Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The People's Food Coop in Ann Arbor

We’re always curious about how other food coops work. One of our committee members recently visited the People’s Food Coop in
Ann Arbor, Michigan and took some photos.
Established in 1971, the People’s Food Coop (PFC) is almost as old as our own PSFC. The idea for the co-op actually began as a graduate student project. Two students started a buying club as a way for low-income people to get fresh, healthy food. They brought food from the Eastern Market in Detroit and divided it into bags costing $5/week. In 1975 a second PFC location opened, followed by the opening of Wildflour Baking Collective, People’s Produce Co-op, and the Ann Arbor Tofu Collective in 1976, and the People’s Herb and Spice Co-op in summer of 1978, all on the same block. Later these various factions consolidated and grew to an over 6,500 member co-op.

We were especially interested in how the PFC handled bulk items, as that is the most ecological and economical way to sell food. The PFC has a system which allows members to bring their own containers for food to avoid using disposable plastic bags. Since weighing your items in a container adds to the weight, and therefore the cost of the item, the PFC has a Tare weight system which allows you to deduct from the price based on weight. The following pictures shows how they do it:

No worries if you forget to bring your own container—the PFC sells reusable containers in standard sizes:
And there are many options to fill your reusable containers—
for instance, spices:
What else can you buy in bulk there? So many things. . .
This machine (below) lets you make your own peanut butter and pour it into your reusable container:
Honey and maple syrup can be purchased in bulk:
And olive oil and soy sauce:
Maybe our own coop can use some of these ideas to increase our bulk purchasing options!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Reusable Replacements for Tinfoil & Plastic Wrap explains how you can reduce your use of aluminum foil and plastic wrap with replaceable options. For instance, did you know you could use a reusable parchment baking mat to bake cookies? Or a reusable mesh crisper for to cook on your oven rack? Or a thermal food wrap to keep cooked food warm and cover? These and other ideas are detailed in their great feature.

Why reduce your use of foil and plastic wrap in the first place? In short, because we use a whole lot if it, and it's often difficult to recycle.

More than 1.3 billion pounds of aluminum foil is produced in the U.S annually. If that doesn't make your head spin, we also use enough plastic wrap every year to shrink-wrap the entire state of Texas.

Aluminum foil is technically 100 percent recyclable. The trouble is that once it's used, your foil is often too soiled with food residue to be recycled without compromising quality - making cutting back on foil when possible even more important.

Like foil, plastic wrap is also recyclable (if it's clean), but many curbside recycling programs do not accept it - which means it's easier to reduce waste if you nix this single-use product altogether.

If you already have some plastic wrap or aluminum foil around the house, make sure it is thoroughly cleaned, and use Earth911 to find a recycling solution near you.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Formaldehyde and You

Nicholas Kristof's column in the 10/7/12 New York Times talked about The Cancer Lobby. He asks us to:
Just consider formaldehyde, which is found in everything from nail polish to kitchen countertops, fabric softeners to carpets. Largely because of its use in building materials, we breathe formaldehyde fumes when we’re inside our homes.

Just one other fact you should know: According to government scientists, it causes cancer.
and then goes on to say:
The [chemical] industry’s strategy is to lobby Congress to cut off money for the Report on Carcinogens, a 500-page consensus document published every two years by the National Institutes of Health, containing the best information about what agents cause cancer. If that sounds like shooting the messenger, well, it is.
The article is well worth reading in it's entirety, but at this point we'll pause to look at which products do contain formaldehyde.,br. It's scary to now know that Johnson's Baby Shampoo, for instance, so widely used for decades, contains formaldehyde. Due to the publication of the 2009 No More Toxic Tub report finally agreed, two years later to reformulate its baby products. We need to continue have open and accurate information about the chemicals used in everyday products. The chemical companies should put the millions they spend lobbying to surpress these reports into making safer products.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Making Greywater Pay !

My apartment didn't really seem expensive.  (I live in Sunset Park.  Rents are quite a bit more reasonable than Park Slope).  Utilities didn't amount to all that much.  BUT, after realizing that I wasn't using water then RE-using water, I decided to catch most of the greywater I make and see what happened.  The results have been astonishing.  And pretty darned easy!  And I've saved money and I've saved fresh water.

What is greywater?  All the water which I use then let go down the drain.  That's greywater.   I suppose it's called grey because it's not drinkable after using it - so it's not necessarily clear.  That is, dishwater, for one.  That's a big one.  Then there's the water I can catch easily when I'm washing my hands, taking a shower, etc.  That's the idea.

Here are the kitchen/bathroom buckets ready to be filled from the standard dishpan in the kitchen sink.  And in the bathroom, the full bucket is ready for use instead of flushing the toilet with fresh water...what's needed for a good flush is simply poured from the bucket into the toilet bowl.  In the bathroom sink I use some containers for pouring water instead of running it (because some always seems to go down the drain when I just run water), and another tupperware container in the sink to catch greywater that would be normally lost down the drain.  All goes into the big buckets.

The astonishing result is over a 6 month period I have saved over 1200 gallons of fresh water from being used, with that translating into savings in my pocketbook !

Why do I care about doing this?  Since most of the world's population doesn't have fresh, clean drinking water, I have the opportunity to save my share of this precious natural resource so I can actively start to change this imbalance.  I save money and I'm trying to be thoughtful about the use of what the earth provides us with so generously.  I'm pretty sure that water isn't something which we will always be able to count on having, especially in the abundance we seem to have now.  I want to add to the solution right now.

I'm not the only person doing this.  Europe is way ahead of our country.  By law many European cities mandate that greywater systems be built right into new construction.  They are making efforts to rebuild with greywater systems added.  But you and I can be on the cutting edge of change in our country. 

If I can do this, trust me, anybody can!