February 19, 2010

A letter to Whole Foods

A few months ago, I found out in horror and great embarrassment that “Marin County generates the most garbage per capita of any county in the country” (Redwood Landfill’s District Manager Jessica Jones, Ross Valley Reporter, 8/25/09). Yes, you read that right! Ironically, I live in the trashiest place in the whole country! Interestingly, the county’s “green” reputation is one of the reasons we chose to move here. Oh, it’s green all right, full of parks and redwood trees, but that’s as green as it goes. What are the eco hippies that this county is known for, doing? Perhaps hugging the trees…

I even bought a pair of clogs to fit in when we relocated here 3 years ago… I wore them once on Coastal Cleanup day. Climbing and picking up trash in the rocks was not easy with those things on. I even envied my better equipped friend’s Wellies! I donated the clogs back to Salvation Army that week. I guess I should have realized that day, that I had joined a careless community: picking up plastic bags, empty bottles, fishing line, styrofoam bits, shoes (?...), cigarette buds… The kids looked like they hit the jackpot when they found a piece of Lego they could reuse though. They were in a positively better state of mind than I was:

How can an educated community be so clueless about their environmental impact?

And then I sat foot in Whole Foods. The local store reputed for caring about the environment. But do they? Do they do everything they can to help their community reduce waste? Do they know our county’s sad record? Do they understand that they sell some of the trash responsible for our county’s sad record?

This is my letter to them a couple of weeks ago…

I live in Mill Valley and blog about zero waste (
zerowastehome.blogspot.com). I plan on writing an article about "What my local Whole Foods could do", and I thought it would only be fair to give you heads up on the list that I will post. Your comments are welcome. You can also pass this on to whoever at Whole Foods is concerned about helping Marin residents get to the Zero Waste Goal by 2025.
-make bulk cheaper than packaged: potatoes, cauliflower, baking soda, croissants, etc… are cheaper in a bag/box at your stores.
-sell more bulk: staple items such as olive/cooking oils, vinegar, pastas, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent should be available
-sell affordable cloth bags for bulk, and display them well: right now, $3/bag is too much … if you can find it in the dark corner where they're displayed
-sell cheese European style: behind a counter, a la deli. I was once told by one of your cheese counter associate that they sell too much cheese to serve it that way… what the??? Does that imply that the Europeans/French eat less cheese than they do here, to be able to sell it behind a counter, cling wrap-free?
-sell baguettes a la francaise also: Baguettes sit naked, in baskets, there. You grab them with a small square paper wrapper (if one wants to use it)
-educate your associates: another cheese counter associate made fun of my jars once, telling me that "there was no point in eliminating the use of the cling wrapper from my cheese because I still came to the store in a plastic car". I bought my cheese from Safeway the following week.
-give credit for home jars and bags (incentive) not just grocery bags: some of us have graduated from the grocery bag level.
-charge for any grocery paper bag that you give out.
-replace your plastic bulk bags with paper ones would be a good step too.

And you know what their reply to my letter was?