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:





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.  Click image to advance through the slideshow.

Plastic zip top bag beach litter


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?



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122 Comments on "Are Plastic Ziploc Bags Suddenly Green or Greenwashed?"

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Ok, I live in Southern California where we are in a drought. I am frustrated by how much water it takes to wash and thoroughly rinse a ziplock sandwich bag with all those crevices. Still looking for the safest, moisture-proof, unbreakable way to store and carry small portions of edibles that’s also pest proof.

I just love this! You are a wealth of knowledge and an inspiration!

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… Read more »

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.


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.

Ziplocks get holes in them eventually.

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.

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… Read more »

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

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.

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.

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… Read more »

Fortunately, at the San Francisco Green Festival, the food that is served to the public comes in compostable food ware 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.

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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
I spent a fair bit of time reflecting on this post since you wrote about it Beth and was so happy to see how many different points of view came up. I agree with most of them, on both sides of the debate. There are big tensions running between green intentions and green washing and handling these in the right way is important to be able to find some sort of solid ground to stand on. So I think these are the facts we can gather about Ziploc: – they have identified environmental concern as a trend – they have… Read more »

I agree with you that we should use these types of situations as a springboard for discussion, and have a civil dialogue with companies such as Ziploc. They may be green-washing, or they may be realizing that sooner or later, change has to occur at the corporate level. We’ll never know until we start the conversation.

I don’t think there is any way to applaud this. Companies are to be applauded where their efforts are greener but in this situation it is not the case, or the place. This is Ziploc at a green festival. Technically it should be Recyclebank there. Ziploc have in no way done anything “green”. They do business as usual. Here just plastered their name with a company that devises ways to deal with trash, and probably paid a sum for the privilege . Their product is unlikely to be recycled. There is no indication that it will or whether there will… Read more »
My journey with Plastic
I started trying to follow all your tricks soon after I read Plastic Ocean by Capt. Charles Moore. I have to say I was way ahead of you on the reuseable shopping bag by a few years, as well as the reuseable kleen Kanteen and coffee mug. But your education on a variety of things is beyong my adopting yet. I immediately stopped chewing gum! My God! I have adopted washing dishes, teeth, and hair with baking soda. I now buy hard lotion in the neat little refillable tins. I have been getting my vegies from a CSA for quite… Read more »

I’d love to know the answer to this as well! After reading through a bunch of the comments below I was thinking about saving my glass containers and using them to freeze stuff but all the lids are plastic-lined. And it seems silly to go out and buy some trendy (albeit beautiful) mason jars, when I have tons of glass containers in my recycling bin already. :-/

Exactly. If you have something at home…its not “green” to toss it out and buy something else new. Because EVERYTHING takes energy and resources to manufacture, ship, etc. Use your glass mason jars. Use what you have. Don’t feel bad or guilty about it. Listen…consumerism has a great deal to do with all this ecological mess. As for the mason jars….I am old enough to remember those non plastic lined jar lids. They corroded, and leeched toxic metals too after a while. Canning tomatoes, pickles, etc…would corrode the inner tops. Glass lids are excellent… but hard to come by.Here is… Read more »

This is an excellent article about food storage in the various kinds of glass canning jars…I am learning a lot this morning! I hope its helpful to all of you too. me for getting carried away on this…the thread is off course with all this talk of glass jars…I promise to stop now! :-)

This is good: try History of Weck canning jars from Kaufman Mercantilethere is some interesting info about the glass topped jars…which are used more in Europe than here. they have not been deemed “safe” by our own FDA ONLY because they have not been tested. I go with these…and the rubber seems to be real.

Oh here are a few links… I wanted to share along with my last comments above: Please google history of the canning jar. wikipedia has a great article…but Livefyre doesn’t allow me to “paste” the link here. thousands of people used to die from food poisoning….the canning jar…with all its various patents really saved the day. What you might actually want to use is the “Kilner jar….you can google that and come up with loads on Amazon. the “Kilner” style is sold everywhere (glass lid, and metal wire handle that seals it). However, “:rubber” nowadays is synthetic…and a form of… Read more »

Oh..everyone should try and get their hands on this book…positively riveting:Green Illusions – Ozzie Zehner
Beth…I think you will want to review this one. Its a real eye opener on how companies greenwash, and advertising puts spin on their hidden agendas.I believe it came out in 2012. I got mine out of the library…but I will buy a copy.

