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Not Fantastic Plastic
Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile know I am NOT a fan of single-use plastic. My feeling is that solving one simple problem (getting something home from the store or restaurant) and creating a much more difficult problem (polluted air, water, land!) is really insane. Last week my friend George sent me a link to this NPR episode:
How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled
I highly recommend reading or listening to the entire thing but the sad takeaway is summarized in this quote from the segment: "Yet the industry spent millions telling people to recycle, because, as one former top industry insider told NPR, selling recycling sold plastic, even if it wasn't true."
If you are like me you have been watching in horror as the Pandemic has brought a resurgence of single-use plastic. (My own local grocery store still won't let me use a reusable fabric bag.) Then today I read this article:
Reusables Can Be Safe to Use During a Pandemic
and once again it is the oil industry shoveling misinformation for their gain and our collective loss. It makes me very sad. Sorry. I just needed to vent.
What do they think we are? NUTS!
My friend Nancy showed me this packaging today. As you may know by now, I am NOT a fan of single-use plastic packaging. In fact, it makes me a bit crazy but this one, this one. . . well, let's just take a look shall we. (If you can't tell from the picture it is a plastic container.) In big words: "84% Less Packaging". That sounds great, right? Well, let's take a closer look at the fine print, shall we . . .
"Than glass jar by weight". REALLY?! Plastic weights less than glass? Incredible. Or do they think we are incredibly stupid? If this isn't a prime example of "green-washing" I don't know what is.
It is my opinion that this advertising crosses the line set by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission)
Part 260 -- GUIDES FOR THE USE OF ENVIRONMENTAL MARKETING CLAIMS
(c) Overstatement of environmental attribute: An environmental marketing claim should not be presented in a manner that overstates the environmental attribute or benefit, expressly or by implication. Marketers should avoid implications of significant environmental benefits if the benefit is in fact negligible.
The FTC offers this example:
Example 1:A package is labeled, "50% more recycled content than before." The manufacturer increased the recycled content of its package from 2 percent recycled material to 3 percent recycled material. Although the claim is technically true, it is likely to convey the false impression that the advertiser has increased significantly the use of recycled material.
I think advertising that a plastic single-use packaging is 84% Less Packaging (by weight than glass) although I am sure technically true (duh!) qualifies as an overstatement. If you feel likewise (and inspired to do so), you can file a complaint with the FTC by visiting this web site or calling: 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). It takes about 5 minutes.
Planters, as far as I am concerned you can plant this ad campaign where the sun don't shine. I'll take bulk (zero packaging) peanuts over this nonsense any day of the week. Shame on you.
Exposing the Truth. . .
You may have heard about the recent study that found lead residue in those reusable non-woven-polypropylene bags that are sold at grocery store check outs. In my own town they sell these "re-usable" bags for 99 cents. Seriously cheap.
Now, I am NOT a big fan of these petroleum based bags. They don't last all that long -- according to my friend Jane with regular use and washing (to avoid contamination) they start to deteriorate in less than 6 months. This is better than the single-use plastic bags which are used for an average of 12 minutes before being discarded. However, most non-woven-polypropylene bags are made in China - which means a big carbon footprint in transportation. Frankly, I am not surprised or shocked to hear there is lead being found in these bags.
BUT... when a study like this comes out and the message from their Senior Research Analyst J. Justin Wilson is: “Environmental activists are trying to have it both ways. They’ve spent decades campaigning against lead in paint, toys, and even packaging, but when it comes to their own sacred cow, they seem willing to ignore the issue.” Concluded Wilson: “In the end, retailers shouldn’t have been goaded into selling these bags in the first place. They were merely doing their best to respond to environmental activists’ demands.”
I BEG TO DIFFER! I do not and never have wanted to replace one short sighted idiotic solution with another equally stupid one especially when there is a MUCH better, easy solution!
A cotton fabric bag (preferable made out of reused material) will last MANY years, decompose at the end of its life, NOT contain lead, NOT pollute our land and water and can be fun and stylish. Don't replace a bad solution with another bad one, please.
Anytime I see a "study" that implies reusable bags are "bad" I get suspicious. This was NO exception. My first question is always, who funded this study. (The last one you may remember about the tainted bags was paid for by the plastic industry.) This one comes to us from the Center for Consumer Freedom. Well that sounds good, right? Wrong... it didn't take much diggin' to discover that this positive sounding group was actually, a non-profit American lobby group. A lobby group? For whom?
The Channel 7 expose: Lobbyists Hide Behind Non-Profit Fronts calls the CCF part of the "non-profit front groups to push their corporate messages".
"Berman set up the Center for Consumer Freedom and a number of other tax exempt educational organizations. And those educational non-profits all seem to support messages that dove tail nicely with the food beverage and tobacco industries that have hired Richard Berman."
I looked at the CCF's 2005 990 tax return (most recent one I could find) and found that their revenue was close to $3.5 million dollars with Richard Berman only being paid $18,000 for his services as executive director and president but $1.3 million being paid to Berman and Company for managing services (of which Richard Berman is the sole owner and president) and did I mention both share office space too. The bulk of the other monies appear to be spent on "educational advertisements, press releases, opinion editorials," etc. Some of the other website gems that CCF runs are: obesitymyths.com and fishscam.com just to name a couple. I think CCF should stand for Center for Confusing Facts.
Wilson from CCF says, “As an advocate for consumer choice I believe consumers should have the option of using lead-free plastic and paper bags when they’re bringing home their groceries.”
