I wanted to title this post ‘Don’t be a lazy asshole’ but thought it might be a bit too aggressive as a title.
Unfortunately there is a bit of a plastic-wrapped-produce consumer driven trend appearing in my local areas and it makes me very angry. The reason behind it? Laziness! How do I know? My local farmers market produce peddler told me so.
On the Sunshine Coast plastic wrapped produce is popping up at farmers markets across the district. It looks shiny and fresh and makes it easy for you to shop in a hurry. It is a huge step backward for our planet and counterintuitive to the sustainability movement as most consumers who head to farmers markets are there to buy fresh, organic, support local producer, reduce their carbon footprint, and reduce waste. Soft plastic (for most part) is made from petrol chemicals from nonrenewable sources, is produced outside the local district, and cannot be recycled in our local curb-side recycling pickup (we can’t do soft plastics here yet). According to my friendly produce seller who has moved from loose produce to plastic packed (much to my dismay as I can’t buy much from him now) in the last couple of months he was under pressure from his customers to wrap his goods. He said that the week he went from loose produce to wrapped he sold out. Prior to conforming to this packaging trend he was left with around half his produce at the end of the market. Which not only means less profit but also results in food wastage. In order to meet consumer demand and make profit this poor man is forced to purchase plastic bags and plastic mesh bags and spend additional time weighing and packing produce all to save the customer the few seconds it would take for them to carry loose items to the till for weighing, putting them in their own reusable shopping bags, then packing them away in the refrigerator compartments at home.
Be the change! Realise your power!
Too often we go through life like ostriches with our heads in the sand. Environmental issues seem so big and external to ourselves that we start to think that we are too unimportant to make a difference. Sure, the majority of us wont be lobbying government to save a forest, or running for local council, but we don’t realise is that we can be that person if we choose to be! What even fewer realise is the power they hold when spending their hard earned dollars, even on basic everyday items. Each little coin in your purse has the ability to change the world. Yes, as I mentioned in the post Money as Gratitude, there isn’t much to a coin or a note…it is just an object to which we have assigned value to, but it can and does change the world. That small amount of power you hold in your purse or your bank account does make a difference. All you have to do is look at the example above. Every time a person in my locality has demanded wrapped produce over loose produce they have voted for an environmentally damaging practice. The farmers at the market have little power over consumers. They could get together and decide that the market will be plastic free but this will only send the convenience shoppers (those who are too busy to pick up loose produce) elsewhere. Unless there is a council wide (or state/federal) ban on plastic farmers are forced to give consumers what they want or go without profits. Sadly this disturbing trend has infiltrated bulk food buying places with one of my local favourites being guilty of not only providing plastic wrapped goods, but offering a discount for those who buy plastic wrapped bulk goods as opposed to using the biodegradable bags provided or bringing their own reusable ones.
Shop mindfully so together we can start a trend that rewards mindful shopping practices.
Truthfully it can be freaking hard work shopping mindfully for groceries! Not only do you have to sometimes reassess your values based on country of origin, company ethics, and packaging, but you also have to make sure that the items you buy fit within your budget. I spend a great deal of time and effort shopping across multiple locations, markets, and bulk food stores to be able to achieve a mostly packaging free lifestyle that fits my budget. Sometimes I feel like giving up and just going to the supermarket and not caring (have a plastic consumption orgy in my pantry)! This sounds like an awful thing for an environmental scientist to admit but it can really be hard work maintaining this ‘hunter gatherer’ approach to packaging free lifestyle, especially when bulk food stores that you support start offering financial rewards to opt for pre packaged over fill your own. However, the planet must go on and the more we demand plastic free, locally sourced and fair trade/ fair wage the more options will become available. This current climate of ‘fear’ induced by the media to sell us products that are ‘safe and secure’ and tightly wrapped in plastic, has been something that has come about as a neat way to differentiate products and create ‘tiers’ for selling. While there is some merit in wrapping some items for health and safety reasons some are obviously done for marketing purposes. Case in point…. kid sized bananas. A few months ago I tweeted (not that I have any idea how to work Twitter yet… something I promise to work out this uni holidays) a picture of plastic wrapped ‘kids sized bananas’ to Coles supermarkets. Of course the aim of kid sized Bananas, stocked conveniently at kid height, is to sell slightly more expensive bananas to kids. However there is no chance in hell that Coles would admit that this was the purpose of the plastic packaging. As you can see from their response above, this is all about ‘maintaining freshness and food safety’ never mind the fact that all the other bananas at adult height were sold in their 100% safe and secure natural casing with no added plastic.
So let’s collectively start demanding that our produce be sold to us packaging free, spray free/organic, and local! The greater demand there is for these options the cheaper it becomes from producers to be able to supply them. These small demands from our collectively large consumer force can change the whole industry. So next time you are at the store think about that global force behind you. Opt for packaging free/ minimal packaging options. Shop locally. Buy from the farmer with the loose produce rather than the stall with the nearly plastic wrapped items. Angry at your supermarket for the plastic wrapped veggies? Sign a petition! Our small actions result in one very large and powerful movement.
If you are interested in food (hey… aren’t we all) and how it can change the world here are a few links to check out:
- Slow Food Australia
- Meat Free Monday
- Sustainable Table
- Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance
- Youth Food Movement Australia
- Food Miles