Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Packaging, information and trust

Most of the minuscule amount of trash that I've generated in the past two months has come from food and groceries. Fresh foods generally have no packaging, and they also do not have any "nutrition facts," whereas "processed" foods seem to have both packaging and these nutrition details. I have bought processed foods - things like granola - but in bulk, with no packaging. I've filled bags that I've had since before I started trying to generate no trash. I've read the ingredients of the granola before I bought it, because on the bins that contain the granola at the People's Food Co-op, they have a little info sheet telling me where the food was made, and what it contains. Once I have purchased the granola, I never feel the need to look at ingredients or nutrition facts. Here's the question that Ryan, Poonam, Tim and I got started talking about last night - how do you convey and keep ingredient and nutrition infomation handy after you purchase it? Say someone has Celiac Disease and wants to know if something is gluten-free? How would you do that for a city of one million people?

It seems like there is a certain trust and acceptance that people show when purchasing fresh, raw foods, like apples, cucumbers and onions. When I say trust, I mean that these foods have been exposed to people and the elements and have potential to be contaminated, but people buy them nonetheless. In the produce aisles of stores, I've never really seen warnings or labels or nutrition facts for these foods, apart from their names. But it seems like processed or cooked foods are always labeled and tagged and marked with tons of information, and packaged very carefully, even if there isn't really an issue with the food going bad if opened. Packaging ends up as trash. But is what I am saying imply that if you package processed foods, you should probably package fresh foods?

1 comment:

  1. Hey! Finally catching up on your blog!
    Yeah, that conversation we had continues to ring in my ears. So, how can we get past society's (recently developed?) fears of germs and contamination while also being able to reduce that wasteful "shield" of packaging? And especially in a country of lawyers, lawsuits, and overall antitrust, how can this avoid becoming a political/socio-economic nightmare (hypothetically, of course).

    Let's say, just for fun, that a supermarket decides to stock Cheez-its in a bin instead of in little bags within cardboard boxes upon the shelves. Now let's also assume Cheez-it company was fully devoted and somehow created zero trash in getting those Cheez-its to the supermarket floor. How would people react? How would they know whether they're scoopful of Cheez-its will not be stale? the labeling on the bin, and, yes, the overall trust that the Cheez-its are fresh.

    How would that trust be instilled? I see it as something as simple as extending the "produce section" duty to all of a grocery store! i.e. have staff that know how quickly food items "go bad" when in open air, and routinely replace the "expired" food with fresh food.

    It should be easy to extend this principle! Just make the whole market like the produce section!