It’s back to school time and W2O has some simple suggestions for making choices that are good for your family and good for our environment and oceans. Cringing at the plastic sandwich bag these days? Me too. But what are the alternatives. How do we choose and invest when our little ones might be tossing the contents in the trash? (Some training is required) Does your teen come home without the cap to the water bottle? (And the training never stops!) W2O has some tricks, reasonably priced options (well, one extravagance! Adults need to eat too!) and easy tips for you.
One of our W2O members recently enjoyed the guide I linked to on a previous post that helped decipher how to store vegetables without using plastic bags and wrap. She was intrigued at the idea of not using the plastic to store in the fridge but was still confused about how to transport the local produce and non packaged veggies home from the market. So, intern Phoebe and I decided to go on a shopping outing to see if we could give you a pictorial version of some simple tricks for avoiding single use plastic from the supermarket to your fridge.
Plastic is everywhere. If you are in tune to that fact, you will be overwhelmed with the amount in our supermarkets. Even the organic markets and the Whole Foods of the world are struggling with how to avoid plastic packaging. Sometimes, even with best intentions, you can’t avoid it. Yogurts, breads, meats, some pastas, rice..well the list goes on-plastic is all around us. Sometimes you have to just do the best you can. Here are some practical ideas that you can try to reduce the amount of plastic you take home.
- Don’t be afraid of “the belt.” Produce changes hands many times and lands on several surfaces before making it to your home. No need to wrap that tiny pepper (or lettuce or whatever) in a huge plastic bag, just make sure you wash your produce well before you use it.
- Choose local fruits and veggies and not wrapped in plastic. Sometimes I know this is impossible, but if you look around you will find the corn in season to husk at home and the carrots that are not in the plastic wrap. Farmers markets are more and more popular but when they disappear in the off seasons, buying is more challenging.
- Avoid those little container and opt for a larger one that you can spoon into a reusable lidded bowl. Bring a non plastic spoon to work!
- Of course, carry your own bags, but for the bulky bigger stuff, just throw it in the carriage and then in the back of the car. I keep an old milk carton in my trunk to contain bulk items like cereal and cleaning products.
- Store produce in a damp towel (the guide above will help you) or buy a reusable produce bag.
- Invest in a set of UFO or similar brand covers that are air tight, microwave safe silicon.
Clint Richmond was instrumental in the creation and passing of the Brookline Plastic Bag Ban. He is also a member of the Green Caucus, an interest group within Brookline Town Meeting and the lead supporter of the ban. W2O intern, Phoebe Racine, interviewed Clint on July 25th.
Q. Why did you pushed for the Brookline Plastic Bag Ban?
A. There are 100 billion non degradable plastic bags used in this country every year. Plastic Bags create serious problems for aquatic life. Plastic bags from Brookline can make their way into the Atlantic Ocean via the Charles and Muddy rivers. Our bylaw was modeled after a State Bill that has beed stalled for years, and passing it here not only puts Brookline on a sustainable path but demonstrates support for the Bill. This Brookline bylaw is simply an attempt to apply this proposed law at the local level. We also hoped it would inspire similar action across the state.
Q. How do you feel about the proposed Massachusetts Statewide Plastic Bag Ban? Is this a law you would like to have passed?
A. Yes, I see the ban against polystyrene food packaging that we passed at the same time as equally important. Both have generated interest across the state. For example, Great Barrington and Manchester by the Sea have just passed similar bag bans. Though, it’s important to remember that we weren’t the first town to pass a plastic bag ban. In 1998, Nantucket passed a much more comprehensive packaging bylaw. Nantucket created a powerful model for others to follow.
Q. Do you think Brookline’s Ban will effect the current bill (H3438)?
A. Yes, because of Brookline and other towns, there is a lot more momentum than last year. Last year was good. Last year was the first time is got out of the Environment Committee. With the media coverage and the three new towns that have passed similar bans, we have much more hope that it will pass this legislative session.
