The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
November 28, 2012

Are Plastic Ziploc Bags Suddenly Green or Greenwashed?

Every year I visit the San Francisco Green Festival and wander up and down the aisles of vendor booths, looking for interesting plastic-free products but always finding a ton of plastic packaging.  Organic foods packaged in plastic.  Natural drinks in plastic bottles.  Compostable products shrink-wrapped in plastic.  But this year, my jaw hit the floor when I stumbled across a booth I’d never have expected to see at the Green Festival:  Ziploc.

 

Why would a brand of plastic bags have a booth at the Green Festival?  Because they have partnered with Recyclebank to reward people who pledge to take back their Ziploc bags to grocery store recycle bins to be recycled.  Notice: Ziploc is not actually taking back the bags.  They are rewarding people who go to the Ziploc page on the Recyclebank website, enter a code from the Ziploc box, and promise to take the bags back to the store.

What happens to plastic bags that are returned to grocery store recycle bins?  Most of them are made into composite lumber for outdoor decking and furniture.  When I asked the rep at the Ziploc booth what they would be recycled into, she said, “Things like park benches.”  So, in other words, Ziploc will continue to use virgin plastic resin to create new bags, and the old ones will be downcycled into products that cannot be further recycled.

Of course, my knee jerk reaction was to freak out.  Immediately, I took a picture of the booth with my phone and uploaded it to an Eco Women Facebook group I belong to, along with the comment, “Ack! Zip Lock has a booth at the Green Festival!”  (I was so frazzled, I didn’t even spell the name correctly.)  I didn’t think I even needed to explain why this was making me crazy.  I figured that in this group, it would be obvious.  And at first, the comments were what I expected:

“oy”

“ick”

“ugh”

“yuck”

And one member, Jenn Savedge from The Green Parent, wrote, “This is exactly why I stopped going to the Green Festival. I just don’t get how plastic bags can be considered green.”

I figured we would all just agree on this point and that would be the end of it.  But the next comment stopped us in our smug little tracks.  Diane Hoffmaster, who blogs at Turning the Clock Back One Ecofriendly Step At A Time, wrote something surprising:

again, you have to look at it from the average person’s perspective. Buying in bulk and putting in individual ziploc bags that you reuse is more eco friendly than buying individual bags of goldfish. same with using their reusable snack containers. Also, the SCJ company is in the process of building 2 of the largest wind turbines in the US to power their facility. When they are done those turbines will provide 100% of the electrical power used at that location. All ziploc bags are BPA and dioxin free. I would encourage people to consider that MOST people are not as green as this group and even if a ‘traditional’ company isn’t 100% green that doesnt mean they should be stomped on for what they ARE doing to help.

Stephanie Moram from Good Girl Gone Green disagreed:

I am sorry but plastic is not environmentally friendly and has no business at a green festival. No kidding the average person is not as green as this group. But if the average person keeps thinking these companies are green they wont change.

Okay, but if plastic has no business at a Green Festival — a sentiment I heartily agree with — then why are there so many food products in plastic packaging being sold there?  Why pick on Ziploc when all the food companies are doing it?  Lisa Nelsen-Woods from Condo Blues made a great point:

Hi my name is Lisa and I use Ziplock bags in my freezer because it is small. I wash and reuse them because my Husband insists we have them since the day I moved in with him. They allow us to do green things like buy in bulk and reduce waste. We had the same box for a couple of years because we use containers more often but it would be a lie to say they aren’t a tool in our low waste high cooking from scratch arsenal.

Perhaps if people eschew all the “natural” and “organic” plastic-packaged food and instead use a few Ziploc bags to buy from bulk bins, and then if they wash and reuse them over and over instead of throwing them away, Ziplocs are a greener option.  But those are a lot of if’s.  So then, the question is, does the fact that Ziploc bags can be used in a less wasteful way mean they will be used that way?  Does it make them a green product worthy of having a booth at the Green Festival?  Do most Ziploc bags get washed and reused?  My husband Michael still uses plastic bags that he washes and hangs to dry over the sink.  And there area certainly frugal people who reuse them as a way to save money.  But I’ve seen many, many more people in my own circle of family and friends (and I’m not naming names), who simply toss them in the trash.

Hold on a minute…

Getting back to the actual Ziploc booth at the Green Festival… nowhere was there information about washing and reusing Ziploc bags in the first place.  The company was not there to tout their reuse (which would reduce sales of the product) but to encourage downcycling into secondary products (which does nothing to decrease sales of plastic bags.)  What’s more, reusing plastic isn’t the healthiest thing to do in the first place.  Plastics contain all kinds of additives–even if they are BPA-free– and these additives can leach out into foods the more the plastic is subjected to stress.  So is reusing Ziploc bags even a wise thing to do?

Nancy Nathan Baldwin from Surviving and Thriving on Pennies pointed all the alternatives to plastic baggies:

Personally I them like a plague. I have avoided plastic by using glass or metal. Even my girls don’t have plastic in their lunches. Fabric bags, small mason jars and stainless steel containers. Everytime I see trash on the school grounds here, its 99% of the time ziplock bags. Makes me sick. I avoid them in the freezer by using large glass jars for things like produce and berries. My meat is wrapped in paper in 1lb sizes. I thaw one out and use 1/2 lb per meal. Put the other 1/2 lb in a glass jar in the fridge for the next meal. I can recycle the paper. I’m team Beth Terry or at least try my hardest. Its rubbing off on my kids now and I love it

And Danielle Richardet from It Starts With Me echoed Nancy’s point about Ziploc bag litter, saying:

I don’t think that plastic baggies are “green” even if they can be recycled. One thing that I can say is that from my perspective of doing many many beach cleanups, I pick up SO many zip-lock baggies on thebeach (shoot, go to a park after there’s been a picnic and you’ll be guaranteed to find a few.) I agree that some people may use them over and over again… but MOST people aren’t. Just look at the way kids throw them away when they’re finished with their lunches at school. Besides if they weren’t meant to be a disposable product they wouldn’t be sold in boxes of 100+.