I say, "As an advocate for clean oceans and land I believe consumers should be smart enough to use lead-free, plastic-free, paper-free fabric bags when bringing home their groceries."
ok... I'll jump off my soap box now. Sheesh.
To end this long post on a positive note, "Yesterday, the Marin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ban single-use takeout bags." You can read the article in the local paper here. Three Cheers for Marin!
Mark your Calendars, again!
Sus and I plan to attend the opening of Ann Savageau's project: Bags Across the Globe.
"Bags Across the Globe is an interactive project that has reached out to friends and strangers across the globe, in an effort to bring attention to the environmental damage caused by plastic shopping bags and textile waste, and to promote the use of reusable cloth bags."
The main event is Sunday, January 23rd at the University of California, Davis campus. The lecture by Design Professor Savageau is from 1:30 to 2:30 at Art Annex followed by the opening reception at the Design Museum to 3:30 PM.
Ann is a good friend and this is a project she has been working on since 2008. I am very excited to see the show and hear Ann speak about the project. If you are in the area, I highly recommend you come. Also in attendance will be Harmony Art's own former intern Carol Shu, another power-house to keep an eye on.
Looking forward to seeing some of you there!
PS HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARY SUE! Thanks for all the love and support.
How about starting the new year with a commitment to avoiding single-use plastic bags? The Green Bag Lady (my friend and hero) is offering 11 Harmony Art organic fabric bags in her current giveaway. All you need to do is comment on her post and then cross your fingers and let other people know her generous mission. Even if you don't win you can download the pattern for free (see link on the right hand bar of her web site) and make your own reusable fabric bag. Act quickly, you only have until tomorrow at midnight to be eligible for this giveaway.
Did you hear that Italy has banned single-use plastic bags as of 1/1/11? I think the new year is off to a fabulous start!
I have an odd shower. It is the width of a tub shower but extra tall since you step down into it. Finding a shower liner has always been a bit of a challenge. I refuse, I mean REFUSE to buy a vinyl shower curtain. (True confessions: in my previous life I use to design them. When the samples would arrive at the office you could smell them for days. I knew then it was not healthy. At that point in my life, I didn't realize how unhealthy.)
I am not a particularly crafty person but when our shower needed a new liner I decided there had to be a non-vinyl solution. . . I considered fabric but was concerned about mold, didn't want any creepy finished fabric, and didn't want polyester. I decided to create my own Tyvek® shower curtain. Tyvek® is that material that the USPS priority mail bags are made out of. They are cradle to cradle silver certified. They are made partly from recycled plastic milk jugs and water bottles in a closed loop system.
I sewed two pieces together to make one wide and long enough piece. I folded one side over and sewed a section at the top. I thought I would need to add grommets but discovered a simple hole punch did the trick. There are no seams on any of the other 3 sides so water runs right off and nothing gets trapped. No fraying. About 6 weeks into the experiment and it is working really well. I think I will even be able to throw it in the washing machine if it needs freshening.
The one small draw back is that it is a bit loud! No, it isn't as LOUD as the SunChip compostable bags and frankly I will take a bit of noise getting in and out of the shower over breathing toxic, cancer causing fumes.
Unlike here in the USA where Frito-Lay caved to complaints of their compostable bag being too loud, the Canada division is standing their ground. Three CHEERS to our SunChip neighbors to the north. The company's campaign slogan is: "Our bag is loud, our bag is different, our bag is good for the environment, and our bag will remain on store shelves."
Pained by Plastic
I'm really lucky. I can walk (3 miles) to the beach from my house. I try to make the walk at least once a week. Usually I time it so I can catch the sunset and meet my husband or a friend at the beach so I can hop a ride home (all up hill).
Last night's walk to the beach left me very disturbed. For the 2nd time (first time was 1/9/10) I noticed large quantities of tiny pieces of plastic all along the tide lines of the beach. I literally felt sick when I saw it. Yesterday's big surf brought in more than "killer" waves. It brought in signs of our killing the ocean. You read about the Gyres but when it shows up in such a mass in your own back yard it can shake ya.
We collected as much as we could as the light faded away. We estimated it would take 3 of us at least a few days of working all day to collect the tiny fragments. We MUST stop the spigot and stop the needless use of plastic.... unless we do, the problem will only get larger and larger. For now I see it after a big surf day, but how long until this is a daily sight? Only time will tell.
If you have a couple of hours to spare....here are a couple of audio interviews you might enjoy listening to:
KTDE's Fred Adler interviews Teresa Van-Hatten Granath and me about the Pacific gyre and Teresa's environmental art project: The Green Bag Lady.
Seeing Beyond interviews Bridgette Guzzi about her business, Gardens of California. Garden's of California is one of the businesses that uses Harmony Art fabric in their product line. In this case, she is using the fabric to create lovely garden apparel (shown above). The interview explains Bridgette's passion for gardening and journey in developing her thoughtful line.
Warning - both are lengthy interviews. Get a cup of tea and enjoy.
This picture was taken by one of my favorite artists/activists, Chris Jordan. It was not staged or altered in any way. You can see more of his pictures from the gyre on his web site. Big thanks to Laura of Meadowsweet Organics for emailing me this link.
The video for the week is another Chris Jordan moment from TED. It's 11 minutes long and, in my opinion, well worth the time. Chris is as eloquent with his words as he is with his photos. Credit and thanks for the video link goes to The Green Bag Lady, who by the way, is currently running another bag giveaway. (Deadline is midnight Wednesday so better get over there quick and get your free bag.)
sad day indeed
Founder of Harmony Art organic design.