Someone on Twitter pinged this satirical ad for a new line of American “Paleo-esque” snacks to me. It’s a very clever pisstake of the latest health fads, specifically the Paleo movement. Self-referring pisstakes are always the best.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPB8W1rEnAc[/youtube]

I love it all, except for the punch line, which is a sell for a fad-free health snack of nuts and cubes of cheese. I love this, too, except for…the plastic.

A bunch of basic snacks that anyone can package up themselves in a reuasable container at home is instead passed along an assembly line, packaged in molds and wrapped in plastic, shipped around the world and then marketed with expensive (albeit clever) ads. We get lulled into accepting this atrocious waste via a “good” ad message.

We’re going to see more of this: great messages masking atrocious means.

The world is waking up to great messages. And so manufacturers are catching on and catching up.

But none of us are getting the wastage thing. At all. This kills me.

I’m seriously finding it harder and harder to cope with our blindness to wastage, our acceptance of crass consumerism and our embracing of “hygiene phobia” (which drives a lot of the wasteful packaging these days).

We talk green, but accept the free snack on the Virgin flight and the plastic bag of hygiene accroutements.

We worry about the environment, but drive to work when it only takes 5 minutes extra to walk.

We carry our eco laundry detergent home in plastic bags.

It’s like we want to be associated with “good” but we don’t actually want to do anything ourselves. We just want to buy into it. We don’t want to wash up a lunchbox or bother to ask the waiter for a doggie bag (and then take it home, store it and remember to take it to work the next day), or carry our own drink bottle.

For some reason the fact our plastic bottle (which took 300ml of oil and seven litres of water to make, and that’s before it’s transported from Fiji or wherever) is recyclable makes everything OK.

The hypocricy of the earnest class is what gauls me the most. My Australian friends – did you check out the new national newspaper The Saturday Paper last weekend? It’s very much geared at the earnest class, myself among them. But as The Australian reported, “The pitch to advertisers identified an audience of “lighthouse” readers. ‘They are 35-49,’ the brochure said. ‘They are image-conscious and environmentally conscious, brand-aware and socially aware.’ We are told they are creative and have money to spend. He has a Moleskine and a Netflix account” and ‘she subscribes to Vanity Fair and The New Yorker’.” Advertisements were predominantly for luxury brands, including Mercedes Benz and Rolex.

A picture forms. Green and good, so long as I get to have My Things.

For crying out loud! When are we going to have a good hard look at ourselves and do the truly good thing and go without Our Things? When are we going to cut our cubes of cheese ourselves??

OK. Rant over. Feel free to share examples of “good” masking waste that rile you right now!

 

 

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • I was recently reading Michael Pollan’s book Omnivore Dilemma and he makes some good points about the industrial organic movement being just as wasteful as the conventional food production system. For example, Whole Foods now sources from a regional warehouse instead of local farmers, so though it may be organic, that produce you often purchase has to travel a large number of miles to get to that Whole Foods grocery. Yes, it’s good that it’s not treated with conventional pesticides, but that doesn’t mean it’s sustainable and completely allows us to ignore seasonality and not invest in our local communities of farmers, etc. etc. I’d say this is definitely an example of “good” making waste (i.e. petroleum for transportation, as just one part). Great post, Sarah, thanks for sharing!

  • Kills me too. I’ve become a cranky old woman who sends letters. Chia pods and individual chia ‘serves’ in plastic tubes are my latest cringe. Mix a flipping’ chia pudding in a jar people. It’s not hard!

    • Monika Bauer

      yes!!! The chia ad really, totally bugs me too. How hard is it to do your own?? Money grabbing, thats all it is. 🙁

      • Renee Bamminger

        Me too!! Oh and avocado in a tube and an omelette in a container. Obviously someone buys them or else they wouldnt be selling it but they are beyond easy to make and packaged this way is just revolting.

        • Kay

          Yes, the avocado paste thing is weird.

          Aren’t avocado’s already “ready-to-spread”?

        • Kelly

          What about ‘boil in a bag rice’? Surely boiling rice in water is the oldest trick in the book?! And who wants all that boiled plastic around their food?

        • Bre

          Avocado in a tube is for the days when avocados are hard enough to commit homicide

    • MM

      I’m with you on this one. The new Chia Pod’s really irk me too,!

      • Thank you Alexx, on behalf of humanity, for writing cranky letters.

  • Hayley

    Love this Sarah, when I first started getting into wellness and being green you seemed to have to spend so much for what should be less. Actually you just need less and more simple items which should then cost less. It seems to be a whole new high end market of luxury green/ organic products.

