Harmons Grocery is committed to a sustainable future.
Wednesday, February 24, 2021 written by Kate Whitbeck, Director of Sustainability for Harmons
Too much plastic is entering our oceans. It can be hard to get the images out of your head: the picture of the turtle swallowing the plastic bag it thinks is a jellyfish, or the dead albatross with a belly full of plastic, or the seal with a plastic ring caught around its neck.
It’s not just the animals who are impacted by this plastic. Microplastic, which are particles smaller than five millimeters, are increasingly found in people’s bodies. We are ingesting them in bottled water, in food packaged in plastic, even in the air we breathe and the seafood we eat.
Plastic waste is entering our streams and rivers and finding its way into the oceans or it is directly dumped in the oceans where it breaks down into increasingly smaller particles. These plastic particles are accumulating in larger fish, which are eating hundreds of smaller fish, which have been consuming countless plastic particles. Humans, along with sharks, dolphins, seals, and other large marine animals are consuming these large fish and in turn ingesting greater concentrations of plastic particles.
The problem is we don’t yet know the impact of eating seafood contaminated with microplastics, but studies at Johns Hopkins University have found that accumulated plastic could damage the immune system and upset a gut’s balance.
Living in a landlocked state like Utah can make you feel helpless to make a difference. At Harmons, we are trying to do our part by reducing our use of plastic. We are systematically examining our purchase of single use disposable plastic materials and finding safer better, renewable alternatives. Where possible, we are slowly shifting our packaging over to compostables made from renewably sourced fiber-based materials.
We also want to help our customers reduce the amount of plastic waste they produce through smart or “waste-wise” purchasing. Any chance we can get to avoid producing plastic waste and recycling any plastic waste we do produce means less ending up in our waterways and oceans. And hopefully, consuming less plastic ourselves.
There are three important waste-related goals to keep in mind when shopping: replacing disposables, closing the loop, and eliminating packaging.
REPLACING DISPOSABLE ITEMS helps cut costs and reduces unnecessary waste.
Think of all the common disposables that we encounter on a daily basis, like paper towels, plastic bags, paper cups, plastic utensils, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil. Many of these can be avoided with the use of some creative alternatives.
Stashers or Full Circle’s Ziptuck Snack Bags are two of my favorite reusable snack bags. Both brands come in a variety of colors, sizes, and patterns. Stashers are made of a thick food-grade silicone and the Ziptuck bags are made from a BPA-free plastic. They are great for packing snacks on-the-go for picnics or even just storing leftovers at home. Harmons carries a wide selection of food storage containers (Anchor, Rubbermaid, Good Cook, Ziploc, Simply Done) allowing you to avoid single-use plastic bags or containers. All of these containers can be washed and reused countless times.
During the pandemic, my family has been supporting our local restaurants by ordering more takeout. Making sure we have a set of reusable utensils and napkins for the whole family means we can avoid using plastic utensils and can enjoy our zero-waste takeout wherever we like.
Another great product is the Chef’n Cloud Cover silicone reusable lid which can replace disposable plastic wrap or foil. These handy lids create an airtight seal on bowls, pots and pans for storage, transport or cooking. They are both microwave and dishwasher safe. Zero waste and zero hassle!
CLOSING THE LOOP means recycling and buying products made from recycled content.
When I make a purchase, I ask myself what will happen to this product when I am done with it? Can I recycle it, reuse it or will it need to be landfilled? Packages that are all one type of material are more easily recycled—think of a plastic milk jug, aluminum can, or paper bag. Packaging that has layers of different materials like plastic, foil, and paper are much harder to recycle. Remember that just because a product or the packaging has a recycling symbol on it doesn’t mean that it can be recycled locally. Check with your municipality or the hauler that provides your recycling service to make sure they accept the materials you are trying to recycle.
There are plenty of opportunities at Harmons to buy products in 100% recyclable packaging. Harmons-branded vitamins are all packaged in amber glass bottles. These can be easily recycled when empty or sterilized and reused. For other products, check the fine print on the packaging to see if there is recycled content in the plastic bottles or fiberboard boxes. Mrs. Meyers, Seventh Generation, Ecover, Boulder Clean, Burt’s Bees and countless others all use recyclable packaging. In addition to recyclable packaging, EO, Ecos, and Dr. Bronner (89%) all manufacture their products in zero waste facilities meaning they divert 90% of their waste from the landfill.
ELIMINATING PACKAGING keeps plastic away from our oceans.
Buying concentrates and buying in bulk with your own containers are great ways to avoid creating more packaging waste.
- Meyer’s Multi-Surface Concentrate and Murphy’s Oil Soap concentrate are two of my favorites cleaning concentrates. Using concentrates saves money and bottles.
- Rather than buying a single bottled or canned beverage you can mix your own in a glass and skip the packaging. Nuun, Mio, Crystal Lite, Gatorade are powdered drink mixes sold at Harmons. Tang and Country Time Lemonade are some old classics that give you the best bang for your buck.
- Using a Brita filter water pitcher allows you to eliminate plastic water bottle waste.
- Visiting the bulk aisles and filling your own containers is an easy way of avoiding packaging. Beyond food options, we recently started offering bath salts in refillable glass jars. Now you can take a soothing bath with no packaging-waste guilt!
There are myriad opportunities to make waste-wise choices on your next shopping trip. Consider how you can shrink your packaging footprint with smart waste-wise purchases. Supporting companies that are investing in safer, healthier products for the consumer and the environment is a win for everyone!
Tell us about your favorite sustainable product or waste saving tip, or reach out with sustainable product-related questions: firstname.lastname@example.org.