Letters to the editor, September 2006

This article was originally published in September 2006

Water bottle choices

The August cover article of Sound Consumer (A clean drink of water) really grabbed my attention, especially the section about the toxicity of Nalgene water bottles. I’ve used my Nalgene everyday for at least 10 years! Do you have any suggestions for alternatives? I’m active, on the go, and glass containers are impractical. Thanks,
— Lodi McClellan, Seattle

Editor: PCC sells stainless steel water containers made by New Wave Enviro, available at all stores. They’re non-porous and non-leaching, and I’ve heard they help keep water cool, too. As for glass bottles, yes, they can break, but for years I’ve refilled and reused glass bottles from mineral water or Juice Squeeze and haven’t broken one yet.

Packaging and plastic

Thank you for publishing the article Packaging and plastics (July Sound Consumer). PCC is a great co-op and your article is a terrific example of why I love it so much. The article took an important issue and analyzed the pros and cons of how to deal with the problem in a well-researched way. Now I feel more sure of my standing against genetic engineering and am excited about the other plastic opportunities, such as palm fiber. Thanks,
— Natty Plunkett

Thank you PCC for not using packaging and plastics made from (genetically engineered) corn! I’m curious, however, if anyone has done any studies on people with allergies to corn or soy using these products? I have an allergy to corn that I notice mainly when I eat corn directly. Since my family and I have many food allergies, I’m curious about this topic especially if in the future only non-GMO corn/soy will be used in these products and they become more widespread.
— Sarah O’Brien, Bothell

Editor: I’m not aware of any studies, but am asking health care professionals about this.

Your publication of Packaging and plastics points to a glaring inconsistency: while #7 plastic is now considered risky, PCC sells exclusively #7 plastic containers for purchasing/storing water. Why does PCC continue to sell plastic containers that leach chemicals into water?

You’re not the only grocer in Seattle who features these containers next to your bottled water kiosk. But now that you’ve published the evidence that these containers aren’t safe, when will you stop selling Lexan (polycarb) containers and offer a safe alternative?
— Wen Gallacci

Editor: We stopped stocking 5-gallon glass jugs on our shelves years ago because of the risk involved if dropped. The large amount of water puts so much pressure on the glass that it can break explosively, sending pieces of glass flying with considerable force. Three times people had injuries including cut arteries. If you still want them, they can be special ordered through PCC stores or from Custom Pure directly (www.custompure.com).

The best solution, however, is to get a high-quality home filtration system, such as those from Custom Pure. Then you have filtered water all the time without the hassle of lugging jugs. FYI, PCC also sells shower filters.

This letter is in response to Packaging and plastics. In support of that article, it’s known that leaching into foodstuffs of the compounds used to synthesize the packaging is a real problem. Depending on the wrap or container, these constituents could and do find their way from the plastic into pills as well as food — if the packaging is not handled or stored properly. That is, anything coming in contact with the container, under the right conditions, has the potential to be “contaminated.”
— PCC member (name withheld on request)

Thanks very much for your good article on packaging and plastics. I particularly appreciated the sidebar, “Biofuels, land-use and farmers,” which encapsulates the concerns more neatly than anything else I’ve seen.

I have a suggestion for PCC stores that could potentially make a dramatic cut in the use of plastic bags in your stores. Before I moved to Seattle, I lived in Minneapolis. The Wedge Co-op, the second-largest co-op in the nation, has a scale in its bulk area that registers tare weight and also supplies small white stickers for recording both tare weight and total weight of items purchased in bulk.

How disappointed I was to find that at PCC, in order to purchase bulk items with reusable plastic or glass containers, I must first stand in line at the check stand, have the cashier weigh my empty container, and then proceed to make use of reusables in the bulk area. How many people are going to do this when it’s such an inconvenience, not just for customers but for the cashiers as well?

I strongly recommend that PCC install scales with tare-weight capabilities in the bulk areas of all stores, coupled with signage to encourage people to bring in their own containers for both deli and bulk purchases. If reusing containers is made simple and convenient, more people will do it.
— Bobbi Dykema Katsanis

Merchandising Director Paul Schmidt replies: We’re already working toward this and are looking for a good digital scale to accommodate. We hope to find one soon. In the meantime, any cashier or deli worker would be happy to weigh your container for you.

Biofuels, land use and farmers

In Biofuels, land-use and farmers, (July Sound Consumer), Ms. Bialic raises important questions about the future of farmland in America. She concludes that large-scale, mono-crop agriculture for fuel production poses a significant threat to family farms and food production.

It’s true that most agriculture in the United States currently is unsustainable and the agribusiness giants clearly have their sights set on fuel production. However, nothing is written in stone at this point and there is great potential for the production of biofuels to be healthy, organic and local.

The organic food movement serves as an excellent model of this. The same consumer-driven success that the organic food market has enjoyed can be applied to the biofuels industry. Just as consumers exert influence to drive more sustainable, organic agriculture for food, we can drive the biofuels industry to be a sustainable alternative.

In the interim, a domestically produced, non-toxic fuel still is preferable to dependence on foreign fossil fuel. The organic foods movement has sparked widespread changes. Let us gather the same momentum to create a biofuels industry that is truly sustainable. Farmers need a guaranteed market for their crops and consumers can provide it. We can motivate the market by speaking up.
— Dr. Dan’s Alternative Fuel Werks, Seattle, www.fuelwerks.com

Bees and farm diversity

I’ve followed with great interest PCC’s developing policy supporting family farms. I’m delighted with the education I’m getting from your articles and encouraged that I sometimes meet young people who are interested in sustainable, organic farming.

From your articles it’s becoming clearer that small organic farms are the critical link in the environment that can feed people — even cities — sustainably, in a way that helps rather than hinders the environment. Reading about bees and especially native species, I learned that native bees often are the most dependable pollinators for many crops and that they’re at tremendous risk, along with their commercial bee cousins, from pesticides.

What I find especially interesting is that small farms with their varied crops, fallow fields and cover crops provide ideal habitat for the native bees. A large monoculture farm, even if organic, is a moonscape for native bees. Just one more reason to support sustainably managed family farms! There are so many factors that make small farms a better option — fuel and transportation, healthy soils and no pesticides, and the huge variety of selection.

Thanks for taking the lead. I like the advocacy/education direction of the Sound Consumer.
­— Bill Corr, Waldron Island

Editor: For anyone who missed our cover story on bees, visit The buzz that makes the world go round, April 2006 Sound Consumer.

PCC at Seafair

My 10-year-old daughter did the PCC Kids Triathlon this past Sunday. She had a great time and looks forward to it next year. When she picked up the PCC Kids bag, we were amazed that she could barely lift it. The value of the items had to be more than the entry fee. It was a very generous bag. Thanks. Also, we appreciate the kid’s fruit program at your store. Just wanted to let you know.
— Clayton Barnes, Seattle

No PCC in California

I have just moved to Southern California and cannot believe it, but cannot find a store like PCC. I am heartbroken. The best I have found in my county are stores with portions devoted to organic food and produce (i.e., Trader Joes). To be honest there are some Whole Foods, but that’s NOT PCC! Is there any way to get a PCC down here? I realize it is a long shot, and probably would require a whole new distribution network. But just have to ask.
— Barbara Anderson, AIA

Chief Financial Officer Randy Lee replies: We’ve been asked to open stores in California and Arizona, as well as Japan, and while we can’t say we’ll never, ever consider these locations, we’ve decided so far to remain truly local and focus on strengthening our local food system.

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