Plastic Farmer’s Market: My letter to Urban Village Farmers’ Market Association
So, we’re supposed to eat locally, right? To save transportation fuel, to support our local farmers, and to limit our pesticide exposure. And I’m very lucky to have a weekly farmer’s market just down the street within walking distance. The irony is that at our small Temescal Farmer’s Market, at least half of the vendors are selling prepared foods in plastic wrap or plastic containers. And the other half, the folks selling actual produce, offer only plastic bags to shoppers.
Now, I do bring my own bags with me so that I don’t have to use a new one. And I’ve also been bringing back my green plastic strawberry basket each week and returning it to the strawberry vendor who sells his strawberries al fresco (as opposed to the other strawberry vendor who encases his in clear plastic containers.) But many customers don’t come with their own bags and must use the new plastic bags that are offered. And it’s disheartening to pass vendor after vendor and be unable to taste their tempting offerings because they are only sold in plastic. Here’s what I’m talking about:
These are just a few examples. There’s actually more plastic than these photos show! So I’ve sent an e-mail to Urban Village Farmers’ Market Association asking what they can do to reduce the amount of plastic at the farmer’s market and to encourage their vendors to reduce their dependence on it. Here is my e-mail. I’ll let you know what I hear back from them:
Date: Sun, 29 Jul 2007 21:35:56 -0700 (PDT)
From: “Beth Terry”
Subject: Temescal Farmer’s Market
Hi. I am a resident of the Temescal neighborhood and frequent the farmer’s market on Claremont every Sunday. I love having the new farmer’s market in the neighborhood and being able to walk down the street to it. It’s small, but there’s a nice variety of fresh produce.
That said, there is one thing about the farmer’s market that is of concern to me, and that is the amount of plastic that is used, from plastic bags to plastic containers of all kinds.
Oakland has banned plastic grocery bags due to the problems that plastics create for our environment. However, they have not banned produce bags or any other type of plastic container. That is up to the grocers to do voluntarily.
I’m wondering if you have considered offering any other types of bags besides the plastic ones. Some of us bring our own bags to the farmer’s market, but I see many people who use the new ones, which adds more plastic waste to the environment. Perhaps you would consider biodegradable bags as a first step. Or paper. As far as I know, the mushroom vendor is the only one offering an alternative to plastic.
Additionally, nearly all of the prepared foods sold at the market are contained in plastic. I’m wondering if there’s anything we can do to encourage the vendors to use alternative containers and packaging.
Here is a link to information about why plastic is so harmful to our planet:
What’s Wrong with Plastic Anyway?
That article is on my blog, where I write about trying to reduce our plastic waste and alternative options. I have posted photos on my blog of much of the plastic I saw at the market today. Please take a look. I and my readers will be looking forward to your response.
For those foods that just do better when stored in plastic farmers could be potentially convinced to use reusable plastic or mason jars and accept returns of the packaging, perhaps offering a discount if you bring it back.
Maybe even something where you pay a dollar for the container, and when you bring the container back, you get your dollar back.
It is quite disheartening to see that type of situation. Many of those fruits could be packaged in cardboard type containers. However, there are people who wouldn’t shop there if those items were packaged differently. We just have to continue being examples and working towards something different. I was glad to see the dining place in the building next to mine (OR State offices) start to use a cardboard type of to go container rather than a styrofoam one. Small steps I guess. My co-worker said that she didn’t like them because the food tasted “different.” I told her she was full of it and to be happy about it. Guess that’s why I’m the recycling nazi (seinfeld reference) at work.
You go girl! I hope you get some results. I wonder if the vendors have to individually package certain items for health code reasons (vs. having large open vats of olives, for example).
I just started a blog for people who want to make their own alternatives to plastic bags, and added your site as a reference link. Do you have any patterns for making your own cloth or yarn/string bags? Thanks!