As much as we try to avoid buying new things in order to “step lightly on the planet,” we can still be tempted by shiny, new gadgets. Especially when they are promoted by flashy eco web sites. We shouldn’t let go of our critical thinking skills just because we happen to be browsing a site called Treehugger.com. But that’s exactly what happened to me when I ordered a free sample of the Magic Stapler based on this Treehugger review. Even though the thing is made out of plastic, my curiosity got the better of me, and I bit.
The “stapler” operates without any staples at all, cutting a hole into the paper, forming a tab which is folded back and through a slit. The idea is similar to the way we used to attach papers in school when we didn’t have a stapler handy by tearing some tabs into the top of the pages and folding them over. Except that method was free and required only our hands, whereas this method requires a jazzy plastic gadget which, as it turns out, doesn’t actually work that well. The pages pull apart very easily.
But the worst part of this whole magic stapler deal is not just the fact that it doesn’t work so well, and not even the fact that the stapler itself is plastic. The worst part is the way it was shipped!
Look at all that extra plastic packaging for a tiny gadget that is meant to save staples. How many staples would you have to save to make up for so much plastic? So instead of moaning about the plastic and adding it to my weekly tally, I packed it all back up and returned it to the company after sending the following e-mail:
Subject: RE: Magic Stapler Sample
Date: Thu, 20 Sep 2007 18:47:38 -0700
From: “Beth Terry”
To: “Irene Holly” (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CC: “Dan Kellenberger” (email@example.com), Beth Terry
Hello. I received the sample of the Magic Stapler today, and I have to tell you I was disappointed in it, for several reasons.
First, it doesn’t really work. The pages pull apart very easily, so I don’t think it would be really useful to anyone except as a novelty.
But second, and most important, I wanted to see if it could be used to substitute for staples in an effort to conserve resources. I was interested in the stapler for ecological reasons, as it had been promoted as such on several environmental web sites, including www.treehugger.com.
So I was very surprised when the stapler arrived packaged in layer upon layer of unnecessary non-biodegradable and non-renewable petroleum-based plastic. First, the outer padded plastic mailer (an inside out Federal Express pad pak); next, a smaller plastic-padded mailer; and finally the stapler wrapped in yet another layer of plastic bubble wrap. In all, including the stapler itself, 3.2 ounces of plastic. I’ve personally gone an entire week only generating that much plastic waste. It’s a little disheartening to be shipped a week’s worth in one day.
Therefore, I am sending the entire package back to you. Please expect to receive it in the next few days. I appreciate your sending me a free sample, but I’d rather you take it back. And please recycle the packaging. It’s just too much to end up in our already-stressed landfills.
I mailed the stapler on September 20 and have not heard back from the company, so I have no idea how they reacted to my e-mail or package. But I was reminded of this little situation last week when a commenter on Tess’s Trash Challenge blog suggested, “What about returning the non-compostable packaging to the store from which it came? Take it to the Customer Service Dept and tell them that you are returning unneeded and unwanted parts from your purchase.”
What would happen if consumers dropped off all their extra packaging at Costco’s doorstep en masse? Would Costco stop selling credit card-sized gift cards and tiny media cards in huge anti-theft plastic blister packs? And how could we make something like that happen, anyway?