At Women Working for Oceans we have been promoting the passing of the Plastic Bag Ban of Massachusetts. Our newest member of the W2O team, Dartmouth rising senior, Phoebe Racine, went to Brookline, a suburb of Boston that has passed a municipal bill banning plastic bags, to interview businesses, find out what people think of the ban, learn how it might influence their choices and affect business when is enacted in December.
On a Wednesday in the ides of November, Brookline was the first town in Massachusetts to enact a ban specifically on plastic bags and polystyrene to-go containers. Brookline’s hope was to start a movement. They wanted to pave way for towns, cities, counties and states throughout the East Coast to pass similar bans. And start a movement they have. Since the ruling, Manchester-By-The-Sea and Great Barrington have followed suit. However, Brookline was not the first to ban one time use plastic bags, only the first to do so specifically. In 1989, Nantucket banned a wide array of plastics, including the plastic bag. Today, four Massachusetts towns have a bag ban in place. In my interview with Town Meeting member, Clint Richmond, he explained that these four towns represent 1% of Massachusetts. As for the other 98% of the state, W2O hopes that Massachusetts will pass Bill H696 and thus enact the first ever, statewide plastic bag ban.
In our push for the bag ban we believe it imperative to explore a ban’s effects on towns who have passed such laws. I went to Brookline to interview businesses and take a lay of the land. What I found surprised me.
The Brookline Town Council set the ban to start December 1st of 2013, allowing over a year for businesses to prepare. At the time, Brock Parker of The Boston Globe reported that, “As many as 90 businesses will have to deal with the plastic bag dilemma in the coming months.” The ban will affect businesses over 2,5000 sq ft in size and franchises with more than two sites within Brookline. In Brookline I spoke to local businesses and in particular businesses who I knew would be affected. I went to CVS, Stop & Shop and Walgreens and was surprised by the lack of knowledge about the upcoming ban. With less than five months before the ban is to start, I envisioned that owners, managers and employees alike would be aware of what was to come. As the first town to enact such a bill in the state, I believed that this was either exciting or unfortunate news for businesses and for people who live or work in Brookline. However, I spoke to several managers and all were unaware that there was a ban set by Town Council. (Maybe a majority of employees are traveling in to work from out of town..)Most felt that the ban would not affect their business.
After calling CVS and Walgreens corporate offices all I hear was ‘I-don’t-know-I’ll-have-someone-call-you-back.’ (Still waiting..) A representative from the CVS Massachusetts district development office did think through the issue with me and said, “I’m not sure. We used to have a Green Bag Tag, (a reward system for using a reusable bag) maybe we’ll go back to that?”
While the reactions from store managers and representatives from corporate spoke with relative lack of knowledge or neutrality, a video published on June 24th by journalist Jonathan Satriale showed an overall positive reaction from Brookline shoppers. Set outside Booksmith in Coolidge Corner, the video “Brookline Plastic Bag Ban Reactions” captures the thoughts and statements of 10 Brookline residents. Susan Davis admitted, “I try not to use plastic bags anyway. I try to bring my own. I think it (the bag ban) will encourage me more to bring those bags.” Gary, however, reminded us, “how many people do you see carrying reusable bags? It’s all fine, but there is always another side of the coin.” Overall most residents interviewed believed such a ban will make them “more responsible.” To watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3aY_nESNIY
Do you think a plastic bag ban in your town would make you ‘more responsible?’ How do you think you’re community would react to such a ban? Please let us know!
Today I am setting you all up for some serious summer reading. Links to this New England Aquarium refresher on Climate Change is a good introduction to the more scientific facts in Science Magazine’s article “Natural Systems in Changing Climates,” and its comprehensive list of articles that include a wide range of topics taking the mystery out of questions about the impact of human induced changes in our climate. Covered topics include the economic impact and human health vulnerability effected by our warming planet. Important summer reading from W2O.
