Save the Jar?

I visited a friend at his office the other day. It’s one of those annoying Google inspired open space places with the obligatory pool table that no one will ever play. The friend I was visiting was drinking his water out of an old peanut butter jar. Don’t get me wrong, I like Chunky Teddy Bear Brand peanut butter and all, but I thought he looked like an idiot drinking from his new fandango glass jar with half the label still remaining on the outside surface. In case you were wondering, yes, it was salt-free peanut butter, which to me just sounds gross, but for someone like him was fitting. He actually seemed pretty impressed by his choice in stemware despite my opinion. He told me he had thrown away all the plastic in his kitchen and has decided to switch back to glass. Yes, I asked him if he threw away all his baggies and saran wrap too to which he didn’t respond. It turns out that this movement back to glass is a growing trend. Possibly it’s the fear of BPA, which is used in several plastics including polycarbonate and is also in the linings of almost all cans or possibly it’s just people trying to show off that they too enjoy a good all-natural salt-free peanut butter.

It seems strange that some households are steadily moving back to glass at the same time many major brands are moving from glass to plastic. Oddly, it seems like major brands of peanut butter were among the first to switch, come to think of it, maybe it was milk and orange juice. I can’t remember. After that, ketchup, mayonnaise, ice tea and pasta sauce switched from heavy fragile glass to durable light-weight plastic.  The change is still happening thanks to coatings and advances in polymers. I wonder when our hot sauces will change over or even our Worchestshire. I can’t help but also wonder what my friend will be drinking out of in the coming years as his selection of glass jars and bottles will surely dwindle, as major brands make the glass to plastic transition.

I found a story from a while ago in the Washington Post. It centers around an independent report stating that Plastic is more sustainable than glass in almost every way. I wonder how they factor in saving the jars for reuse. I have a basement full of baby food jars that are filled with screws, bolts, nuts and brads. That’s not really my point though, my point is that while plastic is better for the planet, isn’t it also just better in general? Glass seems to be a much cooler option to my hoarder-side but the features built around use pattern that are integrated into these new plastic packages are really useful and just seems sort of silly that we used to need to see how much Miracle Whip was left in the jar. My point is, these products take advantage of the switch from glass to plastic; not just in the change of material but they have used the change in material to create a better user experience including better grips, easier storage and cleaner dispensing.  The do this while also improving their presence at point-of-sale.


Sustainability is Too Difficult

It doesn’t seem like people are talking about sustainability anymore. Was the idea of eliminating negative environmental impact a fad? Did it just become boring? Maybe the word itself became to annoying and was replaced by more recently coined terms like “ethical consumerism” and “moral purchasing”? No, I did not make either of those terms up but they sure sound great and I wish I had. I used to think that we would know people were serious about sustainability and the effects of consumerism on our environment when NASCAR was banned. Yes, probably selfish for me to single out just one form of recreational fuel consumption. With that thinking, we may as well just eliminate both speed-boat and bicycle racing--have you seen all the cars that follow the cyclists? Nevertheless, the elimination of NASCAR as proof that we as consumers were finally realizing our environmental impact was just my thinking before I started enjoying NASCAR myself. So for now I feel ok about their fuel consumption

So, as a new NASCAR fan, my new thinking is if we, the consumers, are truly concerned for the environment we will eliminate all fireworks. Aren’t fireworks really just burning money anyways? And, where does all the stuff that blows up go?  Furthermore, I have never heard of a fireworks foundation or a ‘buy one box of fireworks and another box is donated to some impoverished child oversees’ gimmick. Then again, I don’t really enjoy fireworks so this too may be self-serving. Come to think of it, I don’t enjoy exercising either, so that may top my list too. Think about all the wasted energy we expend each and every year by people consuming calories just to hastily burn them off on treadmills and stationary bicycles? To think what we could do with all that captured energy.  Maybe there is something I can do to restart the conversation. I could prove I am taking sustainability seriously when I, myself, stop buying every new iPhone and iPad that comes out. We all know that all Apple stuff is basically crack in a technology form. A few years ago, I recall reading in the NYTimes that over 100 million phones end up in landfills every year.  I think the article also claimed the phones are shipped oversees and then separated into raw materials by children in India and these kids often get sick from doing this work. Now that I think about it, yes, not changing phones all the time seems almost a moral obligation of mine but damn those new phones are always so cool. As a consumer, that choice out of all should be the easiest yet it still feels like I am probably going to get the iphone7.

Isn’t the real answer to sustaining the planet obvious: fewer people consuming less stuff. But I do develop new products for a living, so the idea of fewer people buying fewer new things is unpleasant and, in fact makes me a little queasy. For obvious reasons, I want more consumers, and I want them buying all kinds of new things, but not bamboo things. Bamboo sucks.  PLA is pretty lame too. Come to think of it, this blog has me really thinking and it’s depressing on both the environmental and social morality fronts.  I am waiting for the return of optimism, next post.