All Wrapped Up: Insist On Eco Friendly Packaging To Lessen Your Waste

by Owner on June 7, 2011

More and more companies are realizing that the “green” movement isn’t about to die anytime soon. As part of their realization that many Americans consider the environment as a major concern, they are now looking at ways to be more environmentally conscious. Some are looking at the composition of their products, ensuring that their eggs are free-range or that their grains are organic. But another way that companies can “buy” our buy-in to their products is in the choice of eco friendly packaging.

For those companies that don’t make this wiser choice, there are various ways of voting with our feet and making them “see the light” by insisting on eco friendly packaging materials.

Let’s imagine that we’re at the grocery store. In each section of the store, we can find items that might pose a problem in terms of choosing the most eco friendly packaging while ensuring food safety.

Imagine that you’re in the dairy section. You need some pro-biotic yogurt for the family. There are many brands to choose from, in all sorts of packaging. But which will you likely purchase for your family consumption? Will you buy the two-cup container of yogurt, or will you choose the sixteen-pack of single-serving containers?

If you’re concerned about the environment, the amount of garbage that is going to the landfill and how excessive packaging is affecting these, you likely won’t be choosing the single-serving size yogurt. Why? Because you know that your child will toss that entire container into the garbage at school instead of rinsing it and putting it in for recycling. Whereas, if you have reuseable, refillable containers that you fill with whatever you like, you are more likely to be able to keep those containers out of the garbage.

While you’re at the grocery store, you might be tempted to purchase your meats there. You can easily see your cut of meat through the plastic film, as it sits upon a foam plate. The problem is that, while more and more companies are using “recyclable” foam products to hold their meat, many municipalities are not accepting these products in their recycle bins.  The fact of the matter is, foam is still foam, even if it is made from recycled products and is supposedly recyclable, it may or may not contain toxins. Why chance it? If you possibly can, buy your meat at the butcher, and insist on butcher paper for your packaging – it is definitely recyclable.

While you’re wandering through the store, you might make your way to the bulk food section. While it’s a great place to purchase those tough-to-find organic products, it still doesn’t offer the best options for environmental packaging. Food safety concerns have prompted stores to force us into using a thin plastic bag to hold the bulk food, or to buy new, empty plastic containers at the store. This perpetuates having to purchase new containers rather than simply using old, clean containers from home.  What a waste of resources! This is yet another way to continue the cycle of garbage. Instead, find out if there is a food co-op nearby where you can use your own clean, refillable containers to purchase your bulk goods.

While you’re wandering through the aisles, looking at cereals, crackers and cookies, you will notice something else. Many of these products are over-packaged. They have a cardboard printed box, which is coated in wax. Inside their boxes, the cookies and crackers are often packaged into smaller packages, some even with a plastic tray to keep them from breaking before they reach your home. Again, it’s a total waste. Look for packaged foods that use minimal eco friendly packaging, such as a simple recycled paper bag instead of extensive over-packaging.

Finally you make your way to the cashier, where you find lots of plastic bags to use for carrying your groceries home. Plastic grocery bags are banned in many communities and nations. Why? Because of the sheer number of them – and how many end up just getting thrown into the garbage without even being reused. They then often end up in our rivers and streams. And what sorts of conditions does it take for those supposedly recyclable or compostable bags to actually break down the way that the companies advertise? Far greater conditions than even most municipal waste dumps, that’s for sure! Bring your own reusable nylon grocery bags and spare the environment yet another plastic bag.

To summarize:

  • Buy one large container over several small ones;
  • Get your food as close to the source as possible, such as a butcher;
  • Find a co-op that lets you bring your own containers for hauling away bulk foods;
  • Choose products enveloped in simple, preferably recyclable eco friendly packaging instead of over-packaged products.
  • Bring reusable grocery bags for taking your groceries home instead of relying on the typical plastic bags.

Do you have to stop eating and shopping and living to help the environment? No. You have to decide whether you are willing to accept excessive food packaging, or whether you will you choose eco friendly food packaging instead. You have to decide how important it is to you. Are you willing to pay a little extra if you need to? Are you willing to bring your own containers and bags? Once you make your decision, “vote” with your dollar and with your actions. Companies will eventually hear your vote and change the way they do business.

Want to learn more about innovative new ways to do eco friendly packaging? Check out this video:

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