I do have that book. In fact, I interviewed Ozzie about plastic for my own book. We had a nice breakfast chat back in 2011, and I was excited when the book finally came out. I have skimmed it, but I haven’t had time to really sit down with it. I lent it to a friend, who said that he found some of the data to be incorrect or out of date. My friend is a solar power advocate, so he didn’t care for the book, but I loved the emphasis on reducing consumption.

We live in a such a fast paced world…no doubt something is “out of date” as its published….but this book was published in 2012…LOL. Its a big book— . Pick a chapter …its all rich and you can read out of sequence…and the main ideas might shock some. The author is brilliant…I hope to hear him speak someday…perhaps a Ted talk or something.Probably the most import book I have ever read. Yes…I mean that. Puts EVERYTHING into perspective.

@urbanwoodswalker Thanks for letting us know about this book. It does sound like a must-read for environmentalists. Unfortunately, our library system doesn’t have it yet and I do like to test-drive the books before I buy them (I have to really love a book to buy it now–one of my new steps to curb the acquisitions in our house…we are all bookworms!), so I will scout around a bit.

Our library is part of a massive ranging inter library loan system…and if they do not have a book, they can order it …they just let me know via internet. In fact…I order most of my books through the internet now…only going to the library to pick up the “hold” orders. Did you know that you can also ask a library to buy a book (or DVD, CD) for their shelves? On 2 occasions, I went over to the librarian in charge of ordering and told her why a certain item should be purchased…and she did it…even notifying when it… Read more »

@urbanwoodswalker Thanks. I also left you a long reply at my blog–not sure if you get notified by Typepad when there’s a response for you (I guess I should look into installing the livefyre system!), but I wanted to let you know that I really appreciated your thoughtful response.

published. :-)

@Joyfully Green Got it…thank you!

@urbanwoodswalker Yes, we have that county-wide library system as well, and I do the same thing with ordering books to put on hold and picking them up. I meant that our whole county system doesn’t have the book in its database yet (at any of the libraries). I guess it is very new? But that is a good suggestion about having the librarian order the book for their shelves–thanks!

its just not sustainable anyway you try to sell it.. I wont use plastic because of chemicals beside the impact to the ocean and environment.. I havent gotten rid of everything but I have made a big impact in how much is in our house.. I am going to get your book very soon for more ideas

When I go to a green festival I want it to show where I can strive to be. Not show destructive companies advertising they are doing a good job, with no proof, where we are just supposed to take their word for it. On top of that continue to say it is our responsibility to do something with THEIR trash. I want to see a modern way of living without trash. None of us are perfect, most of us far from it. Let it show the many options of what we can do, how far we can go with our… Read more »
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… Read more »

What a fascinating thread this has turned out to be! Turningclockbac is correct…these Green Festivals are probably thinking exactly the same thing….not everyone is willing to be an eco warrior…but they might be open to enacting one small change in their daily life. this would explain the diversity of “shades of green” promoted at Green festivals. I can only hope though, that allowing corporate sponsors at Green festivals does not open up the flood gates.

@urbanwoodswalker I love this concept of many “shades of green.” I think that one of the biggest obstacles for the environmental movement today is the resistance and hostility from those who aren’t green (yet?) being “told” what to do and how to live–a sort of moral superiority in “I’m greener than you are!” You’re right that there are indeed many shades of green, and even if I think of myself as “deeply green” (forest green?), I still have room for improvement. You just gave me a great idea to explore for a post, so thank you!

You are welcome Joyfully GreenPlease post a link to your blog when you write it. I think the possibly of infusing green into society happens in many ways..a teeny tiny trickle is better then nothing. I hardly think shaming or guilting people into going greener is the most successful move…actually it can backfire.

