Monday, August 30, 2010

Another refill option for NYC: Beer Growlers

I visited a couple of Whole Foods stores over the weekend, to purchase a new Klean Kanteen * and a couple of Lunchbot containers. There will be more on the Lunchbots in a future post.

At the Union Square Whole Foods, I saw something new. Beer in refillable growler jugs! They just started offering it a month ago. You pay a bit more for the jug on your first visit, but then you return that jug and get a new one filled with local beer, and don't pay the extra fee.

Beer growlers aren't a new thing in NYC, but they aren't common either. I'm glad to see it spreading to more locations. And Whole Foods isn't the only place you can find them. Here is an article with a list of locations for refillable beer in NYC:

Growlers, the New Old Beer Conveyance - NY Times

*The bummer about Klean Kanteens, Siggs, and other re-usable bottles, the reason many people cite for not getting them, is the cost of replacing them when they get lost. I had my old Kanteen for almost two years. Compared to the cost of bottled water, the replacement price is negligable. I could buy a new Klean Kanteen every month and still save money in comparison to purchasing a bottle of water every day.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

10 Reasons Why Kool-Aid is better than Vitaminwater - or Vitaminwater Zero.

[Photo: Failblog]

10. You can say "Yeah, I'm drinking the Kool-Aid" without a hint of irony.

9. Less packaging = Less plastic pollution

8. Kool-Aid is a lot less expensive than Vitaminwater products.

7. Unlike Vitaminwater, Kool-Aid doesn't brag about how nutritious it is, then have its lawyers say 'no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking our product was a healthy beverage'. And Kool-Aid even has 10% daily value of Vitamin C.

6. With Kool-Aid, you can know exactly where the water is coming from, and what is in it. Not true with Vitaminwater.*

5. The money you spend for Kool-Aid isn't going to multimillion dollar celebrity ad campaigns (yuck).

4. You generally don't see Kool-Aid packets littering city streets. Vitaminwater bottles? They're all over the place.

3. Instead of drinking stuff that looks like Kool-Aid, you could just drink Kool-Aid.

2. Vitaminwater is over-hyped and over-exposed. Kool-Aid is retro.

1. "Hey, Ellen DeGeneres!" just doesn't have the same ring as "Hey, Kool-Aid!"

* Municipal tap water is more regulated than bottled water, and cities must publish drinking water supply and quality reports. Thanks to a California law, bottled water companies must publish water supply and quality reports as well. There are currently no Bottled Water Reports for vitaminwater products.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sugarcane plastic? [UPDATE]

From the Associated Press:

P&G to use sugarcane-based plastic in packaging

(AP) – 1 day ago

CINCINNATI — Consumer products makers Procter & Gamble Co. said Thursday that it will use a plastic derived from sugarcane in the packaging of some of its products.

P&G said the material will be used for Pantene Pro-V, Covergirl, and Max Factor products.

The plastic is made from a process that converts sugarcane into high-density polyethylene. The company says it is 100 percent recyclable.

P&G plans to buy the plastic from the Brazilian company Braskem SA. The first products using the plastic will be sold next year.

Interesting. Sugarcane will take the place of petroleum, so a renewable resource will replace a nonrenewable one. But I have questions:

- Will it take more energy to convert sugarcane to plastic than it currently takes with petroleum?

- Won't this new HDPE plastic still contain phtalates, with all the same health risks as petroleum HDPE?

- Will sugarcane HDPE be recycled along with petroleum HDPE with existing curbside programs, or will it have to be collected and recycled separately?

I hate it when manufacturers say "please recycle" without telling consumers HOW.

August 18 UPDATE: Jenny from P&G Responds! See the original in comments to this post.

This is Jenny from P&G - I work on this project, and I saw your blog, so I thought I would answer your questions! If you have any more questions, feel free to email me and I'd be happy to chat.

- We've done a Life Cycle Assessment which shows it takes considerably less energy to make the sugarcane plastic than the current petroleum plastic. Also, the facilities which make the sugarcane ethanol run on energy produced from the sugarcane by-products (bagasse) i.e. renewable energy. In fact, they produce more energy than the use, so they return it to the grid in Brazil.

- The HDPE sugarcane plastic won't contain phtalates.

- Yes, the new sugarcane HDPE will be able to be recycled in existing curbside programs, as it can be recycled together with petroleum HDPE in current municipal recycling facilities - no sorting required. This is one of the things which makes the sugarcane plastic a good choice as a sustainable renewable plastic.

thanks for your interest,

Friday, August 13, 2010

Vitaminwater is neither vitamins nor...water? Discuss.

[Photo: Vincent Ducrey, Flickr]

My normal beat is plastic. But since I'm trying to convince Ellen DeGeneres to dump her bottled water advertising contracts, that means addressing the many other problems with the product-- like what is inside that single use plastic bottle.

