Caring about the environment is patriotic.
February 26th, 2009
I went for a lovely walk today to run some errands, one of which included picking up groceries for dinner at my local Whole Foods, so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to find out if the store has plans to take part in the Preserve Gimme 5 recycling program. As I explained in my earlier post, many Whole Foods locations are partnering with Gimme 5 (which is supported by Preserve, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farm) to provide recycling bins for No. 5 plastics like Brita water pitcher filters, but my Whole Foods unfortunately isn’t one of them (the nearest one is in San Francisco). I figure it’ll be an easy sell to get my local LA Whole Foods to take part in the program. After all, Whole Foods is on the forefront of a number of environmental initiatives–most recently, the banning of plastic grocery bags in all its stores.
I went to the customer service desk, and was able to speak with an associate store team leader (ASTL), who said I was the second or third person who had encouraged the store to take part in the program, although she didn’t seem to know much about the program or how to get the store involved. I passed along the details of the program, and she said she would talk to the store’s marketing supervisor about getting involved. I’ll be sure to follow up with the marketing supervisor in a week or so.
As my mom always says: “You don’t ask, you don’t get!” Take five minutes the next time you’re shopping at Whole Foods, go to the customer service desk and ask to speak with a manager, and let him/her know how great you think it would be if your local store took part in the program. Whole Foods prides itself on its excellent customer service, so I’m sure someone super-nice will welcome you with open ears. Leave me a comment and let me know how it went!
February 24th, 2009
It was finally time to change the filter in my Brita pitcher last night, and I was excited that for the first time, I can rescue the filter from a landfill death. In November 2008, the company announced that beginning last month, Brita pitchers and filters can be recycled through a program with recycled household product maker Preserve (a nifty company; I, for one, am a big fan of its recycled/recyclable toothbrush that’s sold at my local Trader Joe’s). According to the Preserve website, the company will recycle each Brita plastic filter casing (No. 5 polypropylene) into new Preserve products, such as the aforementioned toothbrushes, as well as kitchen products like mixing bowls and cutlery. Regarding other materials in the filter–like activated carbon that reduces chlorine taste and odor, as well as ion exchange resin that reduces lead, mercury, cadmium, copper, and zinc–the website states that they “will be regenerated for alternative use or converted into energy.”
That statement–especially the “regenerated for alternative use” part–seems a bit vague. What does that mean, exactly? The best answer I could dig up was a comment posted on Green LA Girl when the news of the Brita/Preserve recycling program was first announced in November. According to FilterForGood, a campaign to reduce bottled water waste: “The details about the internal carbon and ion exchange resin are a little vague because Brita and Preserve are still working toward an exact solution…. Testing for the best method is in progress and we will have more information to announce early next year.”
That being said, at least we know that the plastic part of the filter is definitely going to good use. So, there are two recycling options available. The first–and most convenient–is to drop off the filter at a participating recycling location. Via the drop-off location finder on the Preserve website, I can see that the nearest location for me is a Whole Foods in San Francisco. Since I live in LA, I guess I’m choosing the second recycling option: mailing the filter to Preserve. Preserve doesn’t currently offer a prepaid mailer for the Brita filters like it does for its toothbrushes and razor handles, so it looks like I’ll be collecting filters like some sort of crazy eco bag-lady until I’ve amassed enough to justify the cost (both monetarily and from a CO2 shipping expenditure standpoint) of ground shipping them to the company’s recycling depot in Cortland, NY.
We’ll see how many enthusiastic filter recyclers with no access to a drop-off location end up mailing in their filters. But at least it’s a start. Just a short while ago, there was no recycling program–only a campaign/petition started by the dedicated folks at Take Back the Filter (a hearty congrats and thank you to them on this major accomplishment). And with Brita’s new onslaught of plastic-bottles-are-evil commercials like this one with the tagline “30 minutes on the treadmill, forever in a landfill,” the ball is in our court to keep the pressure on Brita (and other filter manufacturers, since this recycling program is for Brita only) to not be the hypocrite and continue to expand its recycling program.
February 21st, 2009
You know the world is changing when Frito-Lay, the company responsible for introducing the now widely-banned Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to millions of junk-food craving Americans, jumps on the all-natural bandwagon. Check out the new commercial for Lay’s potato chips, in all its exploding wholesome potato-y goodness:
This is a return to basics: the utopian small-town farming community gathering in a field, kids pulling a homemade radio flyer, a woman hanging laundry in the breeze. The voices in the song sweetly sing: “The grass is green…the sky is blue…nature needs no clue.”
“Just potatoes, all natural oil, and a dash of salt.”
Now, whether the higher-ups at Frito-Lay truly believe in simpler times and a return to purer food, or are just jumping on the organic/natural food bandwagon, remains to be seen. (My vote is for the latter; Frito-Lay is a snack food company, after all.) But that there is even a bandwagon to jump on at all says a lot about the shift in consumer demand toward healthier products (and when I say healthier, I mean more natural; I’m not referring to some Olestra-spiked diet food). Despite the current economic downturn, organic food sales are still growing.
