Try pre-cycling

All sort of critters, including us, drink this water.I eat red grapes the way some people eat Hershey Kisses, or jelly beans. One at a time, sometimes two, by the handful. Green grapes, not so much.

Earlier this spring, the grocery store was selling large plastic bags full of red grapes for, well, an affordable price. The price was proclaimed in large black letters; one had to squint a bit to see whether it was a bag or a pound. 

All was well until the grape supply was reduced. A trick of nature or store marketing was unclear, but the result was the same. The same bag. The same price. Half the grapes. Twice as many plastic bags as before to get the same amount of snack food.

Which got me thinking. (Don’t be scared; I’ve done it several times and the world still seems reliably intact.)

Why can the grocery store not just put the grapes in a bin and let me bring my own bag?

They do it for apples and oranges and other fruits and vegetables. Many of them, I no longer use bags. Apples, for instance, get stickered with a PLU (a four-digit Product Lookup Code) cashiers enter in the register that tells them how much we owe. The PLU knows whether the price is by the pound or the piece, and calculates accordingly.

That might require training baggers, though. Some of them do not realize grapes should be placed on top of the oranges. Which comes to another point: bagging groceries.

I regularly watch as the register operator places two can of beans or a single bottle of grapefruit juice in a plastic bag, then places that bag in another bag, and gives the turntable a tweak so the next bag gets a similar load – a box of saltine crackers and, maybe, a couple of candy bars. My wife laughingly talks about me rebagging the groceries as the register operator turns them toward me. I don’t need all those plastic bags.

Aldi give you a choice how to haul your groceries home. No plastic bags there. Bring your own, or take the store’s cardboard boxes off its hands. At least cardboard is more universally accepted in the weekly contribution to Reduce–Reuse–Recycle.

On a related front, I recently had dinner at a restaurant where all the dishes, “glasses,” even the “silverware,” were plastic. I was astounded. The dinner was really good, but … color me disappointed about the plastic dinnerware.

Which reminds me that many restaurants have begun allowing patrons to bring along reusable “doggie bags” – those resealable plastic containers that bring your favorite oriental food to your door make excellent containers for the portion of that excellent dinner you went out to eat and cannot quite finish.

For those among us who might be slightly embarrassed carrying those plastic containers into Ruby Tuesday – there’s a reason Mom carries a purse the size of a small car.

And with hot weather coming, put some serious thought into a stainless steel water bottle. Every one-liter plastic bottle of water consumes about 7 liters getting to the store shelf. It takes water to extract the oil to make the plastic, water to form the plastic, water to make the truck fuel and water to make the plastic and cardboard packaging.

On the other hand, young folks of even my age can apply customizing stickers to their stainless water bottles which, by the way, keep cold water cold way longer than those uninsulated, sweaty, bottles that soak our packs and purses.

Just some maybe better ideas for a symptomatic home planet.

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