I agree with you that this discussion is fascinating, which probably explains why I just wrote a longer-than-usual post about it. Thank you again urbanwoodswalker, and Beth Terry for launching the topic, and everybody else who is taking part in this dialogue. It keeps giving me brand-new ideas! If we can take these discussions and put them to good use beyond this forum, then that is truly an amazing result. As you requested, urbanwoodswalker, here is the link to my post:
Of course, I welcome ongoing discussion there as well!

Allowing them means Coca Cola can be there too. After all, they do more than Ziploc. Some of their bottles are downcycled into plastic fibre, etc.. etc.. Hell, lets just let all businesses in that claim to do something. even if they are the contributors to the problem.

Apologies for the sarcasm

hanks. I was getting a little worried. :-) But I definitely get your point. There has to be a line drawn somewhere.

I’ve never been to the Green Festival, but this type of greenwashing is exactly what I’d expect from a “green” festival that gives out giant books and flyers with corporate (and local and small business) coupons. The bigger question is whether the main statement is even true, that ziplock bags can be usefully recycled by placing them in the bins at supermarkets meant for the store’s own bags. I seem to recall articles from when the California law to mandate large grocery and pharmacies to provide a bin to return plastic bags stating that the extreme amount of mixing of… Read more »
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… Read more »
Ziploc or any other company’s support of a recycling co. is not so green as they would have people believe. It is like a person giving a regular donation to charity and getting a badge to say they support. For example if you donate $100 a year to animal welfare you can wear a badge saying “I’m helping the animals” but reality is $100 does not go very far. If you are one of many average people doing the same it will but if you are in the business of intensive farming them, actually causing distress in the first place,… Read more »

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

Sandy, this is the toilet paper produced in the Netherlands that I was talking about…..

Here in Cape Town, where we get charged for plastic bags, at check out people always want to add the tiny free plastic bags to be generous and help out. If I think it’s a moment where I can be heard, I explain why I don’t want any plastic bags as courteously as I can. But I wish the plastic bags weren’t there in the first place to make it a personal decision. Coming back to our topic, there’s really no evidence that ziploc is they’re “Green” in any way, shape or form. But I think your stance, Beth and… Read more »
I can’t tolerate plastic bags, just as I can’t tolerate juice boxes or anything else that is classified as disposable but never really goes away. I am somebody who is terrible at math (just ask my poor husband!), but even I can figure out that we have only so much space on the planet, and if we continue to fill it up with non-biodegradable junk, sooner or later, the junk will win–rather like the scenario in “Wall-E.” My hatred of juice boxes led me to the creation of a green team at my children’s school, and our first objective was… Read more »

I don’t understand how a festival is green if they use plastic packaged food, plastic trash can liners, and plastic sample cups and utensils…it’s a joke. Same with ‘organic’ open air markets with their rolls of plastic produce bags, styrofoam shells and cups, etc. The managers and organizers of these events are complete hypocrites!! And what about all the flyers that are handed out at festivals that are produced from endangered rain forest trees…we are sending mixed messages to younger generations by not thinking ‘green’ initiatives through so they actually make sense.

Beth, I have a similar conundrum for you about vendors at Green Festival. There are plenty of folks peddling “natural” health care products but that are FULL of chemicals! They claim to be natural but almost all of them contain SLSs and petrochemically derived ingredients that are known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. Why are these people allowed in?

I have the same dilemma, Beth. I feel very strongly about not promoting these environmental polluters at events like Green Festival but at the same time am grateful they’re at least taking SOME steps to be more green. When I worked for World Wildlife Fund, they partnered with Coca Cola (one of the anti-Christ multi-nationals in my book). I was floored! How can WWF allow Coke to use its logo on their greenwashing campaigns? Coke is one of the world’s largest, if not THE largest, wasters (and polluters) of clean water in the world! But WWF board members argued that… Read more »

The WWF partnered with Coco-Cola as part of Coke’s five year plan to not only reduce the waste of clean water, but improve the watersheds that surround their factories, and overall work to reverse their environmental impact. I don’t know how successful that’s been (we’re learning about it in my Sustainable Business class), but I do know that was the deal with WWF.

