: overpackaging

Overpackaging and Biodegradable Items

I have a problem with buying “bulk” because often it is not bulk. Bulk items are in a bin and you pour them into one container, whether a bag or a bucket. Many items are classified as bulk but are really prepackaged: a 24-pack of chips, a box of cookies packaged into twos for lunches, mini chocolate bars in a wrapper in a bag. These are not bulk but packaged. What all these convenience items have in common is that they’re overpackaged. Instead of one bag, there are many bags, in a box, wrapped in plastic.

The items can range from dried foods, to light bulbs, to frozen foods, to you name it. Where do all the chip and cookie bags, the Styrofoam bowls, the plastic wrap and other packaging go? Into the landfill, often too toxic to burn, but can leak those lovely chemicals into the ground. Sure many landfills are lined to contain the chemical sludge but still, there is only so much space and plastics especially are nasty to create and take thousands of years to break down.

There are several ways to be more conscious of the impact our shopping makes on our environment. One is to not buy prepackaged foods but buy bulk. I buy my veggies and nuts and meat as bulk as I can. Then for lunch I take reusable containers and put my foods into them. (Never microwave foods in plastic containers as the plastic will do damage to your system. Keep a glass container on hand.) If I was to buy cookies, I’d buy a big bag and package them myself, or better yet, bake them. A big bag of chips parceled into a smaller plastic container is far better.

Some companies are working on lessening their packaging. You can now get the equivalent of Styrofoam “corn” packaging material, which is actually corn. If you don’t reuse it, you can wash it down the drain and it will dissolve in seconds. Corn is being used to make plastic looking forks and knives for fast food or deli outlets. I ran into these in a supermarket with a deli section in Kansas. Again, if the forks go into the landfill, they dissolve without leaving chemical residue.

I’ve always said that if necessity was the mother of invention, laziness was the father. It’s too bad that part of the state of our world and environment is because of convenience because of laziness. To package your own food doesn’t take that much extra time and I’m quite lazy about my lunches. I try not to buy items wrapped in plastic and bags and boxes. The worst to me are the tiny things (usually electronics) packaged in a hard plastic container that’s five times the size of the item. It’s unrecyclable plastic and useless. I understand companies have the problem of packaging and advertising something small so that it’s seen but not easily stolen. But if we ask and write and put pressure on them, more viable and environmentally solutions can be found.

Which makes me think it’s time to write more letters to companies.

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Filed under consumer affairs, Culture, environment, food, life, shopping

Conservation: Working on a Way of Life

I have been working on lessening my carbon footprint since I was a teenager, long before there were all the fancy catchwords that included “go green,” “eco” this and that, and “carbon footprint.” Recycling was the biggest, newest buzz word. As a teenager I had already read about the Gaia Hypothesis so I had a concern for the planet and pollution. About all I was doing at that stage was trying not to litter. It was a small start, but a start.

Over the years I never threw anything out that could be re-used. It makes me a bit of a pack-rat and I have sometimes had old computer monitors or printers on my floor for a year before I could find a home for them. I can’t bear to put working or perfectly good items into the landfill. I also stopped cleaning with abrasive, chemically enhanced cleansers. I clean with baking soda, almost exclusively, using low phosphate detergent and soaps and rags and cloth napkins instead of paper towels and napkins.

I started using cosmetics not tested on animals but I’m probably still eating/wearing my fair share of lead and other toxic chemicals, which are not yet regulated for cosmetics. That’s something I hope to work on soon. Unfortuanately I still drive, but my attempts to change that to something more fuel and energy efficient are being thwarted at the moment. (Previous blog entries cover public transportation, carbon tax and cars.)

I also try to avoid the overpackaging that supermarkets give. This includes bringing a cloth bag, or if I have just a few items, carrying them out in my hands or my purse. Also, the “buy this 24-pack of cookies/chips” prepackaging is something I studiously avoid. Instead of paying more for all that extra bagging of chips, which are then placed in a cardboard tray and shrink wrapped, I’ll buy a large bag of salad greens, or nuts or whatever, and then re-use plastic containers and bags that I do have at home. I haven’t bought a container in years, nor prepakaged thingamagooeys.

I rewash plastic cups from parties and put out bags to recycle bottles and plastic. I don’t wash my clothes or dishes until I have a full load. I don’t wear animal furs but I do wear leather. Shoes just don’t work well made of plastic or as long if made of cloth. But I do wear my shoes until they wear out, and try to fix them as long as I can.

I could compost more, but my garbage during the garbage strike was only one small grocery bag every three weeks. I don’t buy wrapping paper anymore and do re-use what people give me. But I also keep old calendars and use the pictures on those as wrapping. I also make re-usable cloth bags. I save buttons off of shirts and turn clothes into rags if they can’t be sent off to a goodwill store.

Am I perfect? Hell no. There are many ways I could improve especially when it comes to the car, though I do walk if I’m in my neighborhood. I try to keep an eye on what I do and improve it. For my own health and for my environment, I’ll look further into safe cleaners, nontoxic cosmetics and rechargeable batteries. Right now, I save batteries and take them┬áto recycling facilities. If we all try a little bit, it can make the environment a lot better for everyone and everything. It still saddens me when people toss things because they “can’t be bothered” or are too lazy. That’s fine if you’re living on your own world, but not when you’re sharing with everyone else.

In BC, you can contact the Recycling Council of BC’s recycling hotline on what to do with various items. http://www.rcbc.bc.ca/index.htm

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