February 20th, 2009
Higher oil prices worldwide have forced companies to reevaluate how they package and transport their products. This, according to CPGmatters, a monthly e-zine serving the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry, which recently examined Datamonitor‘s Product Launch Analytics and released its top trends affecting products in 2009. One easy way to reduce shipping costs? Take the water out of the product. A lighter load means less fuel (and subsequently, less CO2 emissions). One new example to hit the mainstream marketplace is Arm & Hammer Essentials, a new line of plant-based cleaning products with no ammonia or phosphates that feature empty 32-fl.-oz. spray bottles sold with attached 1.2-oz bottles of liquid concentrate, to be mixed with water at home. Refills, which are sold in packs of two, cost 25 percent less.
I wonder how the average American consumer will react to what is essentially an empty bottle for sale on the supermarket shelf. While it’s a gutsy move by A&H–and one that may see other companies follow suit out of sheer necessity to cut costs–past marketing theory dictates that Americans instinctively buy the biggest bang for their buck (the Olive Garden and gargantuan portions, anyone?). Or maybe it’s not instinctive. I think advertising has become so pervasive that we’ve been trained to see bigger and think that it means better. Looks like in this new era of skyrocketing energy prices and environmental awareness, we’ll have to be retrained to realize that smaller = savings.
February 20th, 2009
A loyal RWG reader forwarded me a podcast of this fascinating NPR interview with journalist and agricultural visionary Michael Pollan, author of The Ominvore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. While the interview originally aired on Oct. 20, 2008, its rebroadcast earlier this week seems especially poignant in light of the continued economic crisis, as well as our ongoing challenge of freeing America from fossil fuel dependence.
According to Pollan, we’re going to need to come up with a new agricultural policy in a post-oil America. He explains how a redesign in US farming policy to drive down the cost of food during the Nixon administration has led to the agricultural quandary we find ourselves in today, including:
I’ve only scratched the surface–Pollan also talks about the rise of feedlots, Argentina as an example for sustainable farming, and how suburban sprawl affects our farming capability, among other enlightening topics. But if you glean only one tidbit from the interview, it’s this: The era of cheap food is over.
February 17th, 2009
I’m sorry to keep singling out one particular women’s magazine (I won’t name it again, but if you click here you’ll see which one), but does anyone see the irony here? The editorial spread features model Angela Lindvall in eco-friendly fashions — “wear-forever classics with organic tanks, ‘green’ jeans, and sustainable shoes” — yet the opening shot shows her holding a disposable coffee cup. If a reusable travel mug would have ruined the aesthetic of the photo, couldn’t they have shot her sitting outside at some adorable LA cafe, ceramic mug in hand? To miss something this obvious is embarrassing.
February 12th, 2009
I was always thought I was a careful consumer–considering environmental impact as well as my family’s bottom line when contemplating purchases–but with the current economic crisis, I’ve found myself re-thinking every purchase, no matter how mundane: Why buy a new shampoo when I’ve got a few bottles (albeit ones I don’t like very much, but still perfectly usable) in my closet? My favorite flats are wearing thin, and I could use a new pair, but why don’t I just send them to the shoemaker and replace the soles instead?
And that’s when it occurred to me: The current economic crisis isn’t just forcing people to make changes that will help them save money. It’s bringing a sea change to America’s culture of consumerism. And this new careful consideration of how we spend our money benefits the environment. A few concrete examples:
Some may argue that the US economy is built on consumerism–after all, part of the reason the economic crisis is worsening is that people who have lost their jobs and homes have drastically reduced spending, forcing businesses that rely on that spending to lay off even more workers, who then in turn stop spending because they no longer have a paycheck (and the downward spiral continues). But if anything has become clear in recent months, it’s that our planet–and our economy–can’t support out-of-control consumer greed.
February 9th, 2009
Sure, anyone with deep pockets can go out and buy a new hybrid car or install solar panels at home. But what about those of us who are struggling financially, yet want to do our bit to reduce our dependence on foreign oil? Today’s Wall Street Journal offers 10 ways to help the environment and save money at the same time. A few highlights:
This is just more proof that our current economic crisis is going to be the real driving force for environmental change. Sure, there will always be concerned citizens who want to help the world for the world’s sake, but many folks will be making changes solely to cut costs (biking to work to save on gas money, foregoing bottled water in favor of a filtered pitcher at home) that will then in turn benefit the environment. As a green tech expert I spoke to recently said: “Economy and ecology. You cannot separate the two.”
February 6th, 2009
Evidently, the Corn Refiners Association (aka the high-fructose corn syrup lobby) has embarked on a media blitz. I saw this commercial on TV for the first time the other night, and at first thought it was one of those SNL spoof commercials. Take a look:
“Well, you know what they say about [high-fructose corn syrup],” says the adversary.
“What?” she sneers.
“That recent studies found mercury in high-fructose corn syrup, and the FDA has known for years? That it’s been linked to obesity and diabetes? That the funding for recent studies to support this commercial’s propaganda has come from companies with a financial interest in the results?”
Go ahead, enjoy that popsicle!
February 5th, 2009
I just received my March 2009 issue of Marie Claire, and am very excited to see that for the first time in months, it didn’t arrive shrink-wrapped in plastic. Maybe the editors finally received enough letters in protest (including mine). This new plastic-wrapping trend–seemingly for the sole purpose of enclosing a couple of advertisements–has been a disheartening one. This past year, even the “eco” issues of several favorites arrived this way. I mean, really! My letter of complaint to Domino is, as of yet, unanswered. But I think I’ll write MC’s Madam Editor a thank-you note right now.