Letters to the editor, January 2007
This article was originally published in January 2007
Sowing seeds of gratitude
I just wanted to thank you for the article, Sowing seeds of gratitude, by Debra Daniels-Zeller in the December  issue. Someone finally put into articulate words why I spend such a large part of my family budget on organic food. Not only do I know that it’s better for my family and the environment, I know that by eating organic and shopping at PCC, I’m living my values and supporting my community.
It’s true, I don’t need things. I don’t need to spend my extra dollars on things. I’d rather spend those pennies on my family. What I do need is for my children and loved ones to be healthy, happy and conscientious. Please pass my thanks on to the author. And thank you for being a beacon of hope and great food and wonderful staff, every day. Shalom, Salaam, Namaste.
— Diana Gould Bonyhadi, Interfaith Voices of Youth, Sammamish
I was delighted to read your front page recap on what it means to belong to a co-op (Why choose to shop our co-op?, November 2006 Sound Consumer): “… people coming together with a common goal of helping each other economically and socially, where a sense of community is as important as profit …”
Since the point of the article and this letter is to address some of the more existential issues relating to co-op membership, allow me to point out a couple areas where this is brought out. One is the trend of PCC to be more upmarket than ever and how this can be off-putting to poorer people. Look into your heart and think how we can recruit more less-affluent people to shop PCC. We as co-op members need to renew our vows to social responsibility.
I have ideas about how this could be done, such as tweaking shelf space from so many pre-packaged products to products that encourage adding value yourself (e.g., canning jars and lids, home grain mills, cabbage slicers) We all can think of ways we’d like to see PCC’s ideals put on muscle, and that comes back to each of us as individuals.
I love the astounding intellect of my fellow co-op members, I feel blessed to walk with giants but, in the long run, what separates us from Whole Foods isn’t what’s in our heads, but what’s in our hearts.
— Scott Dulin
I’m organizing support for a city ordinance banning the use of polystyrene (Styrofoam) in restaurants and food service in the city of Seattle. Ideally this would include, in addition to take-out containers and cups, Styrofoam egg cartons and meat packaging trays.
There are many paper and biodegradable alternatives available at the same cost or only very slightly higher cost than polystyrene. Similar ordinances have passed in more than 100 U.S. cities. If Trenton, N.J. can do it, Seattle certainly can! I have copies of these ordinances and reports on the hazards of polystyrene. There’s a great body of evidence that would support a ban.
I warmly welcome participation in this campaign and am looking for endorsements from businesses and other organizations. Please email me at email@example.com or join our meeting January 22, 6 to 8 p.m. at the Capitol Hill Library in Seattle.
— Ellie Rose, Seattle
Imported organic vs. local
I was very disappointed to learn that PCC had deleted Stahlbush frozen fruits from the vendor list. The other brands, Cascadian and the Canadian blueberries, are substandard. Most disturbing was the revelation that Cascadian, owned by General Mills, is bringing in produce from China, Eastern Europe and other far-flung locations. These locations are not verifiably organic and (I believe) laden with toxic chemicals from irrigation.
This violates your mission statement and your stated commitment to local growers. Even the PCC employees were shocked to learn of the Chinese organic strawberries. There is not a square inch of organic dirt in China or Eastern Europe. Stahlbush is organically grown in Oregon. That is local. Why were they deleted from your vendor list? Stay verifiably organic by buying locally.
— name withheld on request
Editor: Stahlbush Island Farms in Oregon’s Willamette Valley includes some organic acreage, but overall it’s Certified Sustainable (by the Food Alliance), which is not the same as organic. The Food Alliance certification considers important indicators, including labor practices, but doesn’t prohibit synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, which organic does prohibit. PCC discontinued Stahlbush frozen fruit because it didn’t sell well, but we still sell Stahlbush frozen vegetables.
Also, be aware that certified organic farms in China are certified by a USDA-accredited organic certification agent.
I wonder why the View Ridge Store is not carrying Washington grown potatoes. The ones from Canada are good enough but there are several local vendors at the University District Farmers Market whose organic potatoes have several advantages: a choice of sizes and fresher. I’ve had the Canadian ones sprout within days of coming home. I asked one of the vendors why they’re not in PCC and they weren’t sure either. What’s going on?