Perhaps, we could start a letter writing campaign…or petition to the SF green festival. they can be the poster child for all other green festivals. Lets get everyone on board in letting them know. I have the same problem with anything with a pink ribbon on it. The Koman foundation getting huge corporate donations so they can keep making all the cancer producing goods. Its time we demand more transparency and honesty.

Kristina Vakharia-LoRe

We need to be more concerned with stopping the production virgin plastic instead of recycling it. Nice try Ziploc

Thanks Nan. Like Sandy we don’t get this product in the UK but I have read about a carbon-neural toilet roll in the Netherlands and will try to find it for you Sandy….. I have managed to find a toothpaste that comes in a metallic tube (like tomato puree) and just happy to make small changes that will last a lifetime……. And looking forward to watching the documentary by Christ Jordan plus hopefully seeing another next month called Chasing Ice. Thanks again :-)

Sad I missed this discussion on FB. Personally, my priority is nixing disposable single-use plastic. I have switched to reusable nylon bags (purchased on Etsy) for things that won’t work in glass/ metal or b/c of space issues — mostly I use Pyrex (plastic lid!), metal containers, etc.I know folks reuse ziploc bags, which I think is a step in the right direction. But in my experience, they are difficult to reuse — a pain to wash, that zipper was not meant to last forever, and since it’s not meant to be reused, I feel a little more squeamish about… Read more »
Oy!!! Well, first thoughts: 1) I was told once (god knows where) that ziplock bags cannot be recycled because the plastic in the zipper is a different kind from the plastic of the bag, so the only way you can put them in the grocery store recycle bin is to cut off the zipper. Anybody know if that’s true or not? And what about those bags that grapes come in that actually have a colored hard plastic doo-dad that zips the bag shut? Can those be recycled er… downcycled? 2) I really, don’t understand how buying in bulk is any… Read more »
I think the thing about buying in bulk is more about economics than actual “green”-ness. It’s a step to get people to think about how much they waste, and it’s a step to get people to think about how much they’re spending on packaging for non-bulk foods. For most people, going green isn’t accessible due to finances (or they assume it isn’t accessible). While there are some major tips that can help poor families be green – such as not buying paper products for their kitchen and cleaning needs, and relying on cheaper cleaners made from far less harmful materials,… Read more »
There is no initial money required to save. I know many poor people, some surprisingly getting more income than I do. The need is education. Consumerism has people believe they are worth what they have rather than who they are. People will smoke, drink and spend their money within a few days of getting it because they don’t see there will be any difference to there lives next week or even if they will survive to next pay check. So, “we’ll deal with it tomorrow” is the attitude and they will spend till it’s gone for that temporary feel good.… Read more »

Wow, your classism is not only shocking, it’s offensive. I get that lifestyle-ism and greenism are generally the purview of liberal capitalists, but . . . wow. Let’s blame the poor for the plastics problem? Mind-blowing. There’s literally no class analysis here or understanding of the social, economic, and material forces at play in discussing the poor and their spending habits. No citations to back up your claims. Nothing. But then hating on the poor is kind of a national pastime for U.S. capitalists. Always has been. Even by the greenies, it seems.

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… Read more »

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.

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.

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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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… Read more »

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!

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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
ee 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… Read more »
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… Read more »

