Letters to the editor
Letters must be 250 words or less and include a name and hometown. Submission of letter grants automatic approval of publication to PCC, including name, in print and online. Submission does not guarantee publication. PCC reserves the right to edit content of submissions. Please email letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fluorination packaging concerns
Hi PCC! I’m a member and am wondering, do you allow fluorinated plastics in food packaging that is sold at PCC? I know that PCC avoids per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), however, I don’t see fluorination of plastic specifically referenced.
PCC responds: Thank you for reaching out about the issue of PFAS in food packaging. We share your concerns about the continued and widespread use of PFAS in all industries, including food packaging. PCC has been tracking this issue for many years and we’re always learning new information about how PFAS shows up in our food system and consumer goods.
Because we have the most control over the packaging we purchase ourselves for the deli and bakery items that are made in-house, we screen any new packaging for those items to make sure it is not coated or made with PFAS. We’re working to verify that any containers or service ware items (like plates or pastry bags) already used in our stores don’t have PFAS, and then replacing them if necessary. Additionally, we are in the process of updating our packaging standard and the updated version will address PFAS.
As you may already be aware, PFAS is incredibly pervasive in consumer goods and there are very few restrictions on its use. PCC has primarily focused on the concerns of PFAS in compostable fiber-based goods since we are responsible for choosing and sourcing those items and the use of PFAS in those types of materials is very common—companies add PFAS to prevent them from falling apart when they’re used for wet or greasy food items. We strongly encourage all our vendors to avoid packaging that contains PFAS; however, we cannot be sure if certain packaging used by a vendor is PFAS-free. PFAS in petroleum-based plastics is a comparatively newly discovered source of exposure, and we’ll certainly monitor its evolution and continue to work on reducing the use of PFAS in our food supply chains.
We appreciate you communicating your concerns as it helps us better understand what our shoppers and members care about.
PCC was always a very welcoming neighborhood store and I have enjoyed shopping there. Unfortunately, with the addition of so many additional self-checkout lanes and subtraction of actual checkout lanes, I will be shopping elsewhere. I understand the need for some self-check areas for quick purchases, but when you are buying produce or bulk items, it is not customer friendly.
PCC replies: Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback about our recent implementation of self-checks. We’re sorry to hear that you are disappointed with this decision.
As you can imagine, the way we do business in grocery has changed dramatically since 2020 when the pandemic hit. We heard from many of our customers looking for quicker, safer ways to shop in our stores. Simultaneously, the retail industry has suffered a tremendous loss of workforce.
While we have been looking at multiple ways to recruit staff including job boards, social media, in-person hiring fairs and referral and hiring bonuses, PCC (as well as many other grocers) is still struggling to fully staff our stores. The good news so far is that the self-checks have helped reduce pressure on our employees who were being put in a position where they were asked to do extra work to make up for a vacant position. Said more simply: self-checkout has allowed us to put labor back into our aisles, helping members and customers while they shop.
We understand that self-checks may feel like we are taking out the human connection, but we have no plans to remove our regular check stands. We hope to ensure we have options for all people’s comfort levels.
Reusable bulk containers
I am trying to lower my plastic waste, so I, of course, love the bulk section. What I would really appreciate as a member is a class on the bulk section: How can I use my own containers, what containers are acceptable, how do I get them “tared,” do I have to do it every time if I know a container’s weight, do different stores have different options…just so many questions! I think other members would love getting these answers also, and it might increase participation in bulk buying. Thanks for considering and, fingers crossed, adding a bulk class to your offerings.
PCC replies: Thank you for reaching out and for your feedback on the bulk section. On classes, we have relayed the request to the PCC cooking class team for their consideration, especially once we are scheduling a higher percentage of in-person classes.
For some immediate details on the containers, PCC has recently made some big changes, working with local health departments and regulators, and is allowing reusable containers in our bulk department (see this article for full details) with the exception of “ready to eat” items that are scooped from the bins. New signs added to the stores provide more guidance. Overall, though, clean reusable containers can be used in the bulk department per the posted guidelines. The cashier can tare it for you and mark it on the container with a piece of tape, then it can be filled and taken back through the register when you are ready to check out. Thank you for your work to reduce plastic waste!
White sage and almonds
As a PCC member I just read your Sound Consumer article about PCC’s decision to stop selling sage bundles from Juniper Ridge, but the same edition had an article about how to choose the best plant-based milk, including almond milk. Almonds are incredibly detrimental to the environment and are the world’s thirstiest crop. The amount of water growing almonds demands in drought-stricken CA should be criminal. Almonds have a far more significant, broad and wide-ranging impact to our community (including indigenous communities that have a much deeper connection to the environment we are killing off) than sage bundles. If you won’t stop selling almonds and almond products, you should at least do a FAR better job informing membership about the terrible environmental impacts of almonds. Thank you for your consideration of this feedback.
PCC replies: Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts on our decision to stop selling white sage bundles and your concerns about the environmental impacts of almond production. We agree that there are many important perspectives to weigh when deciding to discontinue a product. Our research on white sage, as well as sweetgrass, and the indigenous voices that asked us to consider the cultural impacts of making a profit off of these products, even when produced/harvested in an environmentally respectful way, persuaded us that stopping the sale of these particular products was the right call.
Concerning almonds, we agree that almond production can present some environmental concerns, especially if produced conventionally and in regions facing extreme drought because of climate change, such as California. However, our research does not support the premise that almonds as a whole present an overall negative environmental threat. In fact, it is quite the opposite when you begin to factor in the new science we are learning about carbon sequestration and crops that help to fix carbon in the soils without tillage or replanting. That said, we do prioritize organic almond products to support more climate-friendly growing practices (organic regulations require fostering soil fertility and biodiversity) and reduce the presence of toxic pesticides often used in conventional production. We also support and advocate for water conservation practices and a need to rethink some of our traditional crop locations and systems in the face of climate change.
Again, we thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts. It is always important for us to learn what is important to our members and shoppers.
Thirty years ago, we joined PCC because of its healthy food selection and support of local farms. This was a refreshing contrast to most other grocery stores that were playing coupon games with inferior products. PCC discounts were based on membership and coupons weren’t necessary. PCC minimized games and maximized quality. Imagine my dismay (actually anger) when I peeked at my receipt from PCC for the “Buy One, Get One Free” offer for Coho salmon, only to find out how dumb I have been for not checking my receipt properly in the past. I joined PCC before anyone asked for an email address. Apparently, the above type of offer required me to activate an offer extended through an email. I don’t want PCC to send me emails I have to activate in order to be treated properly in the store when I am a 30-year loyal member/owner already. I am mad at myself for trusting your discount offers were occurring automatically because I believe everyone should review their receipts. I guess I just believed in PCC’s ethics so much that it didn’t occur to me this game would be played on me in your store. Super disappointed.
PCC replies: We are sorry to hear you are disappointed with the membership program and specifically the member-only offers.
When PCC decided to revise the membership program, the decision was made to communicate with members via email and send digital offers instead of mailers. There are a few reasons why we made this decision. One was because it is incredibly expensive to print and send coupons. We wanted to be able to increase the offers we give our members, but we also couldn’t afford to increase the postage and printing to do that. Two, as part of our commitment to environmental responsibility, we wanted to decrease the amount of paper that we put into the world. And third, we wanted to be able to be nimble and bring unique offers to our members on quick timelines.
We have exceeded 100,000 members, which is the largest member base of any grocery co-op in the United States. As you can imagine, finding a program that worked for everyone was definitely a challenge. We are constantly looking for ways to improve the member experience and appreciate that you shared your feedback.