Danielle sent me a bunch of photos of zip top bag litter (note that Ziploc is a trademark and all of these bags may not be actual Ziploc brand) she’s collected from the beach to prove her point.  I made them into a little slideshow:

 

So questions remain:

1) Will Ziploc’s campaign to educate consumers about recycling Ziploc bags at least help to reduce plastic pollution on the beach?

2) And is that enough to earn them the privilege of having their own booth at the Green Festival?  Or does their presence imply an endorsement of plastic bags from Green America?

3) Should big corporations (Ziploc is owned by SC Johnson) be endorsed and promoted by environmental organizations and green bloggers for the green steps they take even if their products have other negative environmental impacts or if they own other product lines that are environmentally destructive?  How can we reward companies for moving in the right direction and still push them to go further?  As Diane Hoffmaster pointed out, big corporations have a vastly larger reach than we green bloggers do.  “I DO like to see companies like SCJ try because then they reach that 95 % of the population who wasn’t even bothering to try.”  She also pointed out other steps SC Johnson has taken to reduce its environmental impact.

This is a constant dilemma for me… wanting to show support for big companies’ green initiatives but at the same time wanting to support small, independent companies with my dollars and soap box (this blog.)  How do you think we can strike a balance?

 

 

210 comments
Tracey TieF
Tracey TieF

Big companies, especially evil giants such as SC Johnson, don't need our support - they pay to create their own. I feel comfortable giving them a big boo hiss. 

I use ziplock bags for bringing dry goods home from my food coop and for camping. I keep washed & dried ziplocks with my camping gear. I use them because I get around on foot and by bike, and I can handle bringing glass jars and stainless steel containers for wet stuff, I can't manage without compact lightweight packaging, too.

There's a bulk food pantry that I barter with and I bring them labelled foil ziplocks and they refill them. I also struggle with big plastic 4L/gallon jugs - my supplier refills mine, and I put the hydrosols in glass gallon jugs here.

The fact that the majority of raw vegan super foods (maca, goji berry, cacao nuts, kale chips etc) come in plastic ziplock type, drives me bonkers. I do get infuriated when people seem to choose personal health over planetary health. I am working on the bulk food pantry and edging them towards compromises such as "biodegradable" zip locks and cellophane bags. I just bought these stick on metal ties to convert bags to re closables. 

So I do believe in positive compromises. I just don't think ziplock needs our support here on the cutting edge.

Love & RRRevolution, Tracey

Tracey TieF
Tracey TieF

Big companies, especially evil giants such as SC Johnson, don't need our support - they pay to create their own. I feel comfortable giving them a big boo hiss. 

I use ziplock bags for bringing dry goods home from my food coop and for camping. I keep washed & dried ziplocks with my camping gear. I use them because I get around on foot and by bike, and I can handle bringing glass jars and stainless steel containers for wet stuff, I can't manage without compact lightweight packaging, too.

There's a bulk food pantry that I barter with and I bring them labelled foil ziplocks and they refill them. I also struggle with big plastic 4L/gallon jugs - my supplier refills mine, and I put the hydrosols in glass gallon jugs here.

The fact that the majority of raw vegan super foods (maca, goji berry, cacao nuts, kale chips etc) come in plastic ziplock type, drives me bonkers. I do get infuriated when people seem to choose personal health over planetary health. I am working on the bulk food pantry and edging them towards compromises such as "biodegradable" zip locks and cellophane bags. I just bought these stick on metal ties to convert bags to re closables. 

So I do believe in positive compromises. I just don't think ziplock needs our support here on the cutting edge.

Love & RRRevolution, Tracey

kimboo
kimboo

jbrianagartner I agree. Everyone has to start somewhere and we should encourage everyone, wherever they are in the process.

SoniaGrothe
SoniaGrothe

Although, I say credit to those who find the bags useful and recycle them - you are making an effort and that is fantastic!  BUT, we need to expect more from manufacturers & corporations who are producing & profiting.

SoniaGrothe
SoniaGrothe

Although, I say credit to those who find the bags useful and recycle them - you are making an effort and that is fantastic!  BUT, we need to expect more from manufacturers & corporations who are producing & profiting.

SoniaGrothe
SoniaGrothe

Recycling ziplocs sounds like a "watermelon" to me - only green on the outside.  Plastic is plastic and people attending a "green" festival expect more innovation than just re-using existing bags.

SoniaGrothe
SoniaGrothe

Recycling ziplocs sounds like a "watermelon" to me - only green on the outside.  Plastic is plastic and people attending a "green" festival expect more innovation than just re-using existing bags.

MelissaKio
MelissaKio

Ziplocks get holes in them eventually.

