Wednesday Thursday Friday award of the week

This is a PG rated blog, so I’ll let you as the reader figure out what Wednesday Thursday Friday means.  Look closely at the contents of this bin.  Or as I did, glance at it as you drive past.  What is this guy thinking?  Does he really think that the water bottle packaging is recyclable?  Also, I too wish that we could recycle paperboard, but that is not something that is currently accepted in the blue bin. Finally, we see one of my huge pet peeves – caps left on plastic bottles that are to be recycled.  These caps are made out of a different material than the bottles and can not be recycled.  Please remove them before throwing them in the bin.  Even better – use your own glass or reusable bottle and drink filtered tap water!  For reasons why bottled water is a problem, watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/storyofstuffproject#p/a/u/0/Se12y9hSOM0.

Ever wonder what happens to what you recycle?  Check out this video from WAAY 31: http://www.waaytv.com/global/Category.asp?c=181929.

Here is some info on recycling in Huntsville:

How do I get a blue recycling bin?Huntsville City residents: please call 256-830-BINS (2467).

Madison County and all others who live outside Huntsville: please call 256-532-1513.

BFI will bring a bin to your home
Huntsville City Residents Please call 256-830-BINS (2467)
Madison County and all others who live outside Huntsville Please call 256-532-1513

What can I put in my recycling bin?
Reuse, Reduce, Recycle Newspapers and all inserts
Glossy magazines
Aluminum and steel cans
#1 and #2 small-necked plastic bottles
Household dry-cell batteries (put in plastic bag by the bin)
Used motor oil (put in a clean, clear plastic container such as a soft drink bottle or one gallon milk jug)
A complete list can be found on the Recycling page

Where can I recycle glass?
You may recycle glass food and beverage bottles by taking them to:

Allied Waste ‘s Recyclery
1004 A Cleaner Way, Huntsville, ALPermanent, specially marked dumpsters are accessible 24 hours a day. For more information, call 256-830-2467.
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Some odd woman brings her own containers to Fresh Market

Let’s start out with the fact that I really love shopping at Fresh Market, 4800 Whitesburg Drive South, Huntsville, AL 35802-1699.  It is a foodie’s dream!  I could browse there for hours, just checking out all the interesting and exotic food choices. To be honest, I window shop at Fresh Market more than I buy, and I don’t go there very often.  At 9 miles from my house, it is too far for me to frequent on a regular basis.  Also, their prices are quite high, especially on produce.  I usually reserve shopping there for unusual items I might not be able to find anywhere else.  Since they do carry many different types of healthy items in bulk, I thought it would be a good place for a blog report.

The produce at Fresh Market is absolutely beautiful, and they have a great selection of both organic and conventional.  The prices are the highest I’ve seen in town, but they do stock things like heirloom tomatoes, purple sweet potatoes and white asparagus.  I lucked out today. Asparagus was on sale for $1.99/lb!

Fresh market carries a number of items in bulk.  They have an olive bar, a wide variety of snacks, nuts and nut butters, an extensive deli and a meat department where the meat is laid out like it used to be at a butcher shop (am I dating myself with that one?).  I brought my own containers today and asked the deli clerk if I would be able to use them for bulk items.  She said that it wouldn’t be a problem for deli items, as it would be easy for her to tare the containers before filling them, but she didn’t know if that would be possible for the dry bulk items.  She called the manager, who arrived with a female clerk as back-up.  That spooked me a little (see previous blog entry), but both the manager (Mike) and the clerk (Angi) were courteous and helpful.  Angi went out of her way to get me a Sharpie to label the weight of my containers and to explain to the cashiers how to subtract the tare weight from the price of my bulk items.  They said that it was the first time anyone has brought their own containers, although a lot of people wash out the Fresh Market containers and refill them at the store.

Here you can see the filled plastic containers as well as the bulk bins.  My husband and I really like the veggie chips.  I also bought sliced almonds and freshly ground peanut butter and almond butter.  We are stocked up on nuts now because we found a Trader Joe’s when we were in Boston, so we didn’t need much.  The deli section includes a wide variety of salads and side dishes, along with a few entrees.  This is a good option for a quick but healthy and nutritious meal.  I did not need meat today but noticed that they wrapped meat in butcher paper rather than plastic on styrofoam trays.  Based on my deli experience I would think that bringing my own container for meat would be no problem.  I regret to say that all the bread was in plastic bags. Their bread is very tasty!

I bought some of my favorite Fage Greek yogurt, which was on sale.  I will have to phase out of that, because it comes in little plastic tubs that I can neither reuse nor recycle. I did see another yogurt I would like to try in the future, but it expired today and I don’t quite love yogurt enough to eat a whole quart in one day! This is a glass bottle.  I checked to see if they carried milk in glass bottles but didn’t find any.  Garden Cove briefly carried milk in returnable glass bottles and I have been looking for that again ever since!  If anyone has spotted some in Huntsville please let me know!

In summary, Fresh Market is a fun place to shop if you truly love food.  The classical music playing overhead is a relaxing touch.  Oh, they also have an excellent selection of chocolate! I will update the blog on my next trip and cover some of the departments I didn’t fully investigate today.

