Yesterday I went to Whole Foods (Venice) fully prepared to do some eco-vegan shopping: I brought a reusable shopping bag, reusable produce bags, and a glass jar that once contained apple sauce. When I walked in the door my first stop was the customer service desk to inquire if they would allow me to put their freshly ground organic peanut butter in my glass jar (instead of their plastic containers). At first, the manager was a little hesitant because the jar weighed a lot (.60 lbs), but when I explained that I was trying to avoid plastic she helped me out. She weighed my jar then multiplied that by the cost of a pound of bulk organic peanut butter ($3.99), and then asked me to return to her when I filled it. At checkout, the cashier was a little unsure, but when she called over the manager the process was very smooth. I walked out of the store without buying anything prepackaged and I saved some money too (the peanut butter was only $2.50 - organic peanut butter can be up to $5)
This experience is a great example of two things:
- If you ask politely, most places with good customer service are willing to help, especially if you ask ahead of time. Whole Foods customer service is generally pretty stellar (at least in my experience)
- It is so important to express your desire to reduce packaging, especially plastic. The more that we ask/demand, the more likely these needs will become common. Lay the ground work for the next person.
Don't be embarrassed to ask a store to accommodate your wishes. That is a typical fear about the eco and healthy lifestyles - people don't want to be viewed as obnoxious or weird. I think the reason it's easy for me to be eco-vegan is because I'm not afraid of the opinions of others - I stand up for what I believe in, even if it's against the grain. While asking to put peanut butter in a glass jar might not seem like a big deal, it's not a common request at Whole Foods, so for some this might be too much of a hassle. However, by asking for help I taught 3 employees how to handle that type of a situation, so when the next person asks the same question they'll be prepared.
I'm often called an extremist, but in my eyes every little bit counts towards improving the planet and my health. It took me less than a minute to put my glass jar in my reusable bag, and about 5 minutes of talking to the manager at Whole Foods. I returned home that night feeling proud that I didn't buy any packaged foods and that I was able to recycle a jar that would have otherwise been tossed in a bin. That satisfaction is totally worth the 5 minutes I "lost".
How do you feel? Would you have done the same in this situation, or would you have given up out of connivence? Are you afraid to ask special requests in fear of seeming obnoxious or weird, or is being environmentally friendly and healthy more important to you?
Check out this amazing how-to guide my pal Felicity wrote up after reading my post!
How to Ask a Store to Sell You Items Using Your Own Containers