Category Archives: reusable containers

A Story of Reuse

photo(22)When my uncle (now in his 50’s) was a teenager, he had a job at a bakery.

I want to imagine a lovely scene of steaming bread being sold from handmade baskets direct to customers, but in reality, I think they were a wholesaler here in Vancouver, so they just put the bread in plastic bags.

The bags had two holes on one end which allowed them to hang from two rods, kind of like how they do it with bags at the grocery store. But one day the bakery got a new bread bag system which meant that their stockpile of two-holed bags was essentially useless.

My Grandpa, ever the ingenious salvager, got wind of this and volunteered to take them home.

And that is why my Grandparents, and my Mom, and her three siblings, and their kids have been using these particular two-holed, multigrain bread bags for the past 30 some years.

They’re surprisingly thick which makes for perfect for freezer bags. When I visit my grandma she’ll inevitably pull a zucchini loaf out of the freezer, wrapped in tin foil and stored in a certain two-holed, multigrain bread bag. Yes, I know it’s plastic, but I also know that it was rescued from a sure fate in the landfill, and to me, that is the spirit of zero waste.

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Package-Free Shopping

I love finding stores that make it easy to shop zero waste. Stores like Unpackaged (England) or In.gredients (Texas) or La Forêt (Wakefield).

My most recent “find” was this past weekend in Powell River, BC. When we pulled into town, we noticed Ecossentials first thing what with its “get unpackaged” and “refillable cleaners” window signage, but it was Sunday, so we satisfied ourselves with pressing our noses up against the glass.

The next day, we headed there before leaving town. Ecossentials sells bulk food and cleaning supplies as well as food tins, glass straws, ethical toys, lunch kits, and even an electricity-free espresso maker.. . all with nary a plastic bag to be seen. It’s our kind of place.

In the dry goods section, they have neat stacks of cotton bags you can buy if you forget your own. In the back, they have shampoo, liquid soap, and laundry soap on tap. They even do door to door delivery with reused containers.

Even better, Melissa, the owner, had seen our film the night before and offered to sell our movie in her store. How awesome is that!?

I could go on and on, but Grant got a new iphone plugin that he was itching to use, so maybe I’ll just let you see it for yourself:

PS – she mentions Pebble in the Pond in the video – they have great information of plastic reduction here

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Are Reusable Containers Unsanitary?

People often ask me if I ever get shot down trying to use my own containers in grocery stores. Generally, the answer is ‘no’, but that’s mostly because I choose to shop where it isn’t an issue. However, just over a year ago, I had a run in at a popular organic food chain that refused to fill my container citing “health reasons”. They weren’t clear on what legislation governed this, but they were pretty sure that there were “health reasons”.

So that got me wondering if there really was a law that said you can’t use reusable containers at the grocery store or in a restaurant. Long story short, I wrote a letter and got bounced around the government a bit before connecting with Tim Lambert at the Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport who, apparently, is responsible for food safety here in BC.

Turns out that using a reusable container is not actually illegal, or even in the ‘not recommended’ category. . .but it is up to the discretion of the store.

I’m hoping that by sharing Mr. Lambert’s response, we will all be a little better equipped for friendly negotiation next time we get confronted about reusable containers.  (Failing that, I think we should all make official looking ID cards that say “this person has been approved to use their own container and takes full responsibility for any health issues stemming from such use” and practice flashing them at the deli counter.)

. . . There is no provision within the Food Premises Regulation that specifically prohibits the use of reusable containers. Section 12 mandates that an operator must (a) protect food from contamination; and, (b) store, handle, prepare, display, and dispense food in a sanitary manner.  Some food premises may allow or even encourage the use of reusable containers for environmental benefits or cost-saving potential. However, some may interpret the regulation in such a way that reusable containers prevent operators from keeping food and the premise sanitary.  Some opportunity for cross contamination exists, such as with grocery store delis that place containers on weighing scales or restaurants bringing containers into the kitchen area, which is probably why some food premises may interpret the regulation to prohibit this type of activity.

I agree that reducing packaging is an important environmental concern and encourage the use of reusable items where their use does not create public health concerns.  Although a food premises’ policy will be informed by their interpretation of the legislation, I would encourage you to speak with the operators of the food premises you frequent and try to reach a solution. You may wish to share a copy of this email with them.

I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns.

Yours truly,

Tim Lambert
Executive Director
Health Protection”

(image: http://www.innate-gear.com/)

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The Movie Industry:2

Ok, ok, all you positive people who commented on the last post.  You’re right – the guy was using his own reusable container.

Gives you hope doesn’t it?

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The Movie Industry

Vancouver is also known as Hollywood North.  A lot of movies are filmed here. I know this is true because I work downtown, and my office overlooks a particularly colourful alley that is often occupied by film crews.

I love movies.  Heck, we’re making a movie.  But the thing about the movie industry is that it’s a bit wasteful.  The lights and gear use lots of energy; the trucks and mobile dressing rooms use tons of gas; the temporary sets are filled with disposable props and wardrobes; and there is a constant supply of paper plates and food and take out cups. Continue reading

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What About The Kids?

Last week I mentioned that Grant and I visited the Glenbrook Zero Waste group in New Westminster.  What I didn’t mention was that it wasn’t all easy-peasy.  They actually had a few hard questions for us.

And one of those questions was about kids. The Glenbrook project has 14 participating families and about 50 participating people, so you do the math.  There are lots of kids.

People often infer that Grant and I wouldn’t be able to live anywhere close to zero waste if we had children.  Continue reading

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Bottled Water Waste

It goes without saying that I avoid bottled water.

First of all, I am naturally -shall we say- “thrifty”, and buying a bottle of water when you can get it for free just doesn’t make sense to me. Secondly, I live in Vancouver, and our tap water is awesome.

But apparently many many people disagree with me.  And they disagree to the tune of half a billion bottles of water sold in the US each week (!) according to Annie Leonard.

What the heck is going on? Continue reading

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