I just posted this on vitaminwater zero's Facebook page:

Please help me out with this. Where does vitaminwater zero get its water? From glacéau's website:

"all water used in glacéau products comes from approved drinking water sources, and it already meets stringent epa regulations. we take it to an even higher level of purity via vapor distillation for smartwater and reverse osmosis for vitaminwater10. we then add back in electrolytes, natural flavors, colors found in fruits and vegetables, natural sweeteners and nutrients to vitaminwater and vitaminwater10"

I assume glacéau has not updated the page to include vitaminwater zero, but the source information is the same. Let's unpack this a little.

"all water used in glacéau products comes from approved drinking water sources, and it already meets stringent epa regulations."

What does glacéau mean by "approved drinking water sources"? Approved by whom? And they say it meets EPA regulations. EPA = Environmental Protection Agency. That is well and good, but they are selling a beverage. Shouldn't glacéau be meeting regulations from the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration? Aren't there laws saying that bottled water companies have to tell the public where they get their water and what exactly is in it? The answer is yes- for the state of California. Thank you, California. Glacéau has a Bottled Water Report on their website for smartwater, but there are no Bottled Water Reports for vitaminwater products.

What is in a name? The product is called vitaminwater. As we know from recent news , lawyers for Coca-Cola, owners of glacéau, have admitted "no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage." That blows the first part of the name - "vitamin". By not publicly displaying the water sources for vitaminwater and vitaminwater zero, is Coca-Cola/glacéau saying their product isn't WATER? The bottle does specify it as a "nutrient enhanced water beverage". That is cutting things rather fine, don't you think?

Here is a link to glacéau smartwater Bottled Water Report, as required by the State of California:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I write comments - Maxell [UPDATED]

Facebook can be great sometimes. I was originally ticked off when so many companies, stores and manufacturers started to put up Facebook pages, but now I realize they made it a whole lot easier to reach out and give them feedback. Today I put this comment up on Maxell's page:

Product Packaging
I purchased a pair of Maxell headphones from Duane Reade drugstore in NYC today. I chose them because I know they are high quality, they were inexpensive, and they didn't come with much packaging.

I care about packaging, especially plastic packaging. Plastic pollution is a global problem that is killing humans, animals, clogging the world's oceans and damaging the planet's environment. I've been reducing my use of plastic (especially single use plastic) for a couple of years. But modern life is impossible without plastic--take headphones, for instance.

Although the Juicy Tunes headphones purchased today came in a small package, there is still a lot of plastic that I'll regrettably have to throw away. Is Maxell working towards green solutions such as using less plastic and less packaging overall? For example the outer plastic sleeve of Juicy Tunes headphones is completely unnecessary.

Will they respond?

Aug. 18 UPDATE: Maxell responds!

Hi Juli -
Maxell is always conscious of our impact on the environment. We are working everyday to reduce packaging and design new and innovative options that utilize earth friendly materials. Maxell has introduced eco-friendly packaging concepts - such as the NEW Maxell Eco box for recordable disc media. This package design will be available in the Canadian market this fall, and we are hoping that US retailers will embrace this new, recyclable design to replace the plastic spindle pack. Thank you for your input and support and we will continue to work towards improving our packaging design for all of our products in order to reduce waste

Aw...why does Canada always get the good stuff first?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Update on Ellen DeGeneres and Bottled Water- Online Petition

In addition to a Facebook group, there is now an online petition at Go Petition asking Ellen DeGeneres to cancel her contracts for bottled water, an industry that is damaging to people, animals and the planet.

Please sign the petition and share the link with others.

I do not criticize individuals for their personal plastic choices. But if you are a hugely influential celebrity encouraging your fans to buy single use plastics, that does deserve criticism.

It is especially distressing since Ellen's endorsement of vitaminwater zero goes against her public image as a charming, kind, generous and funny woman who is vegan and loves animals.

Ellen loves a good cause. Discouraging bottled water in single use plastic is an excellent cause.

As you know from my blog, single use plastic is the issue that gets me most. Plastic pollution is a blight that I see daily in my city environment. It is clogging our oceans, killing wildlife in large numbers, and making its way back up the food chain to us. But bottled water has a host of additional problems. Here are a few resources on bottled water, and why it is damaging to people, animals and the planet:

Bottlemania, by Elizabeth Royte
Bottled and Sold, by Peter Gleick

FLOW (For the Love of Water)
The Story of Bottled Water

Plastic Pollution Coalition
5 Gyres
Natural Resources Defense Council

Online Articles:
Why You Should Stop Drinking Bottled Water
9 Reasons to Stop Drinking Bottled Water
A World of Reasons to Stop Drinking Bottled Water

Friday, August 6, 2010

Pic of the day

[Picture: Library of Congress, via the Denver Post Click to enlarge]

I love this picture. It is one of many stunning color photographs taken by the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information between 1939-1943. Some seem like they were taken yesterday, and others are so striking as to seem iconic- yet they were new to me. See many more of them at The Denver Post.

