Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Another bulk bin update, and some dilemmas

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about some of the bulk bins at a local grocery store finally having ingredient lists added to the labels. I'm pleased to report that ingredient lists are now available for even more bulk bins, including those containing chocolate raisins and bulk energy bars.

Now that I can buy chocolate raisins without packaging, I'm faced with a dilemma. I'm a big believer in buying only fair trade certified chocolate. I'm also a big believer in avoiding packaging. Assuming that I am going to buy chocolate of one kind or another, should I buy fair trade chocolate that comes wrapped in plastic or non-fair trade chocolate from a bulk bin?

There are a couple of other dilemmas I've been grappling with lately. One is what to do about items that are theoretically recyclable, but that aren't accepted locally for recycling. I feel like I should save these recyclables and take them with me whenever I visit places with better recycling programs. However, my little home is already cluttered, and I don't want to clutter it further with boxes of aluminum toothpaste tubes, plastic bottle caps, and polystyrene packaging. How does one balance the need to recycle with the need to rid one's home of trash?

My final dilemma is what to do about the freebies at work. I'm not paid nearly as much as I should be, and it's difficult to make ends meet. One thing that helps is that various freebies are available. For example, there's often cider in the refrigerator at work that I can drink without paying a penny. The problem is that the cider comes in plastic bottles. Should I save money by drinking free cider, or save the planet by eating whole apples from the farmer's market? If cider was the only freebie, I'd ignore it and feel virtuous about my avoidance of plastic, but there are many other freebies and they make a significant difference to my standard of living.


Anonymous said...

These are good questions. First, I'd encourage you not to beat yourself up with the questions. One thing I am realizing is that there are sometimes no perfect answers in this world. Fair trade w/ plastic vs. non-Fair trade in bulk. A tough one. Maybe whatever you decide, you could just cut down a bit to reduce consumption overall.

That's the decision I came to with milk. I can either buy milk in a refillable glass bottle with a fat plastic cap or milk in a paperboard container that can be tossed in my city's compost container despite the plastic coating on it. No perfect answer there. Cutting down on consumption may be the best I can do.

Cousin Yellowstone said...

Hi Beth. Reducing my consumption of chocolate is a good idea, and I'll try to do that. To be honest, I don't think I actually will cut down until spring, when more fruit will be available to satisfy my sweet tooth, but reducing consumption will be my ultimate goal. Perhaps what I should do is nag the manager about adding ingredient lists to the bins containing fig bars and other sweet items. That way, I may be able to support the existence of bulk bins and satisfy my sweet tooth while avoiding all the problems of non-fair trade chocolate.

I just feel so frustrated to have to choose between products that each have one good quality but are lacking another quality I seek. It helps to know that even you, with your lifestyle that involves much less plastic consumption than mine, face similar dilemmas. Thank you for commenting and making me feel less alone with my frustration.

By the way, milk is one thing I never even think about buying any more, because milk here is guaranteed to come from factory farms with horrendous living conditions for the cows. Even more horrifying are the conditions endured by their calves, who are raised for veal. I keep fantasizing that one day we'll have something equivalent to California's Proposition 2 passed here, but it isn't likely to happen any time soon. Meanwhile, I drink soymilk, which unfortunately comes in cartons with plastic spouts. I should see if any hippie type restaurants make their own soymilk and would sell some to me, pouring it directly into containers I provide. Another thing to add to my plastic reduction to-do list!