— Helen Palisin
PCC Produce Merchandiser Joe Hardiman: Ordinarily, we’d have potatoes from Rent’s Due Ranch in Stanwood this time of year, but their crop failed so our potatoes now are from Fraserland Organics of B.C.’s Fraser Valley and Mother’s Nature Bounty in Klamath Falls, Ore. We had some problems with the potatoes from the farmer you named — quality issues with potato scab. Very unsightly. If you wish, however, we could try to get them for you (depending on availability) if you special order them through the View Ridge store.
Is your broccoli a frequent flyer? If you shop at PCC, the answer is most likely to be no. PCC does a great job of offering local fruits and vegetables in season and indicating the farm from which they’re harvested. However, some “locavore” consumers like to go one step further: adhering to a 100-mile diet.
Most North American consumers purchase food that travels 1,500 miles to get to their plates. That takes a lot of fuel! With growing attention towards global warming and other problems related to our heavy dependence on oil, we can do more than ride the bus to work.
Locavores attempt to buy food grown within 100 miles of their home. Farmer’s markets and backyard gardens are great places to obtain local food. It would be wonderful if PCC could help with this endeavor by labeling 100-mile produce and grocery items (cheese, bakery, meat). It would be helpful for those of us who would rather not be browsing the produce aisles with a map in hand.
I would like to see PCC continue its commitment to environmentally aware consumers by considering this step. Thanks,
— Aviva Furman, C.N., Seattle
Editor replies: We’ve run a few stories about locavores and agree it’s important for sustainability. Thank you for noting that PCC identifies growers of local produce and, yes, we want to do a better job of identifying where other foods come from. Deli, wine/beer, meat and seafood are easy but it’s very difficult with processed grocery items. Buying fresh, whole foods and cooking is the best solution.
We’re working on new shelf tags that would identify local foods, although the definition of local would exceed 100 miles.
Odwalla owned by Coca Cola
My wife and I have been regular customers and members of PCC since we moved to Seattle in 1999. Recently, I was very surprised to see that you sell Odwalla juice, which is a Coca-Cola product. Before Coca-Cola bought Odwalla, I bought the drink a number of times and enjoyed it thoroughly.
We shop at PCC, however, in part because we believe the products on which we spend our money are made by at least fairly responsible and ethical corporations. This is absolutely not the case with Coca-Cola. The Indian government (finally) forced a Coke plant in the state of Kerala to close because it was reducing the water table dramatically so water no longer was accessible to locals, and Coca-Cola was polluting the remaining water.
More recently Coca-Cola is accused of having high levels of toxins in its products. There are numerous other indictments against this company, such as its human rights violations in Colombia — including kidnapping and torture of union leaders.
This is separate from the “Coca-colonization” that has occurred around the globe over the last 50 years. This company has annihilated or bought most of the regional drinks where we have traveled. In many countries it is difficult to buy any drink — including water — that is not a Coke or Pepsi product.
I request that PCC, a company that claims to sell ethically produced products, do just that. Do you not research the products you sell and the companies that you assist through our business?
— Simon and Parisa Saeedi-Mepham, Seattle
Director of Merchandising Paul Schmidt: To the best of our knowledge, Odwalla consistently has conducted its business ethically, but you’re right that its corporate owner, Coca-Cola, apparently has not put its considerable muscle into correcting labor and social abuses, especially overseas. (See killercoke.org)
The issue is, should a subsidiary be held accountable for what its owner does? With 13 of the top 20 food manufacturers in the U.S. owning organic brands, the ethics of buying organic gets complicated. We have talked to Odwalla’s representatives and we hope you’ll make your opinions known directly to Coca-Cola.
Selling and burning wood
Wood smoke is far more toxic then cigarette smoke: it rates as industrial in particulate size. See the American Lung Association’s website, lungusa.org, and search on “woodburning.” It really bothers lots of us that PCC sells wood for people to burn. It contributes to asthma, heart and lung disease. Kirkland has very dirty air. PCC should rethink the sale of any combustibles in urban areas. Thanks for listening.
— name withheld on request
Correction of correction on population
In December’s letters under “Correction on Population” you stated that the correct world population just surpassed 300 billion, rather than 300 million, as originally stated. Neither figure is correct. The world population is now a bit over 6.5 billion. It is the U.S. population that recently exceeded 300 million. Click on www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html to verify.
— Chuck Novak, Seattle
Editor: You are correct that even my correction was wrong. Mea culpa!