I love this picture because there isn't a scrap of plastic anywhere. Plastic has invaded every aspect of our lives, and in trying to eliminate it I often wonder how life worked before plastic came along. This photo gives us a clue. You see several alternatives that plastic refuseniks are using today: wax paper, glass jars, and metal containers.

Caption for the photo: "Women workers employed as wipers in the roundhouse having lunch in their rest room, Chicago and Northwest Railway Company. Clinton, Iowa, April 1943. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress"

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Things I hate: Coffee K-cups

[Picture: Herb Swanson for The New York Times]
I've been meaning to post about this for a while, but Gawker and The New York Times beat me to it. We have these things at my office- I bet you do too. And now they are very popular for home use as well. Pardon me for being a coffee snob, but they taste AWFUL. Plus, it is a newly created stream of sheer plastic waste. Therefore, they are things I hate. To review, Things I Hate generally:

- are made of plastic
- are meant to be used once and tossed away
- are not in any way recyclable
- appeal to people's vanity and desire for instant gratification
- strive to create a need where there was none before
- are recently created streams of pure waste

How long till we see these things stuck in the gullet of a baby albatross on Midway?

A couple choice quotes from the Times and Gawker- but go read them, too!

The Times:
More than 80 percent of Green Mountain’s $803 million in sales last year came from nonrecyclable, nonbiodegradable, single-use coffee pods and their brewing systems. This year, the company expects to sell nearly three billion K-Cups, the plastic and tinfoil pods that are made to be thrown away — filter, grounds and all — after one use.
Michael Dupee, Green Mountain's vice president for corporate social responsibility, said some customers did not like to see the waste. "Consumers see the waste stream," Mr. Dupee said, "and they compare it to what they had done before, and they have a perception that there is a problem."

I'm no "LEED certified environmental consultant" or "person with a grasp of basic science," but it seems to me that brewing coffee one cup at a time via disposable plastic "K-cups" is a mite wasteful. Well, that's just "consumer perception."...Silly consumers, always perceiving things.

Monday, August 2, 2010


I'm still really bugged about the Ellen Degeneres advertising bottled water thing. How can someone I like and admire do something that ethically...wrong? Why is it still OK to endorse bottled water in single use plastics, when it is clogging our oceans, making its way into the food chain, killing marine and desert animals, poisoning people at the bottle making stage, privatizing a public resource and then selling it back to us at hundreds of times the price...the list of why bottled water is wrong just goes on and on.

The point is, it is NOT OK. So I did what a lot of people do these days, and started a Facebook page. It'll never get 'Let Betty White Host SNL' numbers, but I hope lots of people join and that Ellen gets the message.

Here it is: Tell Ellen Degeneres To Dump Bottled Water Advertising!

Someone get this gal a Kleen Kanteen!

[Image: Gawker]

Amanda Seefried on the set of Little Red Riding Hood. Tsk, tsk. Try a stainless steel bottle next time, Ms. Seefried. The better to re-use, my dear!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

New York's new BPA law just scratches the surface

On Friday, Governor Paterson signed legislation banning the sale, manufacture and distribution in New York of some products designed for infants and small children containing bisphenol-A (BPA), such as bottles, sippy-cups, straws and pacifiers. New York is the seventh American state to enact such a law; it takes effect on December 1.

BPA is a common industrial chemical that has been used since the 1960s. It is a hormone disruptor that is linked to such things as breast, testicular and prostate cancers, early-onset puberty, declines in sperm counts, diminished intellectual capacity and behavior problems.

While I'm glad the New York State legislature could finally find something to agree on (it passed both houses unanimously), this BPA law just scratches the surface. As I said, BPA is common. Here are other items we see and touch and eat and drink from every day that contain bisphenol-A:

- plastic linings in baby formula cans
- plastic linings in canned food
- plastic linings in canned sodas
- ATM and cash register receipts, in amounts 250-1000x greater than food cans

According to the National Institutes of Health, "BPA in food and beverages accounts for the majority of daily human exposure." But I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the NIH has not considered the recent finding by the Environmental Working Group of BPA in ATM and register receipts, containing 250 to 1000 times the amount found in food can linings.

As I Google for news articles to support this blog post, the most common phrase I see is "BPA found", and it is pissing me off. "Oh, lookie here, we found BPA in cans! And receipts!" etc. Like we'd just found a new species of butterfly, or the all water route to Asia. All these things we're finding with BPA are man made. We made them, so 'we' shouldn't have to find out what is in them, much less find that what is in them is killing us.