Retailers – On Target with Eco-Improvements?

Today, reports came out that Target Corp. it is putting recycling bins in all of its stores. Reports say the company will collect items such as plastic bags, beverage cans and bottles, mobile phones, and MP3 players. Target expects to be able to sell some of the recyclables and recover the costs of the program.

Also announced today is that BJ’s Wholesale Club, which already had twelve solar installations in six states, is adding four more. Because of their large flat roofs, the big stores are good fits for solar panels. The panels are supposed to provide lower cost power and reduce carbon emissions for BJ’s.Last month, Wal-Mart agreed to install solar panels at a couple planned stores in California desert townsPerris and Yucca Valley as part of a lawsuit settlement. However, Wal-Mart has a stated commitment to solar, according to a report in USA Today. Wal-Mart is also one of several retailers promoting “sustainable toys” — toys made from natural or recycled materials.

All of these steps by retailers are positive. Not only because of their obvious benefits but because consumers watch these companies. They pay attention to Target ads. These companies influence consumers in a big way. So while their programs may be small compared to what they could do, and often required to be break-even or better for the bottom line, these are steps in the right direction that will help plant more seeds of mindful consumption.

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My Pineapple is from Costa Rica?

I was looking at the pineapple on my counter this morning and it called out to me to be sliced open and eaten. It’s been home a few days, picked up on a recent trip to Sam’s Club. It’s a great fruit – juicy, sweet, fat free, low in sodium, loaded with vitamins B and C, fiber, and more. Trying to be more mindful of what I consume, I noticed the tag wrapped around its neck, identifying it as a Venicia Gold Extra Sweet Pineapple, a product of Costa Rica, from the Banacol company.

Costa Rica? I thought these things grew in Hawaii!? Well some do. Yet the pineapple is native to Paraguay. It made its way to other places by Indians carrying it across the seas. Eventually, a variety called MD-2 was developed in Hawaii in the 1960s as a less acidic and sweeter version, and is what most of us eat today. More recently, Dole brought the variety to Costa Rica, where the conditions are right for growing the fruit, land and labor are cheaper too. Costa Rica is now the world’s largest pineapple exporter. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Costa Rica’s fresh pineapple exports to the U.S. increased from $80 million in 2004 to $372 million in 2007. The U.S. accounted for 52% of Costa Rica’s1.8 million metric tons of pineapple exports in 2005, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. All while Hawaii pineapple growing is dwindling fast.

Banacol ships its pineapples 2100+ miles via cargo ships from Costa Rica to Chester, PA near Philadelphia. And it’s not easy; pineapples are fragile, need to be picked right before shipping, and then require refrigeration storage (46-50 degrees F) for the journey. Banacol says it has the capacity to ship 7 million boxes, each weighing 25 pounds — that’s 87,500 tons. Greenhouse gas emissions to transport the fruit, first on ships and then on trucks, is significant. Using the Greenhouse Gas Protocol calculations, that equates to 17,500,000 kg of greenhouse gas emissions per year. Are you coughing yet? Well you might be after you learn that part of typical pineapple processing is a decontamination wash of hydrogen peroxide and acetic acid. And according to the Miami Herald, in 2008 authorities found small amounts of Bromacil, a pineapple pesticide in a local aquifer. Despite government reassurances that problems are fixed, there is ongoing uncertainty as recently as a year ago that some water problems remain – referenced here, here, and here.

Amazingly I am not the only one thinking about pineapples and their source. Just the other day, Whole Foods made a big deal about Costa Rica pineapples as part of the “expansion of its ethical sourcing program in Costa Rica, which puts the leading natural and organic foods supermarket at the forefront of responsible pineapple sourcing in the U.S.” Whole Foods wants its shoppers and investors to know that is is serious about fair trade, “To earn the Whole Trade Guarantee seal, growers must be certified that they ensure fair wages and safe working conditions while caring for the environment. Through Whole Trade products, Whole Foods Market supports positive change in the developing countries where it sources products. Additionally, one percent of Whole Trade purchases go to the Whole Planet Foundation to help fight poverty in developing countries.” Whole Foods claims to have checked out the local conditions in Costa Rica, and now offers a “Whole Trade Pineapple” with a “Whole Trade” guarantee.

So we shouldn’t feel guilty about buying pineapple grown so far away. It won’t grow in my yard or yours. And why should we live without this delicious fruit? It’s a choice we have to make. Do I feel better knowing the facts? Not sure, but I will ponder the question over a slice of pineapple.

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Five Ways to Be Green For Less

Green has become synonymous with more expensive. Here are five ways to be more green for less money.

1. Paperless billing. Today, while newspapers are floundering across the country online informational sites continue to grow. Today we pay our bills, check up on our friends and family, watch TV, and get recipes online. Switch over your bills to paperless billing. Not only do some companies reward you for not having to send you a paper bill in the mail every month, but we are using less paper, less energy, and making less waste every month.

2. Free Ads. Nothing tops the strange satisfaction of getting something for free. With websites like Craigs List, Freecycle.org, and local newspaper ads, there are plenty of resources for items in good condition that are absolutely free of charge. You’ll also be surprised how easily it is for you to give away things you no longer need anymore. Instead of tossing your old dining room table, list it for free and give someone else the chance to be as mindful as you are.

3. Make your own. While organic whole wheat bread may push five dollars a loaf at your local health food store, it costs just a fraction of that amount to make it at home. Not only will it make the house smell amazing but your family members might be so impressed they won’t even miss going out to a restaurant instead. Making smart food choices does not mean throwing away every box of mac and cheese hiding in the house, but incorporating healthier items too.

4. Antique. Getting complimented on decor does not have to mean maxing out credit cards at the local furniture and home decoration store. Thrift stores, vintage shops, antique dealers and consignment stores are great resources of home decor at a fraction of the new price. Not only is buying a piece of furniture from an antique shop going to cost you less money but it will be better manufactured. You will also be supporting local businesses instead of giant furniture stores who import their products overseas. I always get more compliments on my antique pieces rather than my new ones. Vintage is very popular right now, and mixing and matching is the key to a nice home design, and a greener attitude.

5. Be Romantic. I know what you’re thinking: romance is expensive. Things like a candlelit dinner, a walk at sunset and showering together are not only romantic, they’re green! Snuggle up in winter and turn down that thermostat just a few degrees. Making dinners at home warm up the house as well as the heart. Watching a movie together on the couch is a fraction of the cost of going to see a movie, plus the food is healthier and you won’t need to drive to get there.

Green doesn’t have to be expensive. Let us know your ideas for doing green on the cheap.

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