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

I have had a few hours to ponder this topic of economics and social vs cultural “greeness,” I really think we have to be very careful here. Its just easy to say the poor consume (and trash ) more…because it might be more visible in poor communities. However, the educated and wealthy…they consume enormous amounts….but its hidden….neatly stacked for the garbageman, and the recycle truck. I know alot of about people’s consumption…as I am an artist who first started working with trash in the late 1990s…and I have lived all over the place. I have gone though many inner city… Read more »
I have been discussing this same idea with my husband lately–is the green movement socioeconomically divided, so that the poor aren’t green simply because they can’t afford it or are not educated about it? I don’t think it’s solely about education, although of course that plays a big part. Organic fruits, vegetables and milk cost more. Green cleaners often cost more than bleach or other water-contaminating cleaners. It costs less to produce cheap plastic junk in China than to manufacture higher-quality, more environmentally responsible goods elsewhere. And then there are the corporations which tie into the PACs, complicating the issue… Read more »
whoa Nutitout…I am quite uncomfortable with your generalizations about “poor people.” Poorer people are the “highest consumers” …not so. Many poor people have issues with cleaning?though I reread your comments…and am trying to understand your intentions…I am hindered by these and other extremist generalizations. It sounds like Mitt Romney generalizing “the 47%.” You shouldn’t do that. It doesn’t help the situation to categorize people, culture, social economics like this. I have lived in both environments…extremely poor, crime ridden, and also very wealthy. They both have problems of consumption, waste, and ecological destruction. The only difference is the wealthy hide it… Read more »
I have a small household. If I buy a large order of chicken, etc. it is packaged together (I do not have the option of going to a butcher counter and asking them to put it in my own container or I would do so.) My family eats meat as a condiment in our meals. The choices are 1. defrost the entire package and eat nothing else for a week or more 2. repackage it into smaller one meal use portions. Clearly once the bag holds meat or fish I can’t wash and reuse it :(I tried butcher paper, separate… Read more »

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.

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… Read more »

p.s. My 1,2,3’s were in no way related to your 1,2,3 questions… I was just rambling

Lets say I am an average not so green American who wants to live a more Eco friendly life. I see an advertisement for a Green Festival and think to myself YaY I will go and learn how to live greener. Then I get to said festival and all I find are extremist attitudes and ideas that tell me I have to give up all plastic and create only 3 ounces of trash while buying only organic GMO free foods grown within 50 miles of my home. Am I going to even attempt to change my lifestyle? NO! Green festivals… Read more »

I commend you on very wise words. :-) extremism turns the majority of folks off. We need to embrace more folks. I have given talks about the topic…you might be surprised at how many think greenies are “wack jobs.” After years at this…I am learning to be gentler and less judgemental…it doesn’t help change anything. At least for me it doesn’t.

I am not surprised at all about how many “think greenies are ‘wack jobs’.” I can remember just three or four years ago, being the only one in the supermarket who used her own bags and I did feel a bit freakish with the looks I was getting. Now, there are more shoppers than not who are carrying their own bags, and of course, the store sells the reusable bags, too, and gives you a bit of credit, so almost everybody has jumped on the bandwagon at this same supermarket. It gives me a kernel of hope that even the… Read more »

This is why brand names of companies who are NOT green and are a cause of environmental distress have NO place in these festivals. It gives people the wrong impression. Some will think buying that brand is the better option when it’s the same as buying any of them. Do what you can to improve, buy food that is better in some way by pack or product than you bought before, but lets not have this trickery in important places of education.

Actually perhaps Beth should have a booth next year at this festival too. Fight back with education.I also just has a thought about the clear little plastic bags. because they are clear, and little…psychologically, in consumers minds…they might not seem to exist. Anyone ever thought of this? Its like cigarette butts…which cause 1/3 of all outdoor pollution. People that toss butts on the ground…the butt is small, and it feels “invisible.” Instead of ranting about who is green and who is not…lets try new ways…marketing eco concious behavior. We must use the same tactics the big corporations do. Pointing fingers… Read more »
I confess, I’m guilty of still using and usually re-using ziploc baggies,even since I’ve tried to reduce my plastic footprint I’ve had to buy new ones when I just don’t have anything else to freeze in and my berries are about to go bad, and I’ve found that for re using, the ZipLoc brand is the best. Same reason as stated before by someone else, I have a small freezer and not enough jars. I do admire what SCJ has done to go green pretty much on their own without a lot of outside pressue, other companies that size certainly… Read more »
Sad. Disappointing. Green washing in a fine hour. They can afford to be at a Green Festival while many others that would have something to say simply cannot afford the entrance fee. People need to also remember that a freezer is not necessary for life! So many people in the world live without it and it is quite easy. If nothing else it helps you to eat local, it encourages you to eat in season, and learn and appreciate the art of drying/dehydrating and canning in season. Glass is easy to wash too and you can reuse it for a… Read more »
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… Read more »