MelissaKio
MelissaKio

Ziplocks get holes in them eventually.

heidimel
heidimel

I try to carry a zip-top bag in my purse/bag so if I have leftovers somewhere, I can take them home without getting a questionable "to-go" container.  I wash and reuse most of my plastic bags at least 3 times.

jbrianagartner
jbrianagartner

I've never been to the Green Festival and to me personally it seems like a stretch. At our house when we do have to use a plastic bag I wash and reuse them (we have one of those small wooden racks to dry them on) but I would guess I am in the minority. Then again, maybe it's important to meet people where they are. If you stigmatize someone for using plastic bags as in "you'll never be green," then maybe you turn them off from the entire movement, making it seem elitist and subsequently they'll never have their "ah ha" moment.

Is there some sort of criteria business who exhibit at the Green Festival have to meet? 

jbrianagartner
jbrianagartner

I've never been to the Green Festival and to me personally it seems like a stretch. At our house when we do have to use a plastic bag I wash and reuse them (we have one of those small wooden racks to dry them on) but I would guess I am in the minority. Then again, maybe it's important to meet people where they are. If you stigmatize someone for using plastic bags as in "you'll never be green," then maybe you turn them off from the entire movement, making it seem elitist and subsequently they'll never have their "ah ha" moment.

Is there some sort of criteria business who exhibit at the Green Festival have to meet?

Eileen05403
Eileen05403

While reusing and recycling may be better than single use I still don't think Ziplock should be at a Green festival and to add to the statement the vendors should also not be allowed to wrap their goods in plastic.  It's ridiculous.  Ugh... the money grab kills me.

Eileen05403
Eileen05403

While reusing and recycling may be better than single use I still don't think Ziplock should be at a Green festival and to add to the statement the vendors should also not be allowed to wrap their goods in plastic.  It's ridiculous.  Ugh... the money grab kills me.

Anne H
Anne H

While a Green Festival might not be the place you would expect to see Ziploc (I'm guessing since I've never been to one), I believe in baby steps for those who cannot take the giant leap. Today they're making windmills and encouraging recycling/down-cycling. Maybe these steps will encourage their competitors to do the same. Maybe they'll bring enough awareness that another 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 people will start their own baby steps. Maybe tomorrow they'll take another step towards reducing or eliminating the plastic problem. I realize that's a lot of maybes, but I'm a hopeful person. 

 

When a baby learns to walk we applaud their stumbling first attempts as heroic efforts - usually accompanied with big smiles and baby talk (you know what I mean, go ahead and smile). They start out needing to hold the hands of someone who already walks well, someone to give them help and guidance and support. With each try and more encouragement they get better. They still stumble, fall and often get bumps and bruises, but they keep going until they can walk, jog and run. Is it really so different in learning anything else or making other changes in life?

 

Big companies have the R&D departments and more funding at their resources, so maybe they'll be the ones to solve the problem by coming up with the non-plastic, but safe product or find another solution we haven't even considered yet. Big corporations created the problem, let's let them pay the cost towards the solution. Sites like yours can help educate us all - I know I'm learning a lot (and thank you!). You're a beacon of light to guide the way; the "grown up hands" that give the support and guidance for both individuals and corporations.

 

I'm taking my own steps that might look like crazy giant leaps to some and baby steps to others. Each of us (individuals, corporations, towns and cities, municipalities, etc.) is in a different place in the journey, but at least we're on the same road and going in the right direction.

urbanwoodswalker
urbanwoodswalker

@EcoCatLady  I wonder if anyone has experimented with the beeswax/ tree oil  cloth for freezing meats with?  I would imagine a beeswax soaked cloth wrapped meat  would do the trick..  there was a thread here about that a while ago.

urbanwoodswalker
urbanwoodswalker

Depends on where YOU LIVE  In the Chicago Illinois area, all large grocery chain stores, as well as all Targets have bins for plastic film/bag recycling.  the mixed plastics are baled and most likely shipped via returning cargo ships BACK TO china.   These ships are the very same to bring back those huge containers of Chinese imported 'goods" we "all" seem to clamor for in this country.   The ships used to go back home empty...after dumping their loads in our harbors...but now they are refilled with all kinds of materials that will be recycled.  Where does China get all the raw  materials to keep producing so much stuff for export?  we ship back steel, iron, metals, computers, plastics, and so much more.   But get this...China is starting to deny entry of garbage ships .  They turned away 10 ships of England's garbage and England, who doe no recycling on the Island of Great Britain, was shocked, as they had no where to dump all the unwanted trash!  I'd say..England...learn to start being more careful with your consumption, and recycle at home!The mixed plastics are cleaned and melted ...they pelletised for selling to resin makers for not only for synthetic lumber, but playground equipment. According to the American Plastic Bag Association.The plastic bag/film Industry is pairing with the recycling industry to create more avenues for reUSE...but of course, unless there is profit...they don't do it.   I went for at least a year doubting that the film collection bins were honest attempts...I thought the stores just did it to create a good will with consumers...but in reality just tossed them all out in the back in the dumpsters.   but since Trader Joe's and Whole foods  is doing it along with so many others in our area...I just have to believe they are making honest attempts for all those mixed films and bags.

