Letters to editor
Sound Consumer | August 2003
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Farming the future
Maybe it's because we like rags to riches success stories. Maybe it's because we find the history of businesses we interact with fascinating. Maybe it's because Alicia Lundquist Guy and Jody Aliesan have that wonderful ability to weave the facts about people, places and times into a very interesting story (Sound Consumer, July 2003). Whatever it is, we just want to say congratulations to PCC on celebrating 50 years. We are glad that we have had the good fortune to be involved with the growth of PCC for the last 14 years. Good Luck on the next 50.
— Scott and Lupe Leach, Zillah, Washington
Editor: Scott and Lupe Leach are two reasons this co-op can celebrate its history. The Leaches grow spectacular organic Bartlett and D'Anjou pears and Red, Golden, Braeburn and Fuji apples. They've been terrific partners and are lovely people.
Congratulations on your beautiful new Fremont store! A long-time PCC Fremont member, I shopped the new store for the first time (and for a very full cart of groceries) Friday, June 20. I know it had to have been a very busy, hectic day for the staff, with getting used to working a new store and all the extra confusion of preparations in the neighborhood for the Fremont Fair. Still, I got so much competent, friendly (but not fake "I had customer service training" friendly) help, that I just had to write and let you know.
I arrived at the store harried after a day at work, and frustrated by navigating the streets blocked for (the fair). Once inside, however, I found the store easy to shop and got all that great help from staff, so I left the store much happier than when I arrived.
It's a joy to walk in and be able to see all of the beautiful produce selections in a single glance. I love all the light and windows in the store. Thanks to all who worked on opening the new Fremont and to all who work there every day creating such a fine neighborhood shopping and meeting place.
— Pat Kelly
Supporting the FPA
Thank you so much for supporting the Fremont Public Association's (FPA) Food Security for Children and Lettuce Link Program! I'm delighted that you're donating a percent of sales on June 28 to those excellent programs. What better way to open your new store! As always, I remain impressed and proud. Thank you again.
— Sophia Kuo, Board Member, FPA
Reusing plastic water bottles
Thank you for the article in June, "Reusing plastic water bottles may pose health risk."
I am one among many who reuse plastic water bottles until they leak. Although, as the article notes definitive research is not yet available, I've now moved my stock of old plastic water bottles into the recycling bin and I have purchased a metal coffee mug as a replacement. A friend of mine arrived at my dance group this weekend with a green glass beer bottle and cork top as a substitute for her usual water bottle!
In reading the article, several questions come to mind:
- Are plastic water bottles safe for a first use?
- Is there risk to first-use of a plastic water bottle that has been exposed to heat or sunlight for months before opening?
- Are other types of plastics besides PET potentially hazardous? How about those hard plastic reusable coffee mugs?
— Jan Fahey, Seattle
Thanks for the information on the inadvisability of reusing disposable plastic water bottles. Are you aware of any data about toxins leaching into food if one reuses plastic deli containers?
— Amanda Klein, Seattle
Editor: There is voluminous information on using plastics for packaging food. Goldie Caughlan, our nutrition educator, recommends www.thegreenguide.com for a report called "Plastics for Kitchen Use."
I sent the following e-mail to Driscoll's Berries:
"I just made a strawberry-rhubarb pie with your excellent berries. I am completely satisfied with your product. However, I have one bone to pick with your company.
"I buy my produce at PCC, a store that is dedicated to preserving the environment. So, I am wondering why they buy strawberries in containers that cannot be recycled in Seattle. Our recyclers do not accept #6 plastic containers. Would you consider finding a recyclable container?"
My question to PCC is, why do you continue to carry over-packaged products and products in non-recyclable containers? I remember when PCC had a firm commitment to reducing packaging waste. I was on the committee with Tim Bernthal. That committee just faded away. I have not heard anything about it since. When I look around the PCC stores, I see just as much over-packaging and waste as I do at the local supermarket. What's going on?
How about re-instituting the Packaging Review Committee to help research new alternatives? What about sounding the membership to see if there is any concern about this?
Editor: I called Driscoll's Packaging Project Coordinator, Maria, who says Driscoll's management recognizes packaging is a concern and has been assessing recyclable packaging options. Driscoll's has moved to using PETE plastic (#1 plastic, which is more easily recycled) packaging for some products and says it is "aggressively moving towards all of our packaging to be PETE in the very near future." How soon PCC shoppers might see the change in the one-pound Driscoll units we sell, we don't know, but it's coming.
Rest assured that when our produce merchandiser, Joe Hardiman, has a choice — for example, between plastic "clamshells" and paperboard cartons with a cello sheet — Joe always chooses the recyclable packaging. Our local strawberry growers, Rent's Due and Dungeness Produce, both offer recyclable fiberboard cartons. With Driscoll, a California vendor, there's been no choice. Our merchandisers struggle with packaging issues every day in every department and provide input whenever there's opportunity.
You're correct that Tim Bernthal started many progressive projects such as store recycling and systems to reduce paper use. Today, such issues aren't the purview of just one person, but are part of every department's work. The co-op also recently initiated a Sustainability Task Force to help tackle some thorny issues such as this one. It's on our radar.
Thank you for the informative article about organic fertilizers (March Sound Consumer). I've since taken a look at the state's Department of Agriculture Web site and the links suggested in the article. However, I am a bit confused with how to use Product Database (providing information regarding heavy metal content). Every product that I looked up had levels of heavy metals above detectable limits. Is that because there is a certain background level of heavy metal content that must be expected?
As was noted, PCC offers Cedar Grove products. The West Seattle Nursery sells both Cedar Grove and Whitney Farms products. Since the Cedar Grove products are not part of the Product list, I looked up Whitney Farms. Of course these products had detectable levels of heavy metals.
What should I take from this information? What levels should be acceptable?
— John Cotter
Philip Dickey, Ph.D., Washington Toxics Coalition: Many "organic" fertilizers will have detectable levels of heavy metals because the sources of some of the nutrients include minerals that naturally have some background levels. (It is also possible that some products will have higher levels because waste products are utilized in them.) The Whitney Farms 5-5-5 fertilizer that I looked up had 1 ppm arsenic and lead, and 0.7 ppm cadmium.
I think the best way to put these numbers in perspective is to compare them to the soil where they will be applied. These levels are pretty low compared to typical soil levels, but you would need to test your own soil to know what your background is. I would have no concerns about these particular numbers. Compost products made from urban yard waste will typically have higher numbers for lead due to the prevelance of lead in the urban environment (gasoline, lead-based paint, etc.).
Even so, I still recommend using compost products because of their great benefits and the fact that they probably still have less lead than many urban soils.