Here's another case of a company changing a less-than-perfect behavior on its own just as I was starting to get a bee in my bonnet about it: We've been happily using gDiapers, which I've blogged about before, for six months now, but the other week, I noticed that the plastic packaging used for the product's flushable inserts had some misleading text on it. It said, "This Bag Is 100% Recyclable."
Um, no it's not.
Even in San Francisco's single-stream recycling system, plastic bags and films are a big no-no. And while some grocery stores accept plastic bags for recycling, the all-encompassing language in the gDiapers text was probably causing well-meaning but clueless parents to throw the bags into their curbside bins and gum up the machinery.
So I wrote gDiapers and asked what was going on. I pointed out that (as I blogged about in a recent post) the FTC's "Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims" consider calling plastic garbage bags recyclable to be a deceptive claim.
I got a nice reply from gDiapers acknowledging that yes, #4 plastic are tricky and are generally not intended for curbside programs. The statement also explained that the company knows plastic bags are not ideal from an environmental standpoint and is actively searching for a cost-effective compostable alternative that can stand up to the elements.
Meanwhile, the copy on the packaging changed! (I don't claim to take any credit for it, but what a coincidence!) It now reads, "For a happy planet, please recycle in communities where available." Much better.
This week I've been pumping copy at one of my favorite clients, ReadyMade magazine. One of the great things about working there, as I do every couple of months during the production deadlines, is the office's proximity to VIK's Chaat Corner, a purveyor of delicious Indian food (the menu even includes masala dosas, much to my delight).
But there has always been a downside to my lunches there: no matter whether you were eating in or taking your food to go, the treats would always come in a nonrecyclable #6 polystyrene compartmentalized container. I tried washing off the containers and saving them, thinking perhaps I'd find some use for them later, but I never did. And since the editor-in-chief's attempt to get the restaurant to reuse one of its own containers was rebuffed, I never tried that, either.
Every time I ate at VIK's, I would look at the garbage can full of those plastic plates and despair. Then I'd toss my own and feel a terrible wave of guilt. But the food was so good and so cheap, I couldn't stop patronizing the place. I fantasized about starting a petition, but images of getting shooed away and told never to come back haunted me.
Once I asked the guy at the register why they didn't use real plates and a dishwasher. Too expensive, he replied. "But look at all this plastic that's just going to the landfill," I protested. "I for one would be happy to pay a little more, and I'm sure lots of other people feel the same way." This was, after all, Berkeley, the high altar of environmental activism. But he just gave me the Indian head nod/wiggle and suggested that I call the manager.
That was months ago. I've been busy with this parenthood thing. And besides, I first wanted to get info about Berkeley's composting program, because I'd heard from another restaurant that they actually got paid for their food scraps. So I emailed the city. Turns out, businesses get a 20 percent price break if they can use food waste recycling rather than refuse service. Fantastic! Hmm, but does that mean they can't have any non-food garbage? Clearly a phone call was in order.
But now comes the exciting part of my story: When I ate lunch at VIK's today (hunger having drowned out the little voice telling me to resist the restaurant's magnetic pull and stay true to my Wallet Mouth ideals), the food came in a ... paperboard container! My curry tasted so much better without the side order of guilt.
I didn't see any compost bins, however. Next time I'm there I'll make sure VIK's knows about the food-waste discount.
December 2010 I haven't actually bought anything from Po-Zu yet, but I appreciate their awareness of the fact that many vegan shoes are made of petroleum products and aren't necessarily better for the environment than leather footwear. Po-Zu seems to set a high bar for itself when it comes to ingredients and supply chains.
March 2010 After running out of dish soap, I started using our good old bars of Sappo Hill out of necessity. But you know what? Our dishes are just as clean, and when I pick up the soap at our grocery store, the only packaging on the bars is the price tag. And did I mention the soap is awesome? We love the oatmeal bar.
February 2010 TMI alert: If you're a squeamish guy, read no further. I'm done with tampons! Instead, I'm using the DivaCup.
January 2010 Mr. Wallet Mouth and I both love Pact. Its underwear is made of organic cotton, and the company donates 10% of its sales to worthy environmental causes. Not only that, but the company is serious about eco-friendly packaging. Each pair of undies comes not in a plastic bag but in a little cloth pouch made from fabric remnants. I'm also impressed with how responsive Pact is over email; when I asked a packaging question, I got a nice reply from the CEO.
December 2009 After reading about Skoy Cloths, the biodegradable paper-towel alternative, on Fake Plastic Fish, I bought a bunch for stocking stuffers and my own kitchen, and I'm now a fan. They're lasting a long time, despite repeated washings in the laundry, and they arrive with minimal packaging.
October 2009 I was already of fan of Straus yogurt (see June 2007), but now I love it even more. According to Michael Straus, a son of the company's founder, Straus yogurt "is made, cooled, and set in stainless-steel vats, unlike most yogurts, which are poured while still hot into plastic cups to cool and set." As someone who's concerned about plastics and chemical safety, I'm happy to hear that!
July 2009 I'm using a lot more baking soda now that I'm making more of an effort to clean the house in a nontoxic way. But from now on I'll be buying Bob's Red Mill, since Arm & Hammer engages in animal testing.
July 2008 Started feeling extra-good about buying one of my fave meat substitutes, Tofurky, after learning that its maker, Turtle Island Foods, is an independent, family-owned company (Unlike Boca Foods, which is a subsidiary of Kraft, and Morningstar, which is owned by Kellogg).
April 2008 I'm going to start buying my canned beans from Eden Foods, for two reasons: it uses custom-made cans that don't contain bisphenol A, and it's an independent, family-operated company.
February 2008 From now on, whenever I order takeout or ask for a doggy bag, I’ll make sure to avoid #6 polystyrene containers (and, of course, Styrofoam).