  • Sue

    I saw a woman in the supermarket on Saturday widen her eyes in fear as her son picked up a slab of chicken wrapped in three layers of plastic. “Don’t touch it, darling,” she said.

  • Laura

    Is there a way to drink coconut water without all the packaging? Buying fresh coconuts is not always an option, most days I don’t have the strength or coordination to open one. I love drinking it, but really don’t like all the packaging.

    • Food lover

      This is a concern of mine too. I do like that they now come in larger cartons rather than just the small 250ml ones. But yes, I agree.

      • I’m going to be honest…I don’t drink a lot of coconut water for this reason. It’s a great ingredient…but I can’t cope with the packaging either

    • Rachel

      MatakanaSuperfoods in New Zealand do an organic freeze dried coconut water which per serve costs around half what a can does. Easy to add to green smoothies etc. and comes in a reusable ziplock pouch.

  • Brooke

    One small thing i have managed to get a few coworkers to change is their use of snack throw away containers. Organic and local yogurt in a little tub that you eat and then recycle every day – now they have started to buy in bulk and put into small reusable container which after some painless washing up is good to go for the next day.

    • brooke that isn’t a small thing! good on you for inspiring change. at my daughters kindy the staff collected all the small yogurt bags and containers, boxes, etc and stuck them onto the door so we could see the wastage!
      it makes sense to buy a large container and take small servings out to eat. lots of people dont think about this until someone tells them – keep spreading the change!

  • Tanya

    I am not going to whinge or say too much, as my eyes are really only just opening. I’m learning, discovering, awakening to what’s going on around me. Thanks to individuals like you sarah wilson, and many others, I am improving my impact on this planet. They may at times be teensy baby steps, but it’s moving forward.
    If I am going to ‘bitch’ about one thing…it’s the fact that some people don’t even care. That is so sad.

  • niki

    A few people at my work regularly bring leftovers to work, which is great. Only prob is I seem to be the only one who recycles my sandwich bags. I rinse them out and leave them to dry by the window near the sink, they’re durable enough to last a while. Meanwhile my co-workers bin their sandwich bags- it’s so so wasteful. And I find it hard to point out that someone could recycle because the office can be a ‘who’s the busiest’ competition sometimes. An obvious rebuttal to, “why don’t you wash that and use it again?” would be “I don’t have time.”

    • sanja

      I wrap my sandwiches in the canteen bandanas hen just throw them in the wash when I get home. .. if th sandwiches are a a bit squashy I wrap them in grease proof paper and put the paper in my compost.bin. soup goes in glass jars..for the dish washer thanks hubby.

    • Oh my – I thought everyone washed out sandwich bags? I’ve always got few stuck on the ends of dishwashing brush or popped over mugs to dry. I thought it was normal. Not a thing!

  • I’m trying to figure out where I can buy white ‘cleaning’ vinegar in reusable containers or at least in big vats. I use so much of it, but it feels so silly that I can only buy it 2 litre plastic bottles or 1 litre glass bottles at five times the price. Also, we’ve started making our own wine vinegars and I’m trying to research if it can be used for cleaning. Does anyone have suggestions for either of these?

    • Sue

      And if you do end up buying cleaning vinegar from the supermarket, go for the 2 lt home brand in the food aisle rather than the actual ‘cleaning vinegar’ in the cleaning aisle. It’s half the price and exactly the same product. What a rort!

  • Food lover

    Organic fruit and veg in the supermarket that is packaged in excessive plastic wrap and containers. It doesn’t make sense to me. Therefore I find the farmers’ markets the better option (for more than just the packaging reasons..)

  • Food lover

    Also something I find interesting (which may sound naive/obvious to some, but I reckon a lot of people don’t realise).. I never really thought about ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ properly before: 1) firstly, reduce what you buy/use 2) if you have to use it, be sure to keep reusing it 3) if you can’t reuse it, then recycle. I used to think it was ok to use ‘extra’ things as long as I recycled them after and that it was a fine and sustainable option. But obviously the previous steps are much more sustainable. This was without thinking about all the energy and resources used to produce them in the first place. But also, most things that are recycled are ‘down-cycled’ – if you recycle a plastic container, it probably won’t be recycled into a new plastic container, it will be down-cycled into something of lesser value/use. (Awkward if this is common knowledge…)

  • Connivence trumps all as per usual. It’s sad but it seems as a society we always go the easy way out. This is not only with food packaging, but food choice itself. It’s a shame, because in the end we will suffer… I don’t see why someone can’t just take 2min to chop some cheese up? It’s not rocket science and a few greens in there wouldn’t go astray either 😉

  • Ginny

    Totally unrelated to the topic (and completely agree Sarah – great article as always) – and at the risk of sounding like a wanker but just thought it might be interesting to you, please take it as that and not criticism / being a know all:

    There are two words which are horse related and frequently misspelt for their use:

    One is Gall (as in something galls you) which comes from the name for an irritation or sore caused by the girth or harness rubbing on the horse; as opposed to Gaul, which refers to a region of France.