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

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO It has to stop at big company producers. They may be finding ways to downcycle a bit of product but this doesn’t give them the right to attend green festivals when they produce the very stuff these places are supposed to be against. If a company was making stuff out of plastic collected that was produced by any brand then maybe they could showcase a step forward. This is just advertising ziplock. And subtly suggesting we all use it. I have never seen the need to use the stuff when… Read more »

Ziploc* See I’m so annoyed by this I can’t even spell it either

1) No. People who throw them away still will. People who take responsibility for them now will still do so, perhaps by recycling them instead of reusing them. Which means more ziplocks sold, not less… 2) No, they should not be at the festival so long as other all-plastic packaging is also banned. Yes, it greenwashes plastic. Boo. 3) Never! They will et the support of the middle ground folks. It’s our job to shout out “hey! Think about it! This company still just wants you to consume more! The bags are going to end up non recyclable “lumber! The… Read more »

To clarify, I give back new new ziplock bags. I get excited when I get a new used or reused ziplock bag.

Last time I checked on their website (maybe a year ago), Ziploc were made from Polyethylene Plastic Resin #4. They leak chemicals the more you wash and reuse them.

Oh this is a tough one! I agree with what everyone has said here. Ultimately, I think Green Festivals should be reserved for only true uber – green companies, people, etc…. But SCJ has made some great strides and like many have said should be rewarded while being encouraged to keep going. Maybe there needs to be a “Almost Green Festival” for this type of company. Ideas for the masses who aren’t there yet and a way to recognize companies for making true efforts and encourage them to go further. Fully disclosing that these are not the ideal answers, but… Read more »

@KristinaFashjianGreene I like the idea of an “almost green” festival or how about a “trying to be green but still polluting” festival? Maybe the Green Festival should relegate all those green wannabees to their own corner of the exhibit hall and make it clear in their marketing materials that some companies have been allowed in because they have made strides but they’re not entirely green.

For the record, I have two sandwich size zipper baggies of organically homegrown bitter melon in my freezer from last summer’s garden and that’s it for zipper bags. Freezer burn is my moral enemy. I’m trying to freeze in mason jars but like I said space is an issue. The current box of zipper bags in the drawer is approximately four years old. My household trash is approximately one grocery size bag of items I can’t compost, recycle, or remake into something else. I don’t go coo coo for coco puffs about chucking a bunch of stuff in my recycling… Read more »
The only one to blame for all of that plastic and excess packagaing and ZIPLOC @ SF Green Festival, SF Green Festival. Their curators (or their equiv.), to be specific. I never really thought about how these festivals and such got put together until I learned about from a friend with their own business. They have to submit applications to be included in things like Bazaar Bizarre. They have been declined at certain fairs. It’s the curators job to ensure variety, quality, and, most importantly, maintain the integrity of whatever the Purpose/Mission of the festival or fair is. That’s where… Read more »
I think this is a GREAT conversation! We use few ziploc bags in the freezer, and definitely wash them to death, but a vastly larger volume of our food storage is in mason jars & anchor glass food storage containers (with their damned plastic not replaceable in canada lids…). After 50 weeks last year of the plastic trash challenge we learned a lot about our plastic habits and continue to abide by many of the self imposed rules that resulted. I don’t think SCJ had any right to be at any sort of “green” or “eco friendly” event, but I… Read more »

Wouldn’t it be a great start to have SC Johnson see this entire thread. of comments and ideas. There needs to be more consumer input with these global corporations, AND the green festival organizers. Beth, can you get the issue of the SF Green Fest publicized? Make it very publicized…get on public radio, etc. so that other green festivals learn (corporations too).

Have you tried searching for a rubber stopper? There are many places that sell natural rubber stoppers to replace artificial cork on wine bottles (or even some lab supply stores) that only need the diameter of your jar to know what size stopper or plug would be adequate. Beware of mixed rubber products that seem to be promoted. Natural rubber will go hard after a few years and need to be replaced before it degrades. But I think of it as a life cycle, everything should have a beginning and an end.

