Had one of those epiphany moments earlier today while driving from Chick-fil-A to my grandparents-in-love’s house. You know the sort, a magical proposition hits the mind and you know it would help change things for the better if only you could ensure its widespread and instantaneous implementation.
This idea of mine certainly can’t be original, in fact I know it draws on inspiration of the homemakers of the past going back hundreds of years. I just think it’s about time that we use the resources of today to accomplish our green goals for tomorrow.
Have you ever noticed how much trash you have to sort when you dispose of your cereals, pastas, rice, cookies, crackers, et cetera? Your contents are gone, you pull out and toss the opaque white plastic bag inside, then you attempt to fold and flatten the cardboard container which sometimes has those handy clear plastic portion for see-through capability but you wonder if that’s recyclable or not. Or you may not deal with this dissection process at all and just toss the doggone thing entirely–which if you do, I cannot judge you as I’ve been guilty of doing that at times even though I kick myself for not being “greener”.
Now, if you’ve inducted yourself into a potentially smug society like the Whole Food cult following, then perhaps you’ve just taken matters into your own hands and have glass or ceramic containers at home that you fill with your bagged bulk items from their candy store-like aisle for dry, nonperishable goods. However, I think I can speak on behalf of many busy parents that we simply cannot carve out that time and care to do that meticulously although we may fantasize about that for our retirement years (that is IF we can ever retire).
My idea is to help encourage companies like Post, Kellogg’s and other staple name brands as well as store brands like Kroger’s, Safeway, Publix, etc to find innovative ways to package their dry products so that they can not only attest to being more green-friendly but save in packaging costs as well.
I propose that reusable containers are sold by the company that are sturdy and reliable in terms of airtight quality that consumers can utilize to house their staple items. The containers can vary in material, re-used material is best, but anything like glass, plastic, stainless steel can do the job. As an incentive to buy these one-time purchases, a company can offer a discount for those customers who have accumulated a certain amount of proof of purchase labels from the goods–this reinforces the fact that the consumer will buy this good repeatedly and therefore benefits by buying this reusable container.
Of course, lots of advertising would come out of a product transition like this, but it would again be beneficial for the company advocating this move and make the consumer feel better by simply buying into it and therefore contributing to helping the environment.
The reusable containers of course could bear the name of the company as well as the specific product. Next step is for the company is to then overhaul the majority of its packaging for these mainstay products. Either they could go the route of the Whole Foods wave of offering goods through big containers that the purchaser then takes out themselves by the pound or they could just reinvent the wheel a little by putting their products in mundane packaging. The purpose of the new packaging is not to be attractive, rather it must safely contain the product for the consumer to empty at home in their reusable container and then dispose of in their recycles bin. Packaging can range from biodegradable substances such as paper or plastics that can be recycled.
What about the ingredient and nutrition labels you ask? Well, if you purchase the reusable product container from that company, it will have that on the back automatically. However, as they are required by law to provide it to the consumer each time they purchase the good I believe there are a couple of solutions to this. There is the soy-based ink that can be used on a paper packaging, the labels can be provided separately in a dispenser on the supermarket shelf that the product is housed on or as every other company seems to be advocating the information on the nutrition label could be available on the internet or in a phone app (thank you Apple iPhone revolution).
Again, I certainly don’t claim intellectual property rights on this idea, I simply have thought about it over the past few years as I’ve noticed just how much we waste and that there really is another way. Additionally, I concede that the convenience packaging can’t be entirely eradicated as there’s reason we have “convenience stores” especially for the traveler. Yet I know that this is a plausible scenario that actually can benefit both profit-seeking company and conscientious consumer while helping de-clutter our Earth of our needless trash.
As for history, it really does hold some nuggets of wisdom that we should note. Although pestilence and disease was much more rampant, our ancestors did buy their goods in bulk as well and often used reusable containers that weren’t glamorous.
I’m slightly discouraged by how small I feel as a stay-at-home at times, but I think that by sharing this with you and even trying a small letter-writing campaign, maybe someone will notice and help make a change that will cause a chain-reaction for the better in this small subject area of nonperishable, dry goods we all love and use.