    The other is reins, as in take the reins (control) – lots of people use reigns, which is similar but different: http://getedited.wordpress.com/2010/08/18/rein-vs-reign/

    Ok, enough of that – again, not meaning to be a wanker, just thought you may be interested.

    It’s kind of like the modern disconnection from the basics you’ve talked about in this article in a way…I only know these through horses, I guess the average modern person simply may not have the experience of genuine re-use/ recycle / no waste that our forefathers had when things were simply harder to come by.

  • Cheryl

    Totally with you on ALL of it, and plastic, glass is completely recyclable and doesn’t mess with your food and I kinda thought as human beings we could be careful and not worry about “what if it breaks” dah !

  • Victoria

    This is everywhere. People would rather ‘be’ right than ‘do’ right. A great shame.

  • Renee Bamminger

    So true Sarah. Our supermarkets could be cut in half if this stopped (and so would their profits). It drives me nuts when I see a cashier put a watermelon or some already wrapped meat in just one bag! Waste, waste, waste. It’s another reason why i like shopping at the markets because I dont need to buy cucumber covered in plastic that will then go into more plastic.

  • Kay

    Organic, bio-dynamic milk (or any milk!) in plastic containers.

    I guess the containers are usually (sometimes?) recycled, but I often wish milk still came in glass bottles, which are then dropped off at a collection point at the shops, washed/sterilised and reused.

    I may be wrong, but I’m assuming that even with the amount of water used, it would still be more environmentally friendly to wash and sterilise glass bottles than break down plastic containers to make into other things, while producing MORE plastic containers?

    Would love to hear from someone who works at a recycling plant to find out the process and what happens to the recycled products (eg. what exactly they are made into)

    …I just googled it and it looks like the plastic containers are broken down and turned into things like plastic outdoor furniture. Just a shame that it doesn’t help solve the problem of the continual number of plastic milk containers that are being made. (http://www.dairy.edu.au/discoverdairy/Teachers/From-Farm-to-Plate-Module/Milk-Processing.aspx)

  • Lucy Rundle

    Great article Sarah. This is one thing that reallyyy upsets me. Sometimes I find it disenchanting that while I go to so much effort to re-use everything I can, everyone around me seems to show so much disregard towards everything they use. I don’t even think they realise how much waste, in a day, they produce.
    I recently moved to London and you should see the packaging over here. Literally everyone in my office buys Pret, M&S etc everyday, which is sold in a package/container of some sort, THEN the store puts it into a paper carry bag (which is grossly oversized for the food) along with utensils and about four serviettes. Multiply that by the hundreds of thousands of people buying this stuff every day and it’s enough to make your heart break..

    • rebeccaspeaking

      OH CHRIST, this. It is IMPOSSIBLE to buy fruit, veg, just about ANYTHING in UK supermarkets that isn’t shrinkwrapped. It makes me feel literally ill. The thing that makes me feel really sad and angry over here is that fresh (i.e., NOT IN SHRINK WRAP) fruit and veg and meat and cheese and everything else is kinda… alienated here. Food culture in the UK has improved heaps since I first lived here 7 years ago – there are more farmers markets and food liftouts in papers, I guess — but at the end of the day, most Brits think buying a tomato that still has green bits on it is for posh people only. By contrast, the idea of buying prepackaged things in, for example, Italy, is still basically anathema to everyone from the big cities to tiny towns. Lining up for half an hour to buy locally reared and butchered kebabs on a Friday afternoon isn’t something only trendy City kids do, it’s something everyone in my family’s little Italian town does, it’s just normal and down to earth and really cheap. (The amount of money it costs to buy, for example, proper parmesan in the supermarket here, is embarrassing. It’s like five times the price of what it would be in Italy, which really isn’t that far away – the price differential cannot just be to do with transport costs!) The UK doesn’t have the agricultural potential of more fertile European neighbours, so it kiiiinda makes sense that they/we have gone down this heinous route of wrapping and importing and whatever else. But it makes me so sad to hear the same thing is happening back home – there’s surely much less need for it in a fertile country like Australia. But I think Australia has a similar problem with the “class” associations of food/shopping/etc – there are large chunks of the community that reckon a farmer’s market is wanky inner city hipster thing to do. There’s gotta be a way of getting, duh, farmers back to the centre of this conversation – maybe if people heard it from those who do it toughest on the land rather than feeling that they’re being hectored by those of us who happen to live in spitting distance of our respective CBDs, the attitude would shift?

      • Natalie

        The packaging here in the UK was what I first thought of when I got to the end of Sarah’s post. And it’s not only the packaging itself that contributes to excess waste – I believe it causes a lot of food waste because people can’t buy just enough for what they need, they have to buy the whole pack. I try hard to steer clear of these and shop at markets when I can, or cook a large batch of whatever I’m making and refrigerate/freeze it for later, but I know not all are quite so conscientious, so I think a lot of this food would be ending up in the bin, sadly.

  • Christine

    I agree with this, wholeheartedly. I am guilty when it comes to the plastic bag thing, sometimes, but I reuse them to death or curse myself for forgetting my shopping bag.

    I was really inspired by a video I found on the Guardian about the founder of Alara (he’s a former hippy who lived in a squat). He’s the first food company to go waste free. http://www.alara.co.uk/
    I wonder if his having lived in a squat where he traded food and other essentials, rather than bought them, has helped him to develop a non-hypocritical approach to appealing to the earnest class.

    I have started teaching Japanese cooking and peddling my sugar free Japanese sweets (I think readers here would enjoy my tofu miso cheesecake!) and I make sure I use re-usable containers. I decant my sauces into glass bottles and take just enough, so I can bring them back and re-use them. Even if I have to take something I will leave with the student, I try to put it in a glass jar so they can choose to re-use it. All my fresh ingredients are bought at the market, so there’s far less plastic with regards to meat packaging. I do find myself urging the farmers to stop wrapping all our vegetables in plastic bags though…it’s completely unnecessary!

  • Lena

    It is US culture. As Australians living in the US (we have been here 2.5 years) we are so shocked at the convenience life we now live. We joke and have a laugh at our drive thru banks and ATM’s, drive thru letter boxes to both drop off letters you’re posting and our own letter boxes outside our house, they’re drive thru. We live in a nice walkable neighborhood and I walk a lot, and are seen by a lot of my daughters school friends. I had one mum ask me the other day if we even owed a car, I said of course it normally sits in my garage all day. Also the look on people’s faces when we tell people we have 1 car for our family of 4, they again are so shocked. My husband takes the bus to work.

  • Katie

    Preach! My most recent frustration has been the process of replacing my make-up with chemical-free vegan options. I know that they never claim to use less waste, but it’s pretty disappointing when a tube of lipstick comes wrapped in plastic then put in a box 10x too big filled with packing popcorn. I find it super hypocritical that these earth-concscious companies are using so much packaging to send me my product. UGH!

    • Kay

      Yes, agreed. I used to live in a rural area, so ordered quite a bit online and some of the things such as hair products, turned up with so much packaging. I understand the concern about things getting damaged in the post, but even with minimal packaging, I’ve never had anything leak or turn up damaged.

      It’s a shame, because unless it’s reused in another parcel (which I try to do), it ends up in the garbage bin as our council doesn’t accept it in the kerbside recycling bin.

      Just thought I’d add…My Dad used to send me parcels for my birthday & Christmas when I was living in a shared house in my early 20s.
      If there was something fragile he’d use some tea towels or a small hand towel to wrap around it. The funny thing was that the tea towels were often more appreciated than the actual gift as my flatmates and I were very stingy regarding linen purchases!

  • Alison Van Ballegooyen

    So many of my workmates bring those ‘vege steam parcels’ or par-cooked rice packs that you microwave. Each in nifty zip lock bags, which are then packaged in another outer bag, all of which get thrown out. It’s madness, and in my humble opinion, the height of laziness. I overhear them commenting on how much time it saves them, you know, since steaming some broccoli and carrot takes hours right?

    • are they reusable bags? perhaps you could show them how to wash them and resuse the bags?

  • Monkeyfish

    I went for a dive on the weekend and the amount of rubbish underwater disgusts me. Human beings are so gross. Sometimes I think the voluntary human extinction movement looks quite appealling!

    • have you heard about the 3 Things Movement and beach runners? they clean up beaches every weekend…

  • T

    All well and good. I try every day to use as little plastic as possible. But what about not eating meat? wouldnt that be a big help to the enviroment too? I find it a little hypocritical of Sarah to be preaching this “little-waste/enviromental” message while she also endorses paleo diets (high-protein/meat diet) and is an ambassador for MLA.

  • Janiepops

    The whole healthfood/wellness industry is one of the biggest contributors. Are our diets THAT in need of goji berries and quinoa that we ship them from thousands of miles around the world? Sustainability isn’t just about packaging but about sourcing locally so that we don’t contribute to the already massive carbon emissions.
    Also, I was always taught it was Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – in that order. Recycling should be the last resort.

  • Becs healthy cooking show

    I am new on this whole journey, and I must say it is overwhelming at the best of times. By nature I am a terrible waster of things… but I know I must change, because of the example I must set for my children, for the money I waste by wasting, and for our environment. However the small inroads you seem to make, are nothing in comparison with how far I must go… and that is the self defeating trap. Each small step must be applauded and maintained, and then move on to the next . Thankyou for keeping it in our faces.

  • Amanda

    Don’t go to Japan Sarah – I’ve never seen such plastic packaging over use as I saw there. Frightening, particularly given how big their population is.

  • dre

    This point of wastefulness was made clear to me as never before when I worked at a well-known health food chain here in the States, where you would hope and even expect people to be mindful, aware, and proactive. It used to anger me. Now it just breaks my heart.

  • anna

    I cant stand boxes of individually wrapped tea bags, and then the box itself is wrapped in plastic too.

  • nicolapicola

    Let’s not get started with bottled water. Why buy water in a wasteful bottle when you can drink it for FREE!!

  • HappyandClear

    I frustrates me that I purchase coconut oil each month or so in a brand new glass jar. Sure, I can use the glass jars around my home and I do, but why can’t I just purchase a refill of the coconut oil in my original glass jar? I am sure there are some places that do this but it would be great if this idea could be made more widespread and therefore more convenient to access. Not just for coconut oil either, but for all manner of products.

  • Niikii

    Pardon me, for stating what I believe to be the ‘obvious’ BIGGER picture….
    But this is all about enslavement to ‘the system’…. We are all forced to be busier with working for the system, numbed out with frivolous mindless things to keep our hearts and minds occupied with everything else EXCEPT what actually matters in life.
    Hours are insanely long (after which most people plonk themselves in front of the tv to tune out to real life and escape to whatever it on, and thus eliciting coma-like sleep until the next day of slavery), people are enslaved to money, interest rates and debt – thus necessitating lazy short-cut convenience lifestyles (so we work more) which make us less hungry for REAL living, and very conforming to whatever rot ‘the system’ care to feed us… such as we need to work long hours for our every-growing desire to consume just about anything, sugar is to add to… everything, pesticides and alcohol – deadly toxins are ok in small amounts as long as ‘the system’ can tax it, as well as ‘the tax system helps us*’ (*”us”: meaning the aristocracy, and to a much lesser degree the poor), and other such systemic convenient and very pretty wrapped sugar-coated lies.

    This wrapped up cheese simply symbolises ‘the systems’ brianwashing ploy to make us think we are ‘healthier’ when really its another device to get us working more, buying more, spending more, consuming more, having more debt, tired more, less able to live a life a fee man, happy to enjoy real living, only buying what they need and eating healthy and well. ‘The system’, I am sorry to say is geared towards anything but a happy free life – but a life of miserable enslavery to itself… government and bureaucratic bullshit policy.

    end rant….

  • Heidi

    I feel that a huge part of the waste we create is as a result of the disconnection we have with where that garbage ends up. I live in area that does not have garbage collected curb side. As a result I am very conscious of how much rubbish I create. I have it down to about 1 medium bag a month, plus recycling of a similar amount. If people had to have the garbage sit in their house until they could take it to the tip themselves I guarantee they would create less. Instead they just put it out at night once a week and voila! it disappears to be someone else’s problem and responsibility overnight.

    Also I would like to point out the completely exorbitant amount of rubbish created with pet food. A satchel or can once or twice a day really adds up to a lot of waste. I buy my dog food in 20kg bags, a negligible amount of rubbish in comparison.

  • Grace

    Might be a bit too late to be worrying about washing out sandwich bags? http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2008/mar/01/scienceofclimatechange.climatechange
    Great post though, Sarah. All that stuff drives me nuts too!

  • Clare

    I am called the queen of snacks at my workplace and among friends. I HATE to be hungry. Get CRANKY and so I pack a lot of food to take whenever I am out. All in jars or plastic reusable containers.

    Healthy snacks are so easy.

  • Anne

    Dishwashers are my pet hate. I know many people have them and say they couldn’t manage without…but am I the only one who actually enjoys washing dishes? I use the minimum of hot water and soap that is basic, a quick rinse then either stack them up to drain or dry with a tea towel. I like cleaning up and keeping simple order. It is relaxing. The brain can rest and it is a great opportunity for mindfulness. ‘Here I am, in my kitchen, washing dishes by hand’. Smile! (And if there a lot of dishes because I have been cooking for others, someone helps me.)