Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Here's the scoop.

Post ice-cream-scooping-environmental-trashing rants from EnviRambo.

I had hoped to be writing this post on better terms, full of encouragement and ideas on how to get people to think beyond the face value of a dollar and realize the true cost of their choices. Instead, I am writing with a heavy heart and conflicted conscience.

As my last Sunday post indicated, I serve on a non-profit committee that is selling ice cream at the county fair to raise funds. "The Dairy Bar" has been a staple at the fair for many, many years, like 50. This is my committee's first year running it. The Holstein Association owns The Dairy Bar and orders the ice cream, cones, malt mix, and root beer. We provide the labor and order the rest of the supplies. We get paid $850 to run it and then the two groups split the profits 80/20, we're on the 20 end. We were given basic instructions on how to set up and what to do along with a supply list that made me cringe.
  • Paper Towels (8-10 pkg) - 6 packs
  • Napkins (4 pkgs - white) cheapest ones - 10 packs
  • Spoons (white plastic - 500 count) - 10 boxes
  • Disinfectant Wipes (pkgs of 3) - 