Reusable Grocery Bags

21 04 2008

Today is just a good day for food related news in the MSM (main-stream media).  My girlfriend pointed out this article in City Pulse.

Last Friday, beginning at about 10 a.m., I elbowed aside a couple of retirees settled onto a bench at the West Saginaw Meijer and watched the shoppers go by. It took all of six minutes for the first 100 bags to fly off their metal T-frames and hitch a cart ride out the door.

Each checkout lane was a little Ellis Island for bags. Welcome to Lansing. Your host family will put you to work for 12 minutes (the average useful life of a plastic bag), then help you settle down in a nice landfill, tree or ditch.

It’s no secret that plastic bags litter the landscape, get into water and soil, stop up storm drains and use up petroleum. Plastic bags are more visible and numerous by far than paper bags, but paper shouldn’t get off the hook. Paper bags are a lot easier to recycle than plastic bags, but they use up trees, they’re heavier than plastic and they take more energy to make and transport.

Now ther’s an interesting take on paper or plastic.  I’ll admit, I’m bad.  I keep walking by the reusable bags at the mega-marts, but they always seem like such a hassle.  I have to remember to put them back in my truck after I use them so they are there for next time.

There are a lot of interesting facts in this article about how other countries deal with the platic bags.  All of them sound like good solutions.  I would be totally in favor of this one….

(Hugh) McDiarmid (of the Michigan Environmental Council) suggested, however, that a “takeback” program similar to the Michigan bottle deposit — and the Irish tax — might work.

“We have experience with that already,” McDiarmid said. “The bottle bill turned out to work fairly well.” Terry Link, head of MSU’s Office of Campus Sustainability, also saw an affinity between the two issues. “What really helped that bottle bill pass is, people were tired of the litter,” Link said. “And it’s the litter part that’s driving everybody nuts now. You see it on the beaches, the roadways — it blows everywhere.”

Before moving to Michigan a few weeks ago, I had no idea why all my Pepsi had deposit prices on them.  The first time I went to Meijer I couldn’t figure out why people were taking trash into the store.  Then I saw the machines to deposit bottles…then I noticed the other day on a reciept that there’s $.10 added to the purchase price of every pop I get.  I think maybe I’ll start saving those bottles now.

Not everyone thinks we should get rid of plastic grocery bags.  The companies that make them have formed the Progressive Bag Alliance to lobby for alternatives to outlawing the bags.  Of course, they have an agenda though, so does their opinion really count?

San Francisco, CA became the first city to outright ban plastic bags on March 27, 2007.  Just across the bay, the City of Oakland, CA followed suit shortly after.  In July of 2007, the California State Legislature enacted AB 2449 requiring all large supermarkets to offer recycling points for customers.  So far, no other states have followed suit.

This make you feel bad yet?  It’s ok, the City Pulse has a list of stores that offer reusable bags and the price.  Check out their article by clicking this link.  The info is at the bottom of the article.


Peanut Allergy Kills Inmate

21 04 2008

I have always been thankful that I don’t have a peanut allergy.  WWMT in Kalamazoo is reporting a Montcalm County inmate died on Sunday after eating a peanut butter sandwich while in custody.

Paul Thurston was arrested on an assault charge early Sunday and was lodged in the county jail.

At lunch he was served a peanut butter sandwich and had a severe allergic reaction. He was treated by the duty jail nurse, correctional staff and Montcalm County EMS before being transported to Sheridan Hospital where he later died.

Jail authorities say that Thurston was asked if he had any allergies during his booking procedure, but he did not inform them of his allergy.

If the inmate didn’t say anything, it’s hard to put blame on the sheriff’s department.  According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America peanut allergies affect only 2% of the population but is the most common cause due to food causing 80% of fatal or near fatal allergic reactions every year.

Three things characterize peanut hypersensitivity:

  • Reactions can be extremely violent and life threatening with just a little exposure to the allergen.
  • This allergy likely to persist throughout life.
  • It is often associated with other non-legume allergies (tree nuts, or certain seeds for example) and seed allergy. Peanut and tree nut allergic reactions coexist in one third of peanut allergic patients

The Mayo Clinic provide more insight on the cause of peanut allergies.

Peanut allergy is caused by an immune system malfunction. Your immune system identifies peanuts as harmful triggering the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to neutralize the peanut protein (allergen). The next time you come in contact with peanuts, these IgE antibodies recognize it and signal your immune system to release histamine and other chemicals into your bloodstream.

I always chuckled a little bit when I would go into a school and see signs for a “Peanut Free Zone,” but as you can see from this story, it’s really not a laughing matter.  It’s sad and unfortunate that there’s a whole group of people out there that will never enjoy a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or be able to go to a baseball game and have a vendor toss a bag of peanuts half way across the stadium to you.   

Felpausch Food Center Closing

21 04 2008

Today’s Jackson Citizen Patriot has an article on the Felpausch Food Center closing the middle of next month.  Like everyone else, they want to blame Wal-Mart.

Jeanne Norcross, vice president of corporate affairs for owner Spartan Stores Inc., said the grocery at 2105 W. Michigan Ave. is closing primarily because of competition.

“It’s been a challenge for us to operate the store profitably,” she said Sunday.

In 2004, a Wal-Mart Supercenter opened across the street next to the Westwood Mall.

I don’t buy it. I never have bought it.  If you’re doing the same thing everyone else is doing of course you’re going to fail.  I really have very little sympathy for corporate chains like Felpausch who blame other corporations for their demise.  Yes, Wal-Mart undercuts places on prices, but they also do worse on customer service, selection, and freshness.  That’s all it takes.  Offer your customers something they can’t get it a Wal-Mart.

It’s funny that I read this today because just yesterday my girlfriend and I were talking about Horrock’s Farm Market is always packed despite being located between a Wal-Mart and a Meijier.  If it were true that these mega-markets kill off other business, there is now way in hell Horrock’s would survive.  The difference is Horrock’s fills the market with fresh products at a competitive price.  They’ve found a nitch and done it successfully. 

Competition is what drives our economy and there’s always going to be casualties.  One day, there will be something that comes along that de-thrones Wal-Mart and we’ll all have something new to complain about.  For now, let’s just support farmer’s markets and not worry about what Wal-Mart is doing.