urbanwoodswalker
urbanwoodswalker

Handcraftedtravelers,I am not trying to be argumentative here.   I agree basically with how the rest of the world lives bit...and oftentimes I am so ashamed of living in the richest country the world (well...outside the middle eastern  oil nations, that is).  But...we all much craft the environmental message NOT to scare less environmental Americans away from better choices and behaviors.  When someone says we don't need freezers...that will really send the majority of Americans running AWAY from the 'green wackos."    Imo a freezer is neccessary...at least where i live, and with the 86 year old grocery store shopaholic i live with...my widowed stepmom.  The extremist views spouted in a superior, guilting  tone is what turns off the minds of those that might be willing to change...but are frightened away.  Americans...most of them...do not want to live like those in a thrid world country...despite it being easy, and doable.  My point is then, how to come up with a way to get non greenies to embrace greener (not perfect...but that is ok too---little baby steps are ok!) lifestyles.  Being made to feel I AM A "bad person" because I don't use old newspapers as paper towels , baking soda to wash my hair, or not use a freezer to keep food safe....will not win the green movement any WARM affections or interest. and I am WAY more environmentally conscious then the "average" person!  Not sure we should espouse terribly different change of lifestyles (in a demanding guilt producing way)...are we not going to do better encouraging smaller steps...for a greater number of the population?  Getting a larger group to start  being environmentally conscious is more productive then scaring them all off--which makes them then close off minds to ANYTHING we have to say.

EcoCatLady
EcoCatLady

Hi Condo Blues,

 

I'm in the same boat with meat... and since I'm incredibly cheap I often buy giant 10 pound bags of chicken leg quarters. Usually what I do is to cook it all at once and then freeze the cooked meat in smaller portions. It's still easy to add to a recipe once cooked - easier most times. I use Pyrex containers and haven't had any problems with freezer burn, even though there is certainly some air around the cooked meat. Maybe the key is how long you have to store it, or freezer temperature or something? I dunno.

 

For the record, I'm not against buying in larger packages to save money even if you end up having no option but to repackage in plastic. My point was simply that Ziploc's claim that they are a somehow being "green" by encouraging people to repackage in their product is um.... "factually challenged."

 

Also, I was mostly thinking of the bulk foods aisle - it sorta drives me crazy to see people filling new plastic bags with beans and rice etc and somehow thinking that's "greener" than buying the stuff that's already packaged in it's own plastic bag. It just makes no sense to me. And don't EVEN get me started about the "pre-packaged" bulk foods in those plastic clam-shell containers. It just seems oxymoronic to me.

urbanwoodswalker
urbanwoodswalker

@Joyfully Green  @EcoCatLady  @bloodsdesire 

 

 That is an excellent book...I read that this past year.    However, Bottle & can bills are continually shut down in many states....because those corporate lobbyists are very powerful.  Now, the American Plastic Bag and film trade organizations lobbyists are legally fighting plastic bag bans...undoing city bans regardless of how much the people want them banned. They cite 'loss of livlihood" as one factor. You see, in America (and now Canada too) ...if you have loads of money, you can get a team of lawyers to fight for corporate rights to pollute, to destroy, etc.  and win!  Just google Toronto bans the plastic bag ban.  there is plenty about this new legal maneuver that is no doubt going to be the new norm of mega trade organizations.

urbanwoodswalker
urbanwoodswalker

@SarahKathrynSchumm  @bloodsdesire  @EcoCatLady

But "green superiority" and guilting others doesn't help. what you can do is great...just because YOU can...don't guilt others...its not going to make them follow.    maybe THey are doing something that you aren't.    different shades of green...its all better.

Joyfully Green
Joyfully Green

@EcoCatLady  @urbanwoodswalker  @Joyfully Green  @bloodsdesire I just read about that in Garbage Land by Elizabeth Royte--is that where you read it? The book is fascinating but of course depressing.

EcoCatLady
EcoCatLady

@urbanwoodswalker  @Joyfully Green  @bloodsdesire  All good points. If you want to get really pissed off, go read about the history of can & bottle deposits in this country. Remember the whole Keep America Beautiful thing with the crying Indian? Turns out it was all funded by the beverage industry in an effort to make people think that litter was caused by "litterbugs" who didn't pick up their trash rather than by corporations who fill the world with their disposable crap. They fought "bottle bills" across the country which required deposits on the return of cans & bottles and these days such things are almost unheard of. Grrrrrrr....

urbanwoodswalker
urbanwoodswalker

I think we all have to be more constructive about these issues, and not be so quick  to generalize.    There is good and bad to everything...Yin and Yang so to speak. Ask any Central American, African,  living in an impoverished rural region with little to no resources what he prefers to drink...tainted water, or a plastic bottle of Coke.  Its Coke.  In 3rd world countries...plastics have helped in some ways...but of course they destroy in easily understood other ways too.    I really feel we need to get the public more involved with the corporations....we need to let them know we are willing to help them come up with real solutions....and see them as not strictly "bad" or "good"     Unfortunately often corporations keep doing what they do unless we call them out. we need to get louder, bigger, and much more political.  Now, as to the SF Green Festival...I still think they could cordon off the corporations in a separate grouping...maybe even a separate room.... Beth...have you found a contact person at that Green festival we all could individually contact?    They need to hear all OUR constructive criticisms.

