Sunday, February 28, 2010

How Many Styrofoam Packing Peanuts Does it Take to Get to the Center of a Box?

I'm at a crossroads on this one. On one hand, the company I'm about to talk about does do some great strides for the environment, and I have used their products before and loved them. On the other hand, I have to give them a thumbs down on their shipping methods.

Frontier Natural Products Co-Op, which also does Aura Cacia, and Simply Organic is for the most part a wonderful eco-friendly company. I love their essential oils from Aura Cacia, and their spices from Simply Organic. They do a lot of carbon offsetting,are certified organic, use non-toxic cleaning solutions at their company, is a part of Co-Op America, water conservation, I mean the good qualities go on and on with these companies. But this is where their shipping puzzles me.

My friend bought bath gel from them online. Along with the bath gel, the company provided her with a free gift...nothing wrong with fact another bonus for the company. She was anxiously awaiting her lovely smelling gel, just a regular size bottle, not bulk, probably about 10-13 fluid ounces.

Here's what she received in the mail:
1. Cute branding (nothing wrong here)

2.Some Sustainable facts (still good, a little cheesy, but good)

3.What's inside? A lot of packing peanuts

4. Followed by....ANOTHER BOX!

5. Which also has packing peanuts!

6. Followed by a plastic bag containing the contents

7. And finally...the products:

Now when my friend first told me about this, I had to ask...well were they in glass jars? I could almost excuse them if the products were in glass jars, but no, they're in plastic containers. It seems to me that the smaller box inside the big box would have been sufficient packaging for their products to be shipped. Again, I still think this company makes great products, but am saddened by their shipping methods. Its hard to say that you reduce paper, and promote sustainable aspects when the first thing some customers encounter is your shipping method.

Here's what to consider when either A. dealing with receiving something like this in the mail, or B. having to ship something out:

1. Styrofoam peanuts are not recyclable, however they are reusable. Try asking a local mail store if they would like to reuse them. I know our local mail/copy store will accept styrofoam peanuts that they'll use for shipping.

2. Most recycling centers accept cardboard boxes, break them down, and make sure to have them recycled.

3. If shipping, consider alternatives to styrofoam peanuts or bubble wrap. I've shredded my junk mail and filled boxes with the shredded paper. I was able to ship many breakable items this way. Just make sure to pack in the shredded paper. I've also used Jelly Belly jelly beans...not only does this help with keeping things safe, but is an added treat for the recipient.

4. If you're moving, consider Rent A Green Box. This company is based in Orange County. They create green boxes for packing made from recycled plastics. They also offer biodegradable and compostable packing materials which replace peanuts, bubble wrap, and a twist on wrapping tissue and labels.

-Thanks AJ for the story and pics. I still love their products, just wish they would be as smart with their packing.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Adopt A Highway

The Fairmont Orchid has adopted a 3 mile stretch of the highway near our hotel. Now most companies who adopt a highway typically pay a company to do the quarterly clean up. Not Us!

I was able to participate in this month's clean up session. We had about 30 people volunteer their time after work to pick up rubbish along the highway. Some of the challenges is that this stretch of highway is actually on the route to the rubbish dump. You can imagine some of the rubbish that flies off people's trucks as they are headed toward the dump. There's also lovely kiawe bushes which love to attack people with their thorns.

Instead of just bagging up everything, we made sure to separate rubbish from recycle items. My goal was to make sure the recycle bag was more full than my rubbish bag...and mission accomplished.

Besides finding the usual suspects: cigarette butts, bottles, cans; we also found tires, lots of road reflectors, doors, and huge planks of wood. One thing that was new to me was the plastic containers and Styrofoam. Because these items had been subjected to the sun, they seemed to be in tack, but as soon as I tried to pick it up, it would disintegrate. Not in a full sense that it completely disappeared, but disintegrated into small unmanageable pieces. Unmanageable for me to collect, but easily to be digested by animals.

You don't need to be a part of an official Adopt A Highway crew to do your part in helping. Its as easy as picking up some rubbish when you're out and about. I make a point while I'm at the beach to check my area for any rubbish that can be removed. Again, every little bit counts.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Plastic Palace of Doom

I'm always amazed at the amount of plastic I end up going through within a month, it seems to be everywhere. Where I live I have access to recycle plastics 1,2 & 5 as well as plastic bags. I try to reduce the amount of plastic in my life by using glass containers, stainless steel water bottles, and cloth bags for shopping and bulk items.

My household fills one yard size garbage bag a month of plastic recyclables...which I think is pretty good. Most of our plastics consist of packaging from food items or products.

According to the Clean Air Council, Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. Not Day or Month...HOUR. It seems silly to think that we have to keep reminding people to recycle and reduce, but I still see people throwing these bottles away all the time. These plastic bottles end up not only overflowing our landfills but flowing into our oceans. Plastic never fully goes away, it ends up in tiny particles which our fish think are plankton - their food.

Beyond just using the bottle, I wonder why people even buy them. There are typically more standards placed on your tap water than on bottled water. Plus the cost alone is enough to make you want to change your mind.

Consider this Let's say you drink 2 -16 oz bottles of water a day for a year:
24 Pack of Generic Target Bottled Water $3.50
2 bottles per day = 730 bottles
730 bottles/24 pack = 30.4 Cases
TOTAL = $106.46/YR

1 Brita Pitcher $23
1 Stainless Steel Water bottle $10
4 pack of Filters $ 20
TOTAL = $53/YR

What have you learned? Hopefully that its not only economical to stop using plastic bottles, but its also environmentally friendly. I could go on for hours on how much plastic ends up in the ocean and what it does to our sea life, but instead I'll leave you this link to watch about the Toxic Garbage Island.

For now, try giving up those plastic bottles. Every little bit adds up. If you want to check on your local drinking water, check out the EPA site.