With increasing frequency, concerned Humboldt shoppers notify Zero Waste Humboldt about unnecessary plastic packaging and wasteful practices at their grocery stores.
ZWH always asks them what the store manager said when they brought it up. Almost none communicate with their store manager. My guess is that they are always in a rush or not ready to communicate with the store when they are frustrated.
But this moment is a Major Opportunity Missed, a potential tipping point, a teachable moment, the snowball about to roll, a chance to make a difference. It is obvious, now that we know the environmental damage caused by wasteful packaging and production of single use plastics, that it is time for all of us to become consumer activists.
Here are just five suggestions to get started communicating more effectively with the stores where you shop.
1. If you don’t have a few minutes to talk, keep a notepad and pen with your reusable shopping bag so you can write a question or recommendation to leave for your store manager. If you have a cell phone, you only have to record the store manager’s email address or number to text once, and can give positive or negative feedback forevermore. Cell phone snapshots also help.
2. Ask questions, lots of questions. You will learn why they stock and display the food the ways they do.
3. Check your own habits. Do you seek out the items that are not layered in plastic packaging?
I often find that on the same shelves, the store offers the food or item I want with a no-package or no-plastic option and one that is over-packaged in plastic. This is a chance to check the difference in price. I always wonder when I see both options side-by-side, are they market testing how the shoppers will respond? Note to self: ask the store manager the next time I see wasteful and not waste options displayed on the shelf together.
4. Ask your store manager if they can offer more returnable options. We could dramatically reduce our household waste by volume and weight if we could return our milk bottle, juice, beer, kombucha, wine and water bottles each time we return to the store. Glass bottles are better, but if they have a returnable plastic bottle system for your favorite beverage, use it.
5. Ask if they could provide paper products that are not bleached and chemically-treated: paper plates, napkins, tissues, etc. are not better if they are bleached.
If you follow through with any of these suggestions, please notify Zero Waste Humboldt at [email protected]. We want to applaud the stores that respond to their customers requests to reduce waste.
Maggie Gainer is a waste reduction leader who lives in Bayside.