Scott Wilson of Wilson Farm responded to my query about plastic containers for blueberries with a thoughtful email describing the devotion that Wilson has to being a sustainable and earth friendly company. “Farmers in general are environmentalists by nature and by need. We think of and treat our environment (our land and water) as one would think of and treat their child: as the most important thing in our lives. Truth be told, we have been environmentalists since long before it was a cause. As an example, we have been composting our greens since our inception in 1884. It is with the environment in mind that we run our family farm.”
According to Scott, those plastic containers for blueberries are not the norm-they were used to differentiate two products and now that Wilson’s own blueberries are harvested, they are back to the pulp/paper green containers that we are use to seeing. I hope he can find a solution to that issue for next time and nixsay the plastic which as we all know is seldom recycled and not “biodegradable” but just breaks down into tiny fragments that then seep into soil and ocean. Watching..and not breaking up…yet.
To W2O and many other Ocean Advocates, the appointment of Gina McCarthy as administrator of the EPA signals the possibility of change and action regarding our usage of carbon pollution.”Serious efforts” says the White House, with a real powerhouse of a woman (and fellow Massachusetts native) leading the charge for a cleaner planet. Can we have tentative hope that she will be able to implement a serious strategy for curbing emissions that are threatening our health and the health of our planet?
Want to Try Something New? Buy Directly from your Fish Farmer.
There’s an up and coming effort in the United States to get a step closer to the farm. More so, there’s certainly an effort to buy what’s local and think sustainably. So, why not try something new and buy directly from your fish farmer? Remove all doubt in what you’re buying! (Oceana reported that at least 25% of all seafood is mislabeled! eeek!) If you buy from these farms you’ll come home with the most sustainably harvested and freshest fish while supporting an American made product. Even better, you won’t have to sacrifice taste!
The list below is intended for Boston residents, like myself, who are looking for the best and most sustainable seafood available nearby! Remember, while these farms have limited offerings, many of these fish are awesome substitutions for much less sustainable species.
Australis: Turner Falls, Massachusetts
The best source for barramundi! An awesome, closed system farm.
E&T Farms: West Barnstable, Massachusetts
A great source on the Cape for tilapia! They also grow veggies and make honey on site! They’re an aquaponic system-meaning they’re a closed system farm and they grow more than just fish.
Island Creek Oyster Farms: Duxbury, Massachusetts
A great source for oysters and philanthropy! Island Creek Oysters have started their own foundation that helps to start aquaculture systems throughout the developing world. I just visited the farm on Tuesday and accidentally sat in on their team meeting. Oops.http://www.islandcreekoysters.com/
Sky8 Shrimp Farm: Stoughton, Massachusetts
A recirculating aquaculture system just 20 minutes outside of Boston. It’s a new business so their gourmet white shrimp are not widely available yet. However, this is a place to look out for!
While this list can certainly help you buy your seafood, are you unconvinced that these species are worth trying? Chef Barton Seaver wrote up an awesome guide to using species that you might normal not think of, simply because they might not be the most popular choice. http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/take-action/seafood-substitutions/
More on Seafood Fraud: http://oceana.org/en/our-work/promote-responsible-fishing/seafood-fraud/overview
Want to double check a species of fish you’re buying? Seafood Watch is the go to site, they even have an app.
A USA Today article by Tom King, CEO of National Grid and Jeff Sterba, CEO of American Water, highlights a new study from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions that asks business to think about investing now to protect customers from high costs related to Climate related damage to infrastructure by becoming “extreme weather resilient.” We all know that cost to companies ends up as cost to the customer. Are companies and communities listening to Mother Nature? “The report found that 55 of the Standard & Poor’s Global 100 companies have already experienced the effects of extreme weather or expect to within the next five years. Condemned factories, loss of power and water supplies, rising insurance and raw material costs, and disruption of supply and distribution chains, are just a few of the many brutal business realities.” Preparedness, updated systems and thoughtful choices today could save millions (or billions!) in the future.