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What the…?

In our last blog, Waveney made the observation that, having recently moved to Auckland, we are looking for local organic wholefood stores because, “…organic shops usually have good bin sections and good packaging.” We take it all back!

This week I went forth to do some rubbish free shopping and went to two organic stores on the Shore (the only two I know about at the moment). I excitedly went into the first one, armed with our shopping bags, and fruit and vege bags, and proceeded to get a trolley expecting to do a big shop. After wandering about the store for half an hour I left dejected with a handful of items that easily fitted in one bag; eco-store cleaner, Kokako hot chocolate, some plums and oranges. But what really pushed me out of the shop was when I saw the eggplant wrapped in plastic.

I get that producers, distributors, and retailers, are keen for their stock to reach the consumer at point of sale in as best condition as possible, but I struggle with the concept that there aren’t other ways of creating packaging, or protection, to do so. I can’t imagine that the plastic is likely to protect it at all from bruising, so perhaps it is there to stop pollution and dust particles contacting with the fruit. However, the logic of having a pristine, organic eggplant, wrapped in a petro-chemical material escapes me. Of course I could be doing a great dis-service to whoever made the decision on the packaging, as it may in fact be made of some other material and can be home compostable. However, there was no labeling suggesting this and so in all likelihood would end up in landfill anyway.

Having had this experience, and still requiring an eggplant, I made my way to the other organic store. Again, armed with a trolley, I entered and initially was hopeful when confronted with an array of fruit and vegetables, unshackled from plastic packaging. It slowly dawned on me however that this selection was the conventional fruit and vegetables and when I made my way over to the organic produce isle there was the plastic, and there was the eggplant enshrined in plastic with the additional humiliation of having a personal styrofoam tray!

I believe that organic food has got to be better for us than food grown using non-organic compounds, however, when it is wrapped in plastic and styrofoam it becomes to difficult to reconcile for me. Although this sounds a bit dramatic, in this situation I feel like I’m forced to choose between my health and that of the wider environment. I ended up buying a conventional eggplant at a supermarket without any plastic or styrofoam anywhere near it.

Eggplant has now become my new standard bearer! I’d love to hear from anyone who can make suggestions as to where I might be able to buy an organic eggplant not wrapped in plastic. I’m thinking that farmer’s markets are the way to go, the only problem being that we are often away during the weekend.We’d also like to start showing examples of ridiculous packaging, so if you see any packaging you think is over the top, perhaps take a photo on your cellphone and email it to us at rubbishfreeyear@gmail.com and once we’ve got a few we’ll start a new page.Eggplant

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  1. Fi, February 23, 2010:

    I so agree with you! It is really odd to see organic produce wrapped in plastic and secured to a polystyrene/styrofoam tray. I don’t buy them if I see them like this and try to let the shop know that packaging is the reason I’m not buying. Feedback on that has been that the supplier delivers produce that way and packaging is not the seller’s choice. But surely the prospect of lower sales should make sellers change suppliers or at least request changes? I also end up buying non organic over organic for the same reason as you did with your eggplant when I would happily pay more for unencumbered organic produce. Definitely support any campaign against ridiculously packaged fruit and vege!

  2. Leanne, February 26, 2010:

    I’m absolutely with you! I just don’t buy organic, because it is all wrapped in so much plastic and other packaging. As I would have though most people buying organic would also be at least a little bit green, you’d think the whole *wrapped in plastic* thing MUST be stopping a lot of people (like me) from buying organic.

    So I just get around it by growing my own. You’d be amazed what you can grow even in pots on the deck of a rental property. I’ve been stunned. And now we’ve just bought a place with 3 acres, we’re hoping to grow most of our own food, and give our kids (and ourselves!) the whole, organic diet that all kids deserve, and so few get.

    Good call. What *are* these organic growers/sellers thinking?

    I just had a chat with the owner of one shop who said the organic fruit and vegetables are packaged to distinguish them from the conventional produce they also stock. This doesn’t explain why all the packaging in other shops that only stock organic items however. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Barbara, March 9, 2010:

    Hi, glad to see you are blogging again and welcome to Auckland – yes it is lovely and warm :) There is a health food shop that is probably an Auckland institution – it’s on Richmond Rd – I don’t think they do the packaging thing so much – if you check it out let me know.
    I missed alot of your blogging last time – which i am yet to catch up on. I did write to ask if a book was on the – well books. Is that still a possibility? Although I suppose the website does save paper.
    Good luck finding a house to house sit – I’ll listen out.

    Thanks heaps for the heads up on the Richmond Road shop, we’ll go check it out next week. Nothing much has come of writing a book, we were approached by a publisher, given an agent in New York and then that is about it. It is okay though because I was worried it would just add to the ‘white noise’ of competing publications, plus there are some excellent books out already on similar subjects. Cheers, :)

  4. Gypsy, May 28, 2010:

    There is a Wednesday farmers market at la cigale in parnell 12pm-6pm, lots of good no packaging options there if you are away at the weekend! Or eco-organics in Kumeu are open a couple of days and also deliver with rubbish free packaging, mostly at least. Cant’ wait for the new site and to order toothbrushes and floss!