urbanwoodswalker
urbanwoodswalker

@Joyfully Green  @bloodsdesire  @EcoCatLady There is also another issue here. I happen to know a woman who lives in a "food desert" region...which is a common problem:  poor inner city area where no grocery stores (or any other type of store except for the corner one selling snacks , cigarettes, and licqour)  are. she has no car.  s=She travels via bus 2 hours each way to her low paying cashier job.  She is a "lucky" one (has a job in her neighborhood)...but she cannot cart back all the food  physically on the bus...and the corner store is 3 times as much in price for the basics like milk, and the simplest of packaged overly processed foods.   Access to healthy food, or fresh produce is out of the question.   For income in which every day is a struggle to get through...I doubt they spend much effort on these issues.  For them reusing, upcycling, and repurposing is their way of life.   Its a given.  Perhaps this entire thread should shift away from the poor. focus on the educated wealthy and the middle class.   They are the ones with the means and lifestyle to create real change in habits. for example: my downstairs neighbor owns an Ace hardware store in town.   Now, do you think he recycles anything at home here?  Its shocking.   He is a wealthy educated man.  I constantly putting his throwaways into the recycle bin.  Paper, cardboard, glass, and plastics... including the most monsterous size of tide detergent...don't even know how a person can lift those when they are full.  He also leaves the lights on in the laundry room overnight.     ************Its not just about education.  There are statics about what products are advertised to low income people via radio and tv.  None of the products, or foods are green, or eco concious.  I truly think  corporations should be responsible for their environmental pollutants.  In the book "Green Illusions, they talk about how some European countries mandate a percentage of the cost of every  item...be mandated towards environmental clean up issues.   We do not have this in the USA.  Imagine Green Giant responsible for their frozen plastic produce bags!  Imagine Frito lay responsible for their plastic snack bags.  Imagine every alcoholic beverage producer mandated to give a percentage of profits top cleaning up and recycling their bottles and cans!  America falls way behind...because of powerful corporate lobbyists in washing DC.  Now, the plastic bag lobbyists have found ways to sue towns that ban plastic bags!  And or stop the bans.  this is one case that just happened: google: Toronto plastic bag ban.  *******************************Word to the wise also...those "reusuable bags" sold for 99 cents - $ 1.99 , in stores...they do not last long, and they definately are NOT recyclable...and they still are made of "plastic"  in a  polyester plabric sort of way....bad....and that is green washing at its finest.

Gail Bennett
Gail Bennett

My name is Gail and my husband and I are both trying to live as green as possible.  Plastic drives me crazzy especially plastic that shows up on green products.  One of our problem has been elimnating plastic when it comes to freezing.  We buy what little meat we eat in bulk which we have to divde up. However I've just began reading your book and found that you can freeze stuff in glass.  When we became enlighted several years ago we immediately got rid of plastic storage containers switching to glass sets sold in stores.  We ended up with various shapes and sizes most unsackable because of lids. We  buy fresh, in tins or glass jars and save any jars with metal lids that resemble canning jars.  While making a huge crock pot of chili it occurred to me that I could use these canning jars to store my chili in the fridge instead of vaious sizes of pyrex or glsss containers.  Each jar holds at least two to three servings of chili depending on serving a cup or a bowl and it is easy to measure out. individual servings.  They take up much less space.  Once we got started we have used jars for spagatii sauce, beef stew and other things that we cook in bulk and use over the month. Another thing that we do on a weekly basis is set up soup jars..  We try to eat serving szes so if we cook extra veggies, have some left over from another dish,  or open  a can of veggies has more than two serving  we put the extra in the soup jar.  We also keep a jar for tomatoe based soup and one for meat base adding dripping, left over gravy or broth made from boiling turkey, chiken or meat bones if we have them or any extra scraps f meat. For tomato base soups we use partial jar of chili or spagatti sauce  left over that week.   At the end of the week we review what we have, add what is needed  and come up with at least two different really tasty soups.  Usually we have enough for several meals .storing what we don't eat immediatly in canning jars.  We make sure to add new stuff to the back of the cue and eat the older items first.  Its great we can look in the fridge and by counting jars can come up with the number of meals that we have for quick and easy dinners.  Since we do not need to overeat and I hate wasting food or reheating food more than once using jars has solved all of those problems for us.

 

 

EcoCatLady
EcoCatLady

@BethTerry  @SarahKathrynSchumm  @bloodsdesire OK... since I clearly don't understand how these nested comments work, I'll say that this is a reply to blooddesire's comment. I just wanted to say that I heartily second Beth's comments about stuff being ubiquitous. If you just re-use the packaging that your food arrives in you'll probably have enough. My parents are children of the depression and they save & re-purpose EVERYTHING. Seriously, they sent me home from Thanksgiving dinner with leftovers wrapped up in an old cereal bag & a peanut butter jar. (Picking the pieces of Chex off of the cranberry bread proved to be not worth the effort - I considered it a bonus crunchy coating.)

 

That being said, I totally understand the "I'm overwhelmed" sentiment expressed in your comment. I've been there and I totally know what it's like when every penny is spoken for - and then some. I guess that's why I never approach these things as trying to be "greener," I just look for places where what's good for me & what's good for the planet intersect. I consider it to be a grand game of outsmarting the system. Of course, I consider living on very little money to be the same sort of thing. 

 

I'm not sure that helps in your current situation, but in general I just think that it's best not to approach this as a guilt ridden moralistic thing. If going non-disposable feels like an overwhelming task right now, then don't do it. But if you happen to have a day when you're not overwhelmed, and feel like washing and saving that peanut butter jar, you might enjoy the feeling of not having to spend some of your hard-earned money on some company's stupid plastic crap.

EcoCatLady
EcoCatLady

@urbanwoodswalker  @Joyfully Green  @bloodsdesire 

 

p.s. this was meant as a reply to urbanwoodswalker's comment above about  crafting a message that works with "normal people." Apparently I don't quite understand how these nested comments work!

