Wild Oats uses fewer than a half-dozen cafe items that end up in the landfill. Can you identify them?
We’ve been talking and thinking a lot about reducing waste at the co-op—the plastic as well as the food varieties. Both have environmental implications: petroleum-derived plastics are polluting our waters, and when food ends up in a landfill, it emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
At the co-op’s Annual Meeting in October, several member-owners advocated for less plastic and more emphasis on refillable containers in the Bulk Department. While we offer for sale various glass canning jars, growlers and other containers as an alternative to plastic bags and tubs, generally we have not suggested that customers reuse their containers. After hearing the feedback and checking with town authorities, we’ve gotten the green light to encourage customers to come in with their favorite containers—provided, of course, they are carefully cleaned before they’re brought back into the store.
Please be sure you know the weight of your container before you fill it so that you are only charged for the amount of product you are purchasing. We’ve ordered a digital scale for self-service in the Bulk department, or you ask one of our friendly cashiers to weigh your container before you shop. Some customers choose to write down the weight on a piece of masking tape and stick it to their container, so that they don’t need to go through that procedure every time they visit the co-op. Please don’t hesitate to ask for help if you’re not sure what to do. And stayed tuned for more info in the coming weeks.
Across the store in the café area, we’ve switched to compostable cups, bowls, cutlery and straws, as well as the take-out containers at the salad bar and hot bar. We are also rethinking how we pack the deli sandwiches and salads in our grab & go case, with the goal of reducing plastic packaging wherever possible.
Café customers have been doing a great job separating the organic, compostable items from the recyclables and the “truly trash” items that have to go the landfill. Interestingly, there are only a handful of food-service items that have to be trashed:
- Bakery bags (large and small)
- Wax tissue paper
- Microwaveable oatmeal containers
- Clear plastic bags
If it’s not on this list, or the similarly short recycling list, it should probably be composted in the big black barrel by the interior doors (note that these lists are not static, as we continue to look for better alternatives). That café compost gets added to the food scraps from our kitchen and sent to TAM Organics commercial composting facility.
One thing that we compost very little of is left-over food, which is largely donated to help fight hunger locally. Volunteer Annie Parkman has for many years picked up unsold food from the co-op and taken it to the Williamstown Food Pantry. When the pantry temporarily ran out of space in November, Annie made arrangements with the Berkshire Food Project in North Adams, which prepares lunch every day from scratch and serves an average of 2000 meals each month at the First Congregational church. There is no shortage of need in the area, and we’re glad to do what we can to help.
Questions or suggestions? Feel free to share them in our suggestion box, or find me the next time you’re in the co-op.