Environment at Home: Encourage stores to consolidate packaging

Special to Idaho StatesmanFebruary 12, 2007 

I'm not much of an activist and when it comes to letter-writing campaigns, I'm even less so. Call me a cynic, but I don't think politicians and corporations pay much attention to what the average Joe has to say.

Still, I felt compelled this week to shoot an e-mail off to Costco, the only big-box store I frequent. After eating one of my just-add-water Thai lunches, I was wrought with guilt for all the garbage I had just created. The cardboard package contained six lunches, each with its own box. Inside each box was a plastic tray and lid. Inside the lid were plastic packages of noodles, spices, and oil. And a plastic fork.

I felt like a barrel of oil was used just for my lunch.

Only the cardboard could be recycled, and there was even too much of that.

For the most part, I like Costco. From what I've read, the company treats its employees well and seems to have an environmental conscience.

Costco and other stores of its ilk peddle bulk items. Consumers who buy in bulk can do the environment a favor in a couple of ways. First, even though most big-box stores are located in those sprawling car-centric shopping areas I usually avoid, one trip to Costco can save me two or three trips to my regular grocery store. Not only do I save time, but every car trip I don't take saves gas and creates less pollution.

Bulk items also often save on packaging. Costco has made progress in this area. According to an article last fall from www.greenbiz.com, the company replaces some plastic clamshells with a paperboard-based product.

"It's all about doing the right thing for our members and the world we live in," Scott Carnie, General Manager of Costco East Coast Packaging said in the article. "At the core of our company philosophy is the implicit understanding that each of us must conduct ourselves in an ethical manner every day. That includes protecting our natural resources."

Good for them. But with the power of the purse that Costco and other corporations hold, they can do more. They can lean on manufacturers to use less packaging and strive to make the packaging the do use greener.

But they need to know that their customers want that.

So I sat right down and wrote them a letter. When you see wasteful use of packaging, you should do the same.

Do you have an idea or tip for our weekly Environment at Home column? Let us know. Send an e-mail to Local@IdahoStatesman.com with the subject line "Enviro at Home."

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