EcoCatLady
EcoCatLady

@urbanwoodswalker  @EcoCatLady  @Joyfully Green  @bloodsdesire Those are good points, and I guess I didn't realize that statement would sound so "unbelievable." I didn't say to to sound "greener than thou" which is an attitude that irks me to no end. I'm just incredibly cheap and lazy and have found that with a very few exceptions, non-disposable makes my life easier. Back when I used disposable stuff I'd always worry about running out, and to be honest, I totally HATE both shopping and taking out the trash, so anything that cuts down on either of those horrible tasks is worth it's weight in gold.

 

I totally see your point, I guess I just wish there was some way to convince people that living green really is easier... or at least to see the lazy person's point of view on this stuff.

 

BTW - I too have a crazy older brother who thinks global warming is a hoax and that all this green stuff is nonsense. What makes it even sadder is that he has a PhD in physics! He really should know better. I guess all those years of working in the defense industry have taken their toll. Anyhow, I applaud your willingness to argue with your brother over these issues. I'm at the point where I just change the subject with mine because I can't take the battles anymore!

BethTerry
BethTerry

@SarahKathrynSchumm  @bloodsdesire  @EcoCatLady Also, do you have a local Freecycle group in your area?  You can request old t-shirts or towels or sheets and cut them up for rags.  We replaced all of our Teflon coated cookware one piece at a time for barely any money because we found replacements at Goodwill and yard sales and even free from Freecycle.  There is just so much material already in existence in this world.  The challenge is finding it.  But groups like Freecycle and the new service called Yerdle make it easier to find things.  And yes, I hand wash dishes with baking soda.  Super cheap.  The only reason I use a dishwasher now is because there is one already installed in the apartment where I live, but for most of my life, I hand washed dishes.  We never had one when I was growing up. My mom always said she didn't need a dishwasher because she had 4 of them named Beth, Will, Fran, and Ellen.  In every chapter of my book, I tried to point out that using what we already have and borrowing, sharing, buying secondhand is generally greener and less expensive than all the other options.  No Impact Man carried a repurposed glass jar for coffee and beverages instead of buying a bottle or mug, even though he could have afforded to buy cases of stainless steel ones.  Yes, there are social inequities that must be addressed -- the cost of organic food, for example.  But there are lots and lots of free or inexpensive ways to avoid using disposable products if that is a priority for you.  This post is not to judge anyone's choices, but just to say that if the desire is there, there is a way.

SarahKathrynSchumm
SarahKathrynSchumm

@bloodsdesire  @EcoCatLady

 I'm always very disturbed by the "poor people can't afford to go green" stereotype/debate/thing. Mainly because it smacks of the success of greenwashing to me. Washing your dishes with baking soda is cheaper and works better than dish soap, rags are free and paper towels are not free. LIke I said in my other post I use bagges for leftover at the last minute, too, but I have bought two fifteen count packs in the past 3 years, not a 99ct pack because reused peanut butter and jam jars are free and plastic baggies cost money. Straws aren't really neccessary at all unless you have swallowing issues, and then you can find metal ones or reusable plastic for about 2 or 3 dollars, which is the same as a couple packs of disposable ones. even reusable cloth cleaning towels are only about a dollar or two if you don't mind getting them from the dollar store or big lots and you can use them for free just about forever, so its not like they really cost more than paper towels, they cost about the same. Also I use old newspapers as paper towels a lot, and they are also free.

bloodsdesire
bloodsdesire

@bloodsdesire  @EcoCatLady NutItOut, I also found your comment to be a gross mischaracterization of the poor bordering on truly offensive. I didn't post my reply as a non-poor person looking in on what the poor do, I posted from the perspective of being poor, because I am poor (and disabled).

 

Urbanwoodswalker has a great point about how much rich people waste, and how it doesn't look as wasteful as lesser off people. But even still, it IS true that disposables are cheaper than non-disposables in the short term, despite not being cheaper in the long term.

 

I'm coming at this from the perspective of currently only having $200 a month to feed four people, and never having a spare penny. We buy bulk paper towels to clean and dry with because the outset is much cheaper than what we'd have to pay to get enough towels and cloths to clean with even with cheap materials. We do not have extras of anything we can just repurpose. Our dishwasher has been broken for 6 years, and despite putting thousands of dollars we didn't have into figuring out what's wrong, four different plumbers have not been able to fix it. So the dishes pile up, and since we're all tired and overworked, we don't get to them. Then my sister (and this is a problem that's been discussed at length), when she cleans, just throws things out she doesn't want to deal with. So we end up having to get disposable plates, bowls, and utensils because dishes are a scarcity.

 

That 99c box of bags is not ideal, no, but when you've got $20 to live on for the next week and a half and you've run out of things to store your leftovers in and can't afford to just let them go to waste, 99c is far easier to deal with than buying more reusable plastic containers (which keep going up in price, by the way), and buying glass or metal reusable containers is just plain out of the question. Besides the pyrex larger containers, I do not know anywhere in this area where you can buy non-plastic storage containers, except Marlene's (a local organic market), and so I'd have to buy them all online, and not only is the wait for shipping not helpful in the short term, but the up front expense could mean my mom doesn't have the gas money to get to class for the week. Or to work.

 

Same for reusable non-plastic straws. I'd adore getting a set, but I can't afford it, and my family won't justify it when a package of disposable straws is anywhere from 50c to $3 depending on count. While my mom is an environmental studies student and is on the same level as I am here (I am a Sustainable Business student), neither of us can afford to get the glass straws, and the one who can refuses because she thinks it's a waste of money.

