Thursday, June 6, 2013

Shopping in Bulk

I've been putting time and energy into shopping ethically. It's no secret that when environmental and ethical concerns clash I choose the latter. The on-going dilemma is packaging. Sometimes the brands I buy come heavily packaged and looking at what I'm putting into the bin week after week is disheartening.

That being the case, I've been buying in bulk again over the last few weeks. We've got a great little shop ten minutes away where I've been going. My reluctance in the past was being unable to ascertain who made the products I'd be buying. Having done this for awhile, however, I've come to learn which products are usually owned/made by multi-national nasties. Most of the things I buy in bulk are the kinds of foods that are unprocessed and, therefore, much more likely to be made locally by a local company.

At this store, one still has to fill plastic bags, rather than bring their own containers. I've just been using the same bags over and over again. I know that they'll eventually make landfill but there are many weeks in between where I won't be contributing to the problem. They'll probably be demoted to rubbish bin liners or dog poop bags before landing at the dump. It's not ideal but it's preferable to the packaging some of the products come in which can neither be reused nor recycled.

The one item troubling me is couscous. If I buy it at the supermarket it comes in a cardboard box which can be recycled. This means I'm putting a box in the recyclables nearly every week. (We eat a lot of couscous.) Recycling raises its own environmental issues of energy usage and, thus, carbon emissions. If I buy it in bulk, I can buy more, less frequently and reuse the bag numerous times. In the end, however, the bag is rubbish. I don't know which is preferable. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


1 comment:

  1. I grapple with the same issues every week with packaging and also the stupid plastic bags and the butcher's polystyrene trays.

    I asked the butcher to not use trays and cling film and just wrap up the meat in butchers paper; he gave me a dubious look; I had to get the meat home quickly so the juices wouldn't soak through the parcel. Later I realised that the butcher had still put a plastic sheet between the meat and the paper (and the juices still leaked so why use the plastic sheet at all?).

    I am trying to remember how we used to do it before plastic. I remember too when I was young that when one bought ice cream, the checkout operator would wrap the carton up in layers of newspaper to insulate it. They don't do that any more either...(I wonder what the modern response would be if I should ask them to do that next time?)

    The plastic bag ban in South Australia is only going to work properly if the ban covers ALL plastic bags, especially those silly fruit & veg bags made of the "freezer bag" plastic.

    I have a support worker who comes shopping with me who insists on using those. Before I can tell her to reach for the ones I brought along with me, she has already torn off a long ribbon of plastic bags. I must get my act together and crochet some mesh bags to substitute. Ah, to find a bag that will hold the vegies and yet be light enough to not add weight at the checkout.

    Like you, I have been keeping and re-using those fruit & veg bags, and they also get re-used around the home as bin-liners, or like gloves for picking up 'icky' things.

    It is also disappointing to see the local shop's 'dried fruit and nut self-service bar" providing rolls of plastic snap-lock bags instead of paper. Why can't they provide paper like the 'mushroom' bags or like the specialty nut shops?

    Perhaps it is time to write more letters and submit more 'feedback forms' to these establishments. Do you correspond with retailers in this way to share your views?