I’d question that a disposable plastic cup would have a lower carbon footprint than a “green” ceramic cup. I’ve recently purchase a cup from a local ceramic artist with materials from the local area and with no transport costs, compare to a plastic cup manufactured overseas in factories, I suspect aren’t worried about pollution or their carbon footprint. It’s possible to state the above for like-for-like situations but where people research their purchases the “greener” option can certainly have less of an impact on the planet……. Actually, I guess this supports your post – “Compared to what?” :-)

Oh boy this is a sticky one. Beth, is there any way to get a representative from the Green Festival to weigh in on why they allowed Ziploc? Would be interesting to get their perspective on this. I also think they need to know quite loudly…that this is very unwanted!These plastic bag companies are very powerful…and persuasive in charming their ways into green issues. I just spent a morning last week on these websites…the lobbyists for the plastic bag/ film industries…and read all their glossy public relations campaigns. Of course THEY feel they are going green. Its very little and… Read more »
Plastic doesn’t biodegrade! Therefore, new plastic is bad, in my opinion. Ziploc doesn’t belong at the Green Festival. What they are doing is greenwashing- trying to convince people that it’s good for the environment to buy their product. It’s slimy. We went to the Green Festival last year but not this year. When I asked my husband if he wanted to go, he said, “No it’s just like a shopping mall”. And he’s right, the focus seemed to be consumption and selling products- most of which are not very good for the environment. If it’s organic but wrapped in plastic,… Read more »
Scientifically, a good landfill doesn’t allow ANYTHING to biodegrade. Fruits and vegetables are found 40 years later…not degraded. Neither is paper.All the product packaging that says their item is “biodegradeable” is TOTAL green washing BS. Because, unless you toss all of it in your personal compost heap and aerate it once in a while…nothing biodegrades in modern commercial landfills. There was an entire scientific study lasting many decades on this topic. The book in on my bookshelf somewhere. My point is not arguing about plastics…just the point that we all are led to believe “biodegradable” items are good….when very little… Read more »

@urbanwoodswalker i totally agree. but fruits and veggies and paper should ideally not be put in a landfill but in a compost heap so they disappear from the earth (or rather are changed into nutrient-rich soil) but that is never possible with plastic. it will just collect and collect until we drown in it (or are great great great great grandchildren do!).

Of course Utsie. Just making a point about “biodegradable…the word is used to sell more products…and dupe folks into believe that its ok to consume consume consume. My point was that green washing exists at every level.

I agree.

I do love Facebook sometimes!! Nan, please share……

It’s great that SCJ is trying to green up it’s act- but ziploc has no place a this event. unless they are going to encourage folks to re-use the bags they already have. I’m a bag-washer like Michael- so they get used again and again. I also make my own cloth drawstring bags from recycled boxers and tshirts, and use my own glass jars for bulk nin buying.

ps. it’s very easy to buy bulk- use glass or metal containers. that’s what we do. not using ziploc plastic bags is not hindering our ability to buy bulk at all.

What do you do for the freezer? Specifically with meat (if you eat meat)? That is the only place we use Ziploc bags or plastic bags (I used an old bread bag for chicken last week).

I don’t eat much meat and so don’t keep meat in the freezer. But it can be stored in stainless or glass containers. One idea that I saw recently was to freeze chicken pieces individually laid out on a cookie sheet in the freezer (granted, not everyone has room to do this) and then when they are completely frozen, put them into a stainless steel or glass container. The pieces won’t stick together if they are individually frozen first. Google “freeze chicken cookie sheet” for lots of ideas on the best way to do it. You can do the same… Read more »

hat’s what we do too. Glass jars, metal containers, and cloth bags.

It is very difficult to avoid plastic completely and the alternatives are still seen as a little inconvenient by many people, and sometimes a plastic-free alternative doesn’t exist – I am yet to find recycled toilet paper without plastic packaging in the UK. However, at a festival promoting green values, there must be a set of principles applied to all traders or it’s just too easy for every companies to sell itself as environmentally friendly.