The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

Category Archives: Store Reports

July 23, 2017

Three Stone Hearth – Much More Than Delicious Food in Returnable Mason Jars

Three Stone Hearth in Berkeley, CA

Local readers may be surprised when I confess that I’ve walked past Three Stone Hearth on University Ave in Berkeley a bunch of times over the years and never gone in.  I didn’t go in because I didn’t know what it was.

If I had gone in, I would have discovered a nearly plastic-free, zero waste mecca full of gloriously delicious food and friendly people.  Thank goodness the shop owners reached out to me this year to come and talk to their customers about my plastic-free journey.  I wish I had known about Three Stone Hearth when I was writing my book because they would have definitely been included!

It’s All About Those Mason Jars

Three Stone Hearth is a Community Supported kitchen (like a CSA for prepared foods) serving up delicious, organic, nutrient-dense foods based on traditional diets.  (Weekly offerings include choices for vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters.) Customers can come to the store to purchase foods … Read the rest

November 30, 2016

MOM’s Organic Market Wants You to Bring Your Own Containers

This story starts with a car wreck.  A few weeks ago–the week before the U.S. election, to be exact–I was in Maryland visiting my dad. Riding shotgun on the way home from my brother’s birthday dinner, I caught a glimpse of the sign for MOM’s Organic Market and shrieked, “HEY, THERE IT IS!” Unfortunately, my scream startled dad enough for him to swerve into a curb that had suddenly jutted out into the middle of the road. (Who put that there?)  We ended up with a flat tire and had to wait in the MOM’s parking lot for my brother in law to come help us change the tire.


You’re probably wondering why I screamed when we passed MOM’s Organic Market.  Well, growing up in Beltsville, MD in the 80’s, we shopped at conventional grocery stores like Giant and Safeway and A&P.  We didn’t have markets like Whole Foods, and we certainly didn’t have our own local organic… Read the rest

October 16, 2009

Hey Wal-Mart! I See Glaring Omissions in Your New Sustainability Index

Dear Wal-Mart,

Let me apologize in advance for any sarcasm you might detect in this letter. It’s late, and I’ve been losing sleep for about two years, basically working for free to wake people up to the environmental crises we face. So you can imagine that I’m a little bit cranky. And maybe just a little bit jaded by big box companies that profess to be going green, when “Big Box” seems to be the antithesis of green.

Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart. You are big and muscly. And now you want to use your muscle to demand sustainable practices from your vendors. You have created a brand new Sustainability Index (PDF), despite the fact that many third party standards already exist.

But what are the standards you are pushing? And who gets to decide what they should be?

Your new Sustainability Index… oh, sorry.  It’s not Wal-Mart’s Sustainability Index.  It belongs to the world.  According to Rand Waddoups,… Read the rest

November 27, 2007

Store Report: The Thing About Costco…

In last week’s post about tips for shopping at Safeway and other mainstream chain grocery stores, I mentioned that one way to save plastic is to buy large-sized containers. Sunny commented that for that reason, maybe shopping at Costco is not so bad. So tonight, I visited Costco with my camera to see if we really could save plastic by buying large containers there.

What I found is that yes, if you don’t have access to a store with bulk bins, you can buy large bags of rice or beans or large containers of laundry detergent or ibuprofen and save some plastic. But the thing about Costco is that most of the merchandise is not packaged in large single containers. In fact, if you’re not careful, you could end up with way more plastic from Costco than you would otherwise. For one thing, most “bulk” purchases are actually plastic-wrapped bundles of smaller items:

It doesn’t help to buy products in plastic containers that are… Read the rest
November 21, 2007

Store Report: Struggling with plastic at Safeway

I am really fortunate to live in the San Francisco Bay Area with stores like Rainbow Grocery and Berkeley Bowl that sell so many foods in bulk bins without any packaging at all. It would be much harder to live plastic-free without these kinds of stores. So I thought I’d take an aisle-by-aisle tour of my local Safeway to see how I’d minimize my plastic consumption if I had no other place to shop. The exercise was enlightening.

