Lose Loose Fruit & Veg?

carrots_plastic_bag

Now that we’re all heading off to the supermarket armed with plastic bags, you can’t help realising the contradiction of tearing off plastic bags for loose fruit and veg. This isn’t a lament about pre-packed produce but about our own voluntary re-packaging. All of the big supermarkets opt for plastic and not paper bags for their loose fruit and veg. Indeed, Walmart-owned Asda is axing loose produce completely so customers will have to buy plastic-packaged goods.

We emailed Tesco to find out why they don’t have paper bags instead of plastic. This was their response:

“In relation to the specific point you have raised on plain brown paper bags for fruit and vegetables, our analysis has shown that they have a larger carbon footprint than plastic due to their weight. We are therefore working with our suppliers to find a sustainable solution via recycling or composting.”

The rationale goes that, because a paper bag is heavier, more carbon emissions are kicked into the atmosphere to transport it. But this focus on carbon footprint is at the expense of the plastic footprint. Yes, CO2 is heating up the planet and we need to improve energy efficiency to reduce it but plastic bags are floating around the seas for hundreds of years. If we don’t start considering the plastic footprint then, in 500 years, global warming will have raised sea levels drastically but we won’t have to move to the summit of mountains because we’ll all be living on rafts of plastic.

Some of us leave carrots rattling around loose in the bottom of the basket but many are still devouring metres of plastic bags. Perhaps it’s our human need to seek order: courgettes in one bag, onions in another. In which case, why don’t we bring last week’s bags back and use them again? We’ve adapted to saving carrier bags so it’s hardly a leap into the unknown to do the same with greengrocery. In fact, until someone manufactures reusable veg bags as they do shopping bags, it’s the best option.

Once you start thinking about saving plastic bags for fruit and veg, you realise they’re everywhere: the bag a white sliced comes in, that bag inside cereal boxes, the endless small, handleless bags you get with a No Bags online shop that each contain one object. You couldn’t buy enough fruit and veg to use them all.

There is undoubtedly a myriad of things supermarkets could do to offset the additional weight of the paper bag right now. Only print receipts if asked, don’t distribute print-outs with an online delivery… those have got to be worth at least a couple of paper bags.

 

Microfibres: Macro Problem

Guppy_Bag

Today’s hot story is microfibres. While the UK Government banned microbeads in January, there are still trillions of microfibres floating around our waterways and oceans.

One of the biggest sources of these tiny shreds of plastic is synthetic fibres in clothes. An Australian study found that a single garment can produce more than 1,900 fibres in a single wash in a domestic washing machine. A Plymouth University experiment found up to 700,000.

But this is a difficult one for consumers: natural fabrics like wool, cotton and linen could do with a bit of synthetic in them to make them more durable. We hate to say it but a 100% pure lambswool sweater does have a tendency to wear out on the elbows pretty quickly.

So what are our options? First up is doing the laundry less often (yay!) as, the more you wash, the faster your clothes will wear out. The fibres dislodge themselves due to friction in the washing cycle so less rubbing means fewer fibres released. Tumble drying will likely add to the shedding but at least the dry lint is collected and binned, not flushed down the sewer.

Higher quality garments with a lower percentage of acrylic or polyester shed less so investing in fewer, more expensive items with a higher amount of natural fibres would pay off from the microfibre perspective.

Weighing up the durability and cost of synthetics versus the ecological advantages of natural fibres, a compromise is not out of the question. Indeed, it may be necessary if sufficient appeal is to be garnered from the mass market. If everyone bought 20% acrylic jumpers instead of 100%, that’s a heck of a lot better than 1% of us switching to pure wool.

Finally, Guppy Bags are now on the market. You put your clothes in a bag for washing and it collects the fibres so they can be emptied into the bin afterwards. They are quite expensive and we can’t help wondering if a (cotton) pillow case tied with string would do the job a whole lot cheaper. Still, here are some places to buy them:

Home of Millican

Patagonia

Haglofs

 

Spring Clean-Up

beach-cleaning_MSC_employee_engagement

Now the snow’s melted and Emma’s stormed off elsewhere, it’s time to embrace Spring with a clean-up at a beach near you. The Marine Conservation Society has a fantastic database of events all over the country on pretty much any day you fancy. So sign up, wrap up and pick up pronto. A feeling of smug satisfaction will see you through.

If you’re keen for a day off work, why not get your office involved? Replace a team-bonding conference in an airless Travelodge with a day’s volunteering at the beach. Your employers will think you’re an awesome human being, and your colleagues will love you for the free seaside ice-cream. If you’re the boss, mine’s a mint choc chip.