Secret spy trip to Publix

We were out of milk and cream (yes I use real cream in my coffee and in cooking, but that is a story for another day), so I went to our local Publix  at 6707 Highway 431 S., Owens Cross Rds, AL 35763-9223. This is the grocery store where I usually shop. It is 2 miles from my house, and it is a moderate-sized store with a decent selection of healthy food. They stock good quality produce, meat and dairy items. In the past I never thought about how any of this food was packaged. It is a convenient place to shop and I like the fact that they are an employee-owned company. The employees are friendly and helpful, or at least they were until last night.

I hadn’t planned to write a report on Publix last night, but since the store wasn’t busy, I thought it would be a good opportunity to check out their bulk selection. One goal of mine is to minimize the number of packaged items I bring into the house.  As I walked into the bakery I noticed a beautiful display case of bread:

These breads are not wrapped in plastic bags like the rest of the bread at the store is. Once my cloth bags arrive, I’ll try asking if they will place the bread in a cloth bag instead of plastic. Well, if they let me back in the store I will. But I digress.

They carry an average selection of deli meats and an uninspired selection of cheeses.  If I am going to give up the convenience of sliced cheese I want to at least get something that tastes better!  However I think it would be possible to bring my own container and get deli items that are not wrapped in plastic. I will also ask about getting a rotisserie chicken placed in a dish from home.

This Publix has a modest stock of organic fruits, vegetables and dairy products (top) and a large stock of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables (bottom).


Here I was stopped by the assistant manager and the much more intimidating female cashier whom he had brought with him for back-up. They told me that it had been brought to their attention that I was taking pictures in the store, and that that was against company policy. OK, I get it – they thought I was a corporate spy from Kroger or a secret shopper. But seriously? I wasn’t trying to hide the fact that I was taking pictures. I would think that a spy would do a better job of it.  Also, I shop at this Publix at least once a week. I have talked to these employees on many occasions. If they had ASKED why I was taking pictures I would have given them an opportunity to let me know what sort of green initiatives Publix has taken.  Oh well, they missed out. And what did I learn from this? Be covert about taking pictures at chain stores, obviously!

So back to the shopping. Publix is a standard grocery store with the bakery, produce, dairy and meat around the periphery and packaged goods in the middle aisles.  This store does not sell dry goods in bulk. They do have a fish counter where the fish is not pre-packaged, so I will attempt to bring my own container and have the counter person put my fish in that. All of the meats are pre-packaged, but they do a lot of the butchering themselves, so I will ask what my options are next time I need meat.

The check-out clerk did not make any comment on my cloth bag and did not try to pre-bag my purchases in plastic bags. They do sell cloth shopping bags at Publix and I have seen quite a few people use them.  There are containers out front where you can bring in paper and plastic bags to recycle.

I do not plan to give up the convenience of shopping at Publix. However I do think that I will be buying less here in the future.  I was very impressed with the Hampton Cove Farmer’s Market on 431. They had a great selection of fresh fruits and vegetables and local honey, and they plan to start carrying free-range eggs, Belle Chevre cheese from Elkmont and baked goods. This is only another couple miles away and I think the food will be fresher.

Welcome to my green journey

I am starting this blog because ever since reading http://www.thezerowastehome.com/ I’ve been thinking about how wasteful I am in my daily life. It really struck a chord with me. So this blog is dedicated to my journey toward a greener lifestyle. I also hope that it can help other people, especially other people in Huntsville, Alabama, not the most environmentally-conscious city in the world!  I know that I will never be perfect in my efforts. I am starting out small, and I am not posting this out of pride. I thought that starting a blog would be a good way to keep myself accountable.  I used to be much more environmentally conscious but have become quite lazy about it in recent years. I’ll start out with sharing what I am currently doing and plans for the near future.

Things we are already doing as a family:

Recycle whatever can be put in the blue bin

Pay bills online whenever possible

Newspaper subscription is cancelled

Rarely eat fast food

Eat family meals on real plates with real silverware

Buy primarily whole foods that are not excessively packaged

Group errands to minimize driving

I pack a lunch most days for work

Drink tap water instead of bottled water (except for my Pellegrino)

Turn off lights when we leave a room (my daughter wanted me to include that one)

Small steps I have made this week:

Brought my own silverware, hand towel & stainless steel water bottle to work

Brought a to-go cup to work in case I want to get Starbucks

Take bread for a sandwich in a container rather than a baggie, eat out of the container rather than off a Styrofoam plate

Bought fresh fruit and vegetables from the Farmers Market on 431, brought my own bags there and to Publix for the rest of my shopping

Ordered cloth produce bags, Wrap-N-Mats for packing sandwiches and cloths to use in place of paper towels

Started saving empty glass containers to either reuse or recycle at the BFI main plant. It is near the cross country course and the rugby field where my older daughter sometimes plays Lacrosse, so I can group that errand with one of those activities

Steps I plan to take soon:

Phase out plastic in favor of glass and metal containers

Bring my own containers to the store to buy items in bulk

Make my own cleaning supplies when our stock runs out

Minimize clothing purchases

Give up chewing gum (very hard task for me, I will try!)

Order parts for our ice cream maker so we can make our own ice cream rather buying packaged desserts

Look into making my own yogurt again

Bake bread rather than buying pre-packaged rolls

Well, it’s a start! I will post reports on local stores, farmers markets and places of interest as I do more exploring.