Dear Dot: How Can I Avoid Plastic Food Packaging?

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Dear Dot,

Has anyone noticed the slow creep of plastic packaged produce in the vegetable and produce aisles in our grocery stores? Many items pre-sliced (mushrooms, spiralized squashes, and so on) or pre-cooked (beets, lentils, etc). For sure a convenience, but at what cost? Others just bagged and boxed. Even organic salads boxed in plastic! Whatever happened to being able to just put the produce of your choice in the quantity of your choice in a string bag? A recent visit to Whole Foods, where most produce is still available unpackaged, suggests to me that we could do better.

–Lowely Finnerty, Martha’s Vineyard

Dear Lowely,

I have indeed noticed, and I share your dismay. But, as you know, I am a take-action kinda gal and I encourage both of us, now that we’ve grumbled and lamented, to join forces to create the change we want, or at least slow down the plastic proliferation that threatens to invade every part of our lives. There are a few things we can do: 

•We can use our wallets to purchase products that aren’t over-packaged. 

•We can use our voices to tell store managers exactly what we want to see and why (and let them know when they’re getting it right). 

•We can encourage our politicians to push legislation that bans single use plastics for packaging, such as the recent Canadian ban on single use plastics, which includes clamshell packaging, like the kind in which our berries and our salads are often sold. Unsure how to effectively communicate with your reps? The University of California, Berkeley has put together a helpful guide. Regarding plastics, California is out in front with legislation that demands a 25% drop in single-use plastic by 2032 and that at least 30% of plastic items sold or bought in California are recyclable by 2028. It’s a start, I suppose, but every state needs to be doing better.

•We can support organizations that are dealing with the existing plastic fallout (literally — researchers have found microplastics in our drinking water, the air we breathe, even in the placentas of unborn babies). Just look at the work and impact of organizations such as Surfrider Foundation with chapters around the U.S. that keep the focus local, and The Story of Stuff Project, two of my faves! I promise you’ll be inspired.

Unpackagedly, 

Dot

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