Convenience packaging – an inconvenient truth

Cute little tubs of food packaged for our convenience are handy, but have quite an impact on our wallets and the environment.

I like tasty treats as much as anyone, but the purchase of some deli goods a while back had me thinking about the excessive plastic packaging and feeling pretty guilty by the end of my consumption contemplation. The effect of many forms of convenience packaging is yet another “inconvenient truth” when it comes to our planet.

Observe the culprit – half of it – it was one those “uber-convenient” twin packs :

Well, actually, the culprit was me – nobody forced the purchase. Personal responsibility and all that. Damn those marketing boffins to hell anyway ;).

This twin pack contained 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of product in total. That’s a couple of mouthfuls at best (when I’m eating politely that is). Inspection of the package showed no indication if it was recyclable either and even the label was plasticized.

This little bundle of plastic joy is headed for landfill where it will accompany many millions of other similar packages for generations to come; slowly leaching toxins into the earth. This purchase habit isn’t sustainable; particularly given that hundreds of millions of us practice it. Aside from the waste issue, the amount of oil that is required to make plastic packaging in it’s various forms in staggering. For example:

– Nearly 12 million barrels of oil are required to make the plastic shopping bags Americans use annually
– The amount of crude oil used for plastic water bottles in the USA each year exceeds 10 million barrels
– To create one pound of polystyrene plastic takes just under 2 pounds of petroleum feedstock

.. add to that the energy needed to create the plastic, other chemicals.. blah, what a mess.

How could I have approached this particular purchase choice better?

a) not buying anything at all – it was a treat. I have plenty of those already.
b) buying a more economically packaged size.
c) looked for recycling information on the item before purchase
d) going to the deli counter and buying it straight off the roll. It would have then been wrapped in very thin plastic and paper. The paper at least could have been recycled and it would have been far cheaper too.

Some habits die hard and this is one I still falter on from time to time.

When we hit the supermarket, so many products tempt us. There’s the little luncheon cans of gourmet tuna, the single serve crackers and cheese encased in plastic, single savory rolls in plastic clamshells – so many tasty bits, but so much environmental destruction.

Issues relating to the earth aside, crunch some numbers and you’ll be shocked at how much money you can save by buying the larger or bulk packs of a product. If it’s something you usually consume a lot of; buy it in bulk and it likely won’t spoil. Of course, you need to balance this strategy with risks to your waistline :).

I’m certainly not saying we should deprive ourselves of treats, but to just be a little more conscious of the impact of our purchase choices; particularly in regards to non-essential item packaging. There’s so many food choices out there, there’s likely to be “greener” treats in eco-friendly packaging that will appeal to everyone’s taste buds. Even if it means not cutting out your special treat completely, but just cutting down; well, that’s a good move too.

As I’ve mentioned in many of my articles, going green doesn’t have to cost you more – in fact, you can save money. One of the ways of saving a few bucks is through the consciousness a green mindset creates.

For example, you see something non-essential that grabs your eye, consider the environmental impact and suddenly it’s not so desirable. I’ve found I don’t feel deprived; in fact I feel a little empowered. I’ve not only saved money but resisted something that’s likely not really good for my waistline and I’ve also lightened my footprint a little by not buying something I don’t need. Some of the saving can then go towards goods that are more environmentally friendly but a little more expensive.

Going green isn’t so much about deprivation, it’s a contribution. Feel good each time you deny yourself one of these convenience packaging nightmares! You’re playing a small but important part to fixing the mess we’ve created on Planet Earth!