When it comes to passionate sustainability, I've got a ways to go. More…


I’ve got a ways to go. And they don't like packaging much. Those are my reactions to a recent article, Living with zero waste moves into mainstream, that promotes a green lifestyle. It made several interesting points that I used as a self-check assessment. Some key points from the article and my checklist:
One of the article’s main subjects buys rice, pasta and oatmeal in bulk.
No check here. I enjoy the safety and convenience of prepackaged for these items, likely carryovers from the old specter of the Tylenol tamperings and new one of bioterrorism. I place my trust more in Quaker Oats than my fellow citizens, even if “all” they are doing is casually, yet improperly, sampling product from a bin.
“The more you get away from plastic, the more likely you are to buy fresh.”
This followed a point about the savings realized from carrying your own (refillable) water bottle.
Check on that part of it: We have been refilling our metal water bottles for some time using filtered tap water. 
But I am not convinced of the author’s assumption that less plastic = more fresh.
It appears to me that polymers have found widespread applications in the fresh produce market, from individually shrink-film-wrapped cucumbers to heads of red lettuce enclosed in cellophane-like film.
I prefer the convenience and, again, the security of packaging. Also, it’s packaging’s role to help keep things fresh. 
Lastly, I can never remember to bring along those reusable cloth bags when I go to the supermarket.
“I think my family is happier now. It’s not simply about less packaging, it’s about changing your whole outlook, about wanting less and getting more.”
I’ll give myself a half check here for the last part of this observation. Developing a simpler lifestyle--and presumably lowering one’s overall stress while doing so--is definitely one of my goals, though I’ve got a ways to go, one step at a time.
“One of the strangest byproducts of this experience has been my newfound respect for plastic.”
A big check for me. I have long had a respect for packaging in general and for polymers in particular. Packaging materials should generally draw appreciation as a fundamental benefit of a modernized society, but they are frequently cast as the environmental villains by mass media. It also seems that plastics’ durability-long seen as a detriment by environmentalists- can be further leveraged for reuse and recycling. And the elegance and utility of engineered polymers have a particular appeal for me as a chemist.
“Saying no to packaging has improved my waistline and my wallet.”
The author’s bias shows through in this parting shot that rebuts the previous favorable comment. 
However, the first part of this comment should be directed as much to the nutritional value of the product that’s wrapped and protected as it is to the packaging itself. And to the author’s or anyone’s choices in food, packaged or otherwise: I would generally agree that less packaging means less cost, though again the shrink and waste issues come into play, too, that also factor into the impact on one’s wallet or purse. Let us simply conclude that it’s complicated.
But no to packaging? By and large, packaging is essentially the messenger, and one we shouldn’t kill outright. Instead, let us say “yes” to properly optimized packaging, whatever form that may take.