 

I am in a unique position, though, I know. I live in a suburb in the Greater Seattle Area, in a house that's falling apart and still mortgaged. We can afford the house because of my grandmother's SSI, we can afford the bills because of my mother's financial aid (I have not gotten out of the start up funding stage that WE provides), and so we're not on the street or back in the seedy mobile homes/apartments (but we have been). But at the same time, we cannot afford the repairs to the car, to figure out what's wrong with our dishwasher, to replace our electrical because it's original to the house and burning out, to fix our plumbing, or to get the roof fixed. We go to food banks when we can afford to drive there, and while the bus system is one of the best in the country, it's been deteriorating for the last 10 years and has become massively frustrating (and my mom refuses to use the bus, for OCD reasons). I can't bus by myself to a food bank and carry all that home by myself, I can't even walk with more than $30 worth of groceries from the (very expensive) store down the street.

 

It's easy to tell people to just budget in the changes they want to do but can't afford when it's a jump you've made, but when you're living on a very stretched thin income already, sometimes it really is impossible to just budget in a greater expense, even if it would save you money. Things like disposable replacements end up being a windfall luxury (and I do mean windfall as in "Money you might see somehow some day that isn't already pledged to something, if you're lucky) just because there's no other place to get the money to get them. While I think it's fortunate that is a reality you do not have to live, it is unfortunate that you do not see that it's a sad but very common reality for a lot of people.

urbanwoodswalker
urbanwoodswalker

@EcoCatLady  @Joyfully Green  @bloodsdesire I agree with everything you said Ecocatlady. With one exception:  "...disposable goods are neither cheaper, easier, nor more convenient."  The whole world is based on disposable goods being all these very things!   In order to understand the habits of non green consumer behaviors,  we must put ourselves in their mindset.   The very fact that disposable goods gratify our instant needs so easily do whatever job  they were designed for so well, AND can be gotten rid of so effortlessly...is NOT to be ignored in our hopes for more greener behaviors form our fellow humans.   We must learn to restructure our eco cause message (somehow) ...so we do not sound so "unbelievable" (although I understand what you mean, and the truth of it) . when we say "unbelievable" truths...that is what makes the guilty non greenies run away.  They feel we are wackos with no basis in reality. (believe me, the multiple hours of arguments with my older brother about global warming  (he dismisses it and all green issues) has taken much energy  and ranting! When corporations design these disposable products...they do so with intent of making them irresistible,  and user friendly.  Also, branding is of key importance...in getting a customer for life.  I highly doubt most folks would quit using plastic bags...even though they realize plastic is harmful, toxic, and a huge drain on the earths petroleum resources.

Joyfully Green
Joyfully Green

@urbanwoodswalker  @bloodsdesire  @EcoCatLady Really excellent points here, urbanwoodswalker. I see the same thing as you do when I walk the dog on trash day--in well-to-do neighborhoods, the garbage cans are filled with things that could and should be recycled--plastic water & soda bottles, glass wine bottles, large cardboard boxes from deliveries, etc. This drives me nuts. I've even gone as far as dropping the dog off at home, driving back to pick up a giant plastic toy kitchen, and dropping it off at the town recycling center (which just this year started accepting oversized plastic items like these). So if we use the argument that lower income people can't afford to be green and also aren't educated about it, what would be the excuses for the higher income people?

EcoCatLady
EcoCatLady

@Joyfully Green@urbanwoodswalker@bloodsdesire

Eee Gads, Y'all! Not sure how all this relates to my comments but here are my thoughts.

 

As a person who lives on under $20K annually, I probably qualify as "poor" and I do live in one of Denver's poorest neighborhoods. Of course, I prefer to think of my lifestyle as "simple" but anyhow, here is my perspective.

 

I think that while people with fewer economic resources generally don't buy "green" products, in general they probably have less overall environmental impact simply because they can't afford to consume the same amount as their wealthier counterparts. 

 

In my neighborhood kids walk to school and play outdoors, people walk to the store, most folks shop at the discount grocery which makes you pay for bags, so most people just use the cardboard boxes that the store provides. People bike and take public transportation because many can't afford cars. Buying used and/or dumpster diving is the norm, and when things break people generally at least try to repair them - and often have to do without because they can't afford to replace whatever it was that broke. They live in MUCH smaller homes than rich folk do, and just generally have less stuff.

 

Of course, economic resources are a different thing from a culture of environmentalism. When people here start to "move up" they're very quick to buy SUV's & pickup trucks, huge televisions and other things that would make most "greenies" shudder.

 

I think that the key to the ziploc question is to get people of all income brackets to realize that with a very few exceptions, disposable goods are neither cheaper, easier, nor more convenient. You don't need to spend a lot of money to acquire reusable containers - you can just do what I do and save glass jars that food comes packaged in - or pick up some items for a few dollars at a garage sale or thrift store.

 

That's my 2 cents!

urbanwoodswalker
urbanwoodswalker

@Joyfully Green  @bloodsdesire  @EcoCatLady

 

Good grief...don't know why none of my paragraphs showed...I hate when everything runs together.

kimboo
kimboo

@jbrianagartner I agree. Everyone has to start somewhere and we should encourage everyone, wherever they are in the process.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

 @jbrianagartner I am not advocating stigmatizing anyone for their choice of whether to use Ziploc bags or not.  But there are lots of products you or I might use that are not necessarily green and that we wouldn't expect to see at a green festival.  I might indulge in the occasional M&M from a candy dispenser as I'm walking down the street, but I wouldn't feel stigmatized because M&M isn't at the Green Festival. 

