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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

June 9, 2010

I still have the book!

It all started when I was in the 6th grade. I bought a book called It’s Your World-Don’t Pollute It! A bunch of my friends and I were inspired to start a recycling drive at school, recycling the aluminum hot lunch trays. I don’t remember how successful we were, but my awareness of the environment and my part to preserve it was formed.

Because I follow the slogan: reduce, reuse, recycle, it came naturally to me to reuse paper and plastic bags when packaging produce for June’s Corner Garden orders. Customers seemed to feel the same way about reusing bags and often saved them for me. The system has been working great. Except for one thing: food safety.

Food safety has been in the news lately, with the federal government working on a food safety bill (the Food Safety and Modernization Act) after recent events involving food borne illnesses and even some deaths. This news coincides with recent information I learned at the OSU Extension Growing Farms class on food safety. Is reusing bags safe? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Though I don’t feel the risk is great (I will continue to reuse bags at home), it is a risk I can no longer take for others. This week, the packaging of your orders from June’s Corner Garden will change.

Biodegradable produce bags

First, instead of reusing plastic bags, I have purchased biodegradable bags made by Trellis Earth. The bags are made with plant materials (biomass), along with other ingredients, to reduce the amount of petroleum in the bags. The bags will decompose in the landfill, but are not recyclable (not pure plastic) and not compostable (takes longer to decompose than acceptable in a composting facility). The FAQs on the Trellis Earth webpage give more details. I will reduce the number of bags used in your orders by combining different vegetables in one bag and only using them when I feel it is necessary for the protection of the produce. I encourage you to reuse these bags at home. But, instead of being recycled, the bags should be thrown away, to degrade in the landfill.

The second change to your packaging is the replacement of paper bags with organic cotton bags. I will deliver your order in the cotton bag. You can either transfer the contents to your own bag, or take the bag home and return it with your next order, to be reused. In between uses, I will wash the bags. I have also purchased new paper grocery bags, that may be used on some occasions, such as the last delivery of the season or for people who order only once or twice a season. This method will greatly reduce the number of paper bags I use. The cotton bags will be washed and reused many times (and can be used by you, between orders). Again, I encourage you to reuse any paper bags that you receive and recycle them when their useful life is over.

The June's Corner Garden shopping bag

It is a bit ironic, that in the last few weeks I have received a few e-mails from Environment Oregon about their campaign to ban plastic grocery bags. Normally, I would be ready to sign on, but now I am thinking, does that mean produce bags, too? How then can I package produce that needs protection to keep it fresh and reduce damage? And of course, I still have questions about the packaging I have chosen to use. Is it really the most environmentally responsible option? Where does the scale balance between the effort involved (mine and yours), the desire to protect the produce, and our responsibility to the environment? I am still looking for better, more complete answers. For now, I will go with the new system I have set up for packaging your orders. It may change in the future, if I find better options. What do you think about all this? I would value your response to the new packaging and any ideas you have for other packaging options.

Is this the best option at the moment?

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