Monday, April 7, 2008

My Fantasies

Lately I've found myself thinking a lot about better and more sustainable packaging solutions and just human behavior in general, and my daydreams have led to a few fantasies.

And no, these fantasies have nothing to do with packing tape and bedposts.

Instead they're related to returnable jars and people accepting new and different ways of doing things.

Fantasy A: Giving Back
In the world of Fantasy A, we all create a lot less trash because most liquid products come in returnable jars only available in a few types, maybe three or four total. For example, milk would come in a "big" glass jar, pasta sauce comes in a "medium" jar, jam would come in a "small" jar, and toothpaste might come in a "tiny" jar.

My dream system would make it substantially less costly for companies to reuse jars because there would be a large intermediary company that could introduce economies of scale for collecting and washing these universal jars before they were sold them back to the companies.

Oh, and as a bonus, since lids are standardized too, we could even reuse jars from grocery store products for canning.

Fantasy B: Looking Forward
Fantasy World B is a place where no one looks at you sideways when you do something different, and people don't ever have to be scared about standing out. In this world, people try lots of new things because they know they can be good for the environment. They use cloth shopping bags and produce bags at the grocery store and know that no one is going to think they're weird. They even have the people at the deli counter pack their cheese and meats into the reusable containers they brought to the store. Heck, they'll try anything because the environment is more important to them than the possibility of feeling a little different.

...But that's enough with my fantasies. It's back to reality.

16 comments:

tupelo said...

I've been reading your blog for a month now and remain impressed with the path you are forging. I've been reluctant (for the reasons listed in Fantasy B) to use my own containers at the deli and fish counters. After reading your post today I am inspired. I will bring my own containers next time!

Thank you for all of your efforts toward our world and for writing this blog to pass your message (and ideas!) along.

RLM said...

The fantasies are great, and I hope they both come true. To the first, I would add that we can pack some things in recycled paper - bread, for instance, pasta - or better yet
we could use material like banana leaves. These lighter materials will cut down on the carbon costs of transporting products (ideally we aren't transporting them too far in the first place, but some will have to be). Here is a nice list I found of packing materials, with some innovative possibilities:

http://practicalaction.org/docs/technical_information_service/packaging_materials.pdf

I wrote about earthen pots as packaging here:

http://trostomaten.blogspot.com/2008/02/earthen-vessels-in-city-of-joy.html

The Green Cat said...

In terms of Fantasy B: there is some hope. When I started bringing my own bags to my local grocery store I routinely had to argue with the bagger to NOT get plastic bags, and if I paused in my bagging, he was usually quick to try to stuff them in a plastic bag. Last week, not only did I not have to fight, but the bagger actually took my cloth bags with a smile and bagged my groceries in them!

Laura said...

Green Cat, I found the same thing happened at my grocery but regarding the thin plastic produce bags. I never put my veggies in them. The store insists on spraying the veggies with water all day long, so they are wet. One cashier always grumped when I put slightly wet lettuce on her conveyor belt. I just smiled and continued on. Eventually she figured out to keep a towel and wipe off the bit of water left behind. Success! :)

Keep on dreamin', LLP. And I most definitely do not mean that in a sarcastic way. I really mean it. I think those are awesome ideas! We need creative, inventive, smart brains thinking of this stuff so that we can use those ideas when the masses finally get on board.

Allison said...

I was having similar fantasies today!! How weird!
I was looking at all the plastic bags from organic snacks I buy and was wondering how great it would be to go back and refill them.
What really got me was the fact that the food is organic but it is wrapped in plastic? It makes no sense to me.

Robj98168 said...

It would be a nicer world if they could do what you are dreaming of. And I for one as a consumer would whole heartedly support it! If what people tell me that whole foods already sells many items in bulk, that would be cool...only we don't have a whole foods in our area. I could join PCC a coop here in Seattle. I think it would be fun to just go in with my empty jars and get what I need.

Green Bean said...

Wouldn't that be sweet? I'd love to see A and I think we're moving in the directon of B. At least I hope we are. More and more people are using their own bags and no one even looks twice at my reusable produce bags any more - of course I only use them at the farmers' market. ;-)

arduous said...

I think that a sustainable lifestyle will only be workable for a majority of people if fantasy A comes true. Most people will not make their own bread/pasta sauce/jam/toothpaste/soy milk etc. But most people, I think, would bring their container back to the store to be refilled. Especially if that's just what everyone else did. So I spend a lot of time hoping for Fantasy A as well.

ashley said...

I tried taking an empty glass jar to a healthfood grocery store to fill with fresh grind peanut butter. To my delight they didn't batt an eye when I asked if I could use it. The employee just said "Sure, let me tare it for you!" She wrote the weight of the jar on the lid and I was good to go. Now I need to try at a more "mainstream" grocery store (for lack of a better term).

LifeLessPlastic said...

Ashley, The only place near me that I can grind my own peanut butter is the Whole Foods, but I've never actually even tried doing it. I'm almost out of peanut butter, though, so maybe I'll bring my own container this weekend and see how it works. Exciting times!

LifeLessPlastic said...

Oh, and I'm glad to hear that your experiences bringing your own containers are going well! How cool to see that we can all start "bringing our own" and changing the system!

Anonymous said...

you've just inspired me to finally take on a "what the heck!" mindset. i'll just ignore those "you're a freak" looks and at long last go with my own sense of integrity and bring my own containers to the store for those cheese and fish purchases. and i will write my closest grocer to request bulk bins.

Donna said...

Great dreams! I have a question... what kind of bag do you use when you buy something like flour from a bulk food bin? I wish I could skip the thin plastic bags, but I can't think of anything to replace them.

LifeLessPlastic said...

Donna, Thanks for your comment! To be honest, I haven't bought flour out of a bulk bin yet, but next time I need some I'll definitely try using one of my cotton produce bags, which I got at Ecobags.com. If that doesn't work I think I'll try to find a really tight knit fabric at the store and make a few bags. It should work. After all, not so long ago flour always came in a cotton sack.

Donna said...

You're right -- it did used to come in a cotton sack! Thanks for the link & suggestions.

Anonymous said...

Did you know that canada has a universal beer bottle that all of the companys use and reuse? Great idea.