BethTerry
BethTerry

@jbrianagartner I am not advocating stigmatizing anyone for their choice of whether to use Ziploc bags or not.  But there are lots of products you or I might use that are not necessarily green and that we wouldn't expect to see at a green festival.  I might indulge in the occasional M&M from a candy dispenser as I'm walking down the street, but I wouldn't feel stigmatized because M&M isn't at the Green Festival.

urbanwoodswalker
urbanwoodswalker

 @Eileen05403 Its easy to bash corporations---I know I sometimes do it. However, behind the rules and regulations of selling food in public areas, there are health code laws. I think the issue is also to find ways for venders selling  food products that are legal and safe.  Plastic wrap, clamshell styro boxes, and bags currently are the norms for shipping and selling at much lower prices. If we can negate the corporations, then we all need to overhaul THE FDA laws requiring publicly sold foods to be handled and wrapped in certain ways.  And what of wet items...creams, liquids, and all that which are sold?  Not every consumer is willing to carry their own containers and wraps to a store.  Not ever food seller is brave enough to skirt all the food loaws in place.  We are a litigious society...just one stale, raw, or poisoned product  serves the lawyers & media much fodder  , and the companies  being sued, great harm.  There are different shades of "green" and all vendors as well as all customers at a Green festival come in all kinds of Green.  I don't have one neat and tidy solution, but having given this topic a great deal opf thought, I can say, I cannot criticise anyone for trying just a little bit more, no matter how pale a "green" they might be.

urbanwoodswalker
urbanwoodswalker

@Eileen05403 Its easy to bash corporations---I know I sometimes do it. However, behind the rules and regulations of selling food in public areas, there are health code laws. I think the issue is also to find ways for venders selling  food products that are legal and safe.  Plastic wrap, clamshell styro boxes, and bags currently are the norms for shipping and selling at much lower prices. If we can negate the corporations, then we all need to overhaul THE FDA laws requiring publicly sold foods to be handled and wrapped in certain ways.  And what of wet items...creams, liquids, and all that which are sold?  Not every consumer is willing to carry their own containers and wraps to a store.  Not ever food seller is brave enough to skirt all the food loaws in place.  We are a litigious society...just one stale, raw, or poisoned product  serves the lawyers & media much fodder  , and the companies  being sued, great harm.  There are different shades of "green" and all vendors as well as all customers at a Green festival come in all kinds of Green.  I don't have one neat and tidy solution, but having given this topic a great deal opf thought, I can say, I cannot criticise anyone for trying just a little bit more, no matter how pale a "green" they might be.

urbanwoodswalker
urbanwoodswalker

Again, my appologies...I cannot figure out HOW to keep all my paragraphs from running all  together---- this is driving me CRAZY

urbanwoodswalker
urbanwoodswalker

Honestly how do I KEEP  my paragraphs separated ?    This running all together is KILLING me.   I have tried everything...Help

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

 @urbanwoodswalker  @Eileen05403 Fortunately, at the San Francisco Green Festival, the food that is served to the public comes in compostable foodware and gets composted after the event.  But that's because San Francisco has the composting infrastructure in place, and businesses are actually required to compost... it's not optional.  Still, I bring my own containers and mug to avoid anything disposable.  

 

I'm not criticizing anymore for trying to be a bit more green, but the SF Green Festival is supposed to showcase what is possible, and to promote Ziploc shows a lack of vision, in my opinion.

Eileen05403
Eileen05403

 @urbanwoodswalker

 So true.  It's easy for me to say that without offering a solution.  I do carry my own containers and I do get weird looks and people get annoyed.  Even at our local farmers market I have to stop them and say... oh wait can you put that in this little muslin bag instead of the plastic one please, and when I brought "the little muslin bag" to the grocery store I confused the cashier... really? Hi this is a bag.  It's just like the plastic ones only it's made from material.  Yes I realize the scales are tiered to the plastic ones, I will the pay the difference it's only a few pennies... thanks.  No I don't want a plastic bag for the muslin bag thank you. :)  I have been working on getting my family more "Green" for about 3 years and we still have a long, long, way to go.  I also agree that the FDA needs a major overhaul.

BethTerry
BethTerry

@urbanwoodswalker  @Eileen05403 Fortunately, at the San Francisco Green Festival, the food that is served to the public comes in compostable foodware and gets composted after the event.  But that's because San Francisco has the composting infrastructure in place, and businesses are actually required to compost... it's not optional.  Still, I bring my own containers and mug to avoid anything disposable.  

 

I'm not criticizing anymore for trying to be a bit more green, but the SF Green Festival is supposed to showcase what is possible, and to promote Ziploc shows a lack of vision, in my opinion.

Eileen05403
Eileen05403

@urbanwoodswalker

 So true.  It's easy for me to say that without offering a solution.  I do carry my own containers and I do get weird looks and people get annoyed.  Even at our local farmers market I have to stop them and say... oh wait can you put that in this little muslin bag instead of the plastic one please, and when I brought "the little muslin bag" to the grocery store I confused the cashier... really? Hi this is a bag.  It's just like the plastic ones only it's made from material.  Yes I realize the scales are tiered to the plastic ones, I will the pay the difference it's only a few pennies... thanks.  No I don't want a plastic bag for the muslin bag thank you. :)  I have been working on getting my family more "Green" for about 3 years and we still have a long, long, way to go.  I also agree that the FDA needs a major overhaul.

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