Five tips for reducing packaging

Time to Buy Girl Scout Cookies!Crinkle.  Crinkle.  Rustle.

“Maggie, are you eating cookies?”

Curses!  Foiled again, by the excessive plastic packaging that is separating me from my beloved Girl Scout cookies!  I started in Girl Scouts when I was six and was an active participant all the way through college and even led a troop for a couple of years so I’m a big supporter of the cause and I’m also admittedly addicted to the cookies (especially Tagalongs and Samoas).  Alas, I am not a fan of the packaging.  Usually I would choose not to buy a product with this kind of unrecyclable, unnecessary packaging but we all have our weaknesses.  I did visit the Little Brownie Bakers website to file a request that they make their packaging more recyclable.  It didn’t feel like a very powerful step but if enough people comment on the packaging, they’re bound to change it.

For items other than Girl Scout cookies, here are some tips for reducing packaging

1. Buy in bulk using your own containers.  There are a couple of smaller grocery stores in Bloomington that offer a variety of foods in bulk bins.  There are lots of grains (rice, oats, flour) and dried foods (fruits, nuts, spices) but also items such as peanut butter, dish soap, and laundry detergent.  Of course, it doesn’t make a lot of sense if you’re filling up plastic bags and throwing them away, so I’m getting better about packing up my canning jars and tupperware containers to refill them.  (It also tends to be cheaper).

2. If the packaging is ridiculous, don’t buy it.  I have been volunteering at Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, one of our local food pantries, and they get a really interesting variety of surplus food.  Last week a big shipment came in of South Beach Diet Chicken Salad Lunches.  Each little box contained a plastic spoon, a plastic bag of croutons, a plastic dish of chicken bits, a plastic packet of salad dressing, and a tiny plastic container of jello.  It was ridiculous.  This is the kind of item I find easy to avoid.

3. Contact the manufacturer about unnecessary packaging. I honestly believe this is the way to get manufacturers to change their ways.  Consumer demand, folks!  It’s supposed to play an important role in our market-driven economy!  Make your voice heard!

4. Bring your own reusable grocery bags.  I have an embarassingly large collection of tote bags, mesh bags, drawstring bags, backpacks, and other cloth containers for holding things but darn it, they’re incredibly useful!  I do occasionally get the odd look from grocery baggers but I have learned to smile sweetly and thank them for helping me support the environment.  I also try to take my own plastic bags to the produce department to bag things like lettuce that are often soaking wet.  (I’ve also found that the bags worth washing out and reusing hold up a LOT better than the ones they tend to give you.)

5.  Buy the big box.  Will and I recently joined Sam’s Club so we can stock up on cheap food in large quantities.  It goes against the grain a bit for me since I’m a big fan of supporting local businesses and quality food.  However, I believe it can be a good choice for us both economically and environmentally so we’re giving it a shot.  (We would have preferred Costco but there is not one in Bloomington.)  The two main challenges are finding products that really do have less packaging (as opposed to the big box of cereal that is in fact many smaller boxes of single servings all packaged together) and finding products that meet my criteria for nutrition and sustainability.  (There’s also the fact that buying the giant bag of Chex Mix does not in fact save money or packaging volume if you go home and eat the entire thing in one serving just like you would with a small bag.)

And a bonus tip….

6. Grow your own, for the ultimate reduction in packaging. I’m getting ready to start some seedlings for a little herb garden on our deck and maybe a couple of tomato plants.  I’ll keep you posted.

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7 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Melanie said,

    February 26, 2008 @ 10:29 pm

    Maggie, I was so excited when I saw this post on GS cookies! I was a GS as well and they have long been a weakness of mine, especially Samoas. Out here, they are called Caramel DeLites, are hexagonal rather than round and made with milk chocolate rather than dark. I don’t notice too big a difference, except for the milk chocolate. When I see those warm shades of brown striping my cookie, I get kind of sad.

  2. 2

    Mike said,

    February 27, 2008 @ 9:57 am

    Very nice tips! Good work!

    Mike
    http://www.abc-packaging.com

  3. 3

    Maggie said,

    February 27, 2008 @ 2:12 pm

    Yeah, I worked in another GS council for awhile that used the other cookie baker. I thought Carmel DeLites were pretty similar to Samoas. I love them all. Except for that plastic stuff…. :)
    I do think it’s cool that there are two companies that bake GS cookies so at least it’s not a monopoly and there is a little bit of variation around the country even though they try to keep the core cookies pretty similar.

  4. 4

    Maggie said,

    February 27, 2008 @ 7:18 pm

    Mike –
    Do you have any insight on recyclable packaging? I guess there are a lot of packaging options out there that are more recyclable than I thought – Will says you can now recycle shrink wrap in a lot of places…

  5. 5

    Rochelle said,

    February 27, 2008 @ 9:03 pm

    These are such good tips. I always bring my own bag to the grocery. My small way of being green. Thank you.

  6. 6

    Ian said,

    February 28, 2008 @ 1:19 am

    #4 has actually been popping up at the commissary here, with the option to buy cloth bags for your groceries. Unfortunately, they aren’t in the self-check aisle, and I have yet to remember to use them (also, I find plastic bags preferable when cleaning out litterboxes and like having a small stash for that purpose)

  7. 7

    Girl Scout Packaging Update | GreenCouple.com said,

    March 29, 2008 @ 12:48 am

    […] other news, I got an e-mail back from the Girl Scout cookie company about my packaging complaint. Here’s what they […]

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