I planned to write this post in the same way, as an aisle-by-aisle assessment of Safeway’s offerings and how to shop there while consuming the least plastic possible. But writing the post that way became so tedious tonight, I just had to stop. You don’t need me to tell you what products are on the shelves of Safeway. Anyone who shops there can see for themselves. But there are some important principals to keep in mind when shopping at any mainstream grocery store, so I’ll list those, as well as a few other… Read the rest

August 30, 2007

Store Report: Berkeley Bowl (a response to my letter)

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve seen me mention Berkeley Bowl quite a few times. Besides the farmers markets and CSAs, it’s the place to go in the East Bay for produce and bulk foods. A huge store, it caters to those looking for organic, local foods, as well those desiring more exotic fare. It also carries products for mainstream shoppers who just want their Lean Cuisine. I think Berkeley Bowl tries to be all things to all people (although, as you’ll see below, they deny it), and therefore, it’s sometimes great and sometimes falls short.

Berkeley Bowl’s produce department is huge. Their web site says that it’s the largest in Northern California. Unlike Rainbow Grocery, which has a decent produce department of all-organics but also encourages its customers to shop at the farmer’s markets instead, Berkeley Bowl overflows with everything from 30 kinds of locally-grown tomatoes… Read the rest

August 15, 2007

Store Report: Rainbow Grocery

I’ve mentioned Rainbow Grocery in quite a few posts, and now I’m going to explain it, so those folks who are not lucky enough to live in the SF Bay Area will know what I’m talking about. Rainbow Grocery makes me wish I still lived in San Francisco. There’s a certain familiar smell and feel that I can only describe as “crunchy” that takes me back to the early 90’s when I’d first moved to San Francisco from Maryland and everything was new and wonderful. And even though Rainbow is no longer in its former location in the Mission District, it still has the same dreadlock-sporting, tattoo-wearing, shaved head, tie-dyed, just rolled out of bed looking staff and customers that make me feel so at home. (Even though I don’t actually look like any of them anymore.)

See the “staff” are all owners of this co-op grocery store, as well as workers. So it’s like it kind of is their home, sort of.… Read the rest

July 29, 2007

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… Read the rest

July 11, 2007

Store Report: Trader Joe’s & NatureWorks ® PLA

When we learned in February that a Trader Joe’s was going to be moving in to the old Albertson’s building just a few blocks from our house and right near the Rockridge BART station, we were thrilled. In fact, the idea of Trader Joe’s coming has been enough to lift me out of the dumps on quite a few occasions this year. Especially in the morning when I’m tired and grouchy, I’ll be standing in the shower and suddenly the thought, “Oh, but Trader Joe’s is coming! Yippee!” will enter my head and give a whole new brightness to the day. (Some of us are simple that way.)

So when shortly after starting the plastic project, I was reminded by my friend Nancy what a packaging nightmare Trader Joe’s is, the sun over Rockridge grew just a little bit dimmer that day. Then, yesterday online, I ran across a random posting referring to the biodegradable plastic that Trader Joe’s uses. A ray of hope! I e-mailed… Read the rest

July 5, 2007

Store/Product Report: Lush

03/25/2008 UPDATE: Warning to those who would order Lush products through the mail. I have had several reports from readers who ordered what they thought would be naked chunks of shampoo or deodorant, only to have them arrive wrapped up in a ton of plastic. So either be very specific in your ordering instructions that you don’t want any plastic packaging, or don’t order from Lush. Reading the comments on my updated 03/24/08 blog post might be helpful to you.

When you walk into a Lush Cosmetics store, (there is one at 240 Powell Street in San Francisco, as well as locations throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world) you are greeted not by rows and rows of products packaged in plastic (as you are when you enter The Body Shop, for example), but by big unwrapped chunks of solid soap as well as shampoo, deodorant, bubble bath, and massage oil. That’s right, big solid chunks of these things! They are sold by weight. You tell the staff how much… Read the rest