Having worked in retail when I refuse a shoe box or something similar I feel like I'm just leaving my trash for someone else to throw away... not that it's really reducing what goes to the landfill. Does anyone else feel this way? Or, do I have the wrong viewpoint? Thanks!
I think that the intention with active refusals along with active returns is to promote retailers to take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of a product with minimal environmental impact. So the hope is that retailers would minimize packaging and especially disposable packaging as well as to take responsibility for items that have broken by getting feedback from consumers. The Zero Waste Home Book explains this in more detail as does the book Cradle to Cradle in more depth on the topic. I have the book which I found second hand at my local thrift, but haven't had time to read it. Hope that helps!
In reply to this post by Kimber3
Dear Kimber3, I understand what you mean. I agree with the other person who posted here, that we should refuse things so business owners rethink their ways and find better solutions. Nevertheless, I also cringe when I attempt to refuse something and see with my own eyes what will happen next. I have devoured Bea's book and this time, I am ready to take the leap. My whole family is in, and we have been at it for the last two weeks.
Friday, I was at the bulk store. Super nice people, let me bring my jars and cloth bags right away (and make me feel really at ease with that), even sell cloth bags for their customers so they don't use plastic. Two things happened:
1. I realized I had not brought any jar for peanut butter. Well, the employee there (the same who makes me feel so at ease with my reusable containers) practically shoved a plastic container of fresh pressed peanut butter into my hand, telling me it was still hot and so yummy, and I could simply bring back the container for a refill. I really needed the peanut butter. I bought it, and it will be recycled. I will never go grocery shopping without jars ever again.
2. I refused the receipt, like Bea said. I saw her immediately crumple it in her hand and throw it in the basket behind her. I could see a pile of receipts in there. "You're going to trash it?" I asked. "Yes," she replied, with a little sorry pout. I took it and told her I preferred to recycle it myself. Until my husband told me it can't be either recycled or composted. It is just pure waste.
I really do not think the employee would have thought twice about her practices with me refusing the receipt. Cashiers will just throw them into the garbage. So I am really bothered by that, and yet I don't see anything I can do (with the cashiers that will print a receipt no matter what as programmed into the machine). It will end in my garbage too! Ironically, when I buy gas, I can prevent a receipt from printing... ;-)
Same thing at a local farmer's stand. She practically forced her entire basket of strawberries into my cloth bag. Took three attempts to finally make her hear that I wanted to transfer the strawberries into my bag (she was on autopilot). She insisted that the basket will keep the berries longer and repeated many times that she throws her baskets into the garbage anyway. I had the guts (despite the fact her basket was already inserted inside my cloth bag) to look her in the eye and refuse to buy her anything. She looked at me like I had sprouts a second head, but I don't think anything happened afterwards for her. Fortunately, I found a farmer even closer to my house, who does reuse his baskets, and I told him that story and congratulated him for letting me use my cloth bags. I will buy him fruits and vegetables every week till fall. I don't care if I may pay a little higher (he has a little stand on the side of the street, and most of them are tourist traps; higher prices than their same products when sold at the grocery store!).
Sorry for the novel. I, too, am a newbie but extremely tenacious. Looking forward to having pleasant exchanges here! :-)
In reply to this post by Kimber3
Thanks for the posts above, I have enjoyed reading them.
In some situations (like the shoe box and the receipt) the person you are leaving to handle your trash to has no power to change the system. Writing a letter to upper management makes more sense.
With the farmer at the market, perhaps your brave refusal makes a difference, If the farm stand lady loses another customer over her wasteful basket practices, she might think about reusing them! And it was probably beneficial for the farmer who does reuse baskets to hear that you appreciate it. I know when I worked at Starbucks, for example, I had almost no voice for relaying customer complaints. My manger never cared to hear feedback and was rude to us if we mentioned any. If the district manager (her supervisor) was contacted, though, it made a big difference!
While we have reduced out household waste drastically (I think by about 90%) by reducing overall consumption, using reusables instead of disposables, shopping second hand, limiting number of possessions, shopping bulk, building our menu around bulk goods and fresh produce, recycling and composting, I have decided to let some things go. Shoe boxes, receipts, a few lids, an occasional gift from a well-meaning friend or relative, etc. are not worth the time and the negative feelings (to me). Instead of striving to eliminate that last little bit, I'd rather devote my tiem and energy to reduce waste in big ways outside my home. (developing recycling programs at work, helping my mom learn to use reusables in her kitchen and make her own cleaning products, helping friends to get the courage to cloth diaper, etc. ) I think it makes a bigger impact.
Your answer makes a lot of sense, of course. One thing that Bea really made me realize is that I can, and must, speak up! And it's possible to do it in a nice way! I have already written to my favorite café and I was so glad that I could suggest them a positive example, Milanaise, who sells 100% compostable bags (flour and other dried goods). Turns out she is about to redesign her bags and she will take my suggestion in consideration. She says she is not allowed to let me use my own bags for coffee because of government regulations... and they will receive a letter from me very soon (just need to check the regulation fist).
It does take a little bit of my time, but it is not stressful and feels so good and coherent.
As for the receipts, I no longer refuse them when I know they will simply end up in the trash. I do tell people as often as I can that they are not recyclable or compostable. And I have decided to keep them and use them as a fire starter. We live in the country and have a little wood stove that heats us in the winter. Even if I didn't have it, I would still manage to burn my receipts every week or month.
We are at the very beginning of the adventure and yesterday I had a meltdown after putting too much pressure on myself and wanting to do everything right, right away. It is a learning curve, and still so satisfying!
This post was updated on .
Receipts are particularly tricky. I wish more stores with loyalty cards, etc. would offer an emailed receipt in lieu of a printed one (easy to have an email attached to the loyalty card) or the option to not have one printed. In my community they are recycled (though I don't want their chemicals in the paper stream) however burning them isn't a good solution either. Burning BPA containing products releases the chemicals into the atmosphere which is then breathed in and is one way it enters our bodies.
"Most human exposure is believed to occur through eating foods contaminated with BPA that seeps out of food and beverage can linings. BPA has also been detected in a range of paper products including cash register receipts, food-contact papers – like the kinds used for take-out food – and paper towels. Recent studies indicate that the BPA in thermal and carbonless paper products can rub off onto skin where it can be absorbed or eaten. Inhaling or ingesting BPA-contaminated dust is also a potential way that it can get into people, especially toddlers." http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/newscience/endocrine-disruptor-bpa-measured-in-the-worlds-air The article mentions that burning plastics and the manufacturing process are the most probable sources for BPA in our air. BPA emissions have been found in air samples in Antartica.
I should add that because landfill leachate is treated, it is currently considered to be the best disposal method for BPA tainted products. Also, not all thermal receipts contain BPA - so encourage your local shops to confirm they're using BPA free thermal paper (and then maybe use as a fire starter) and also encourage an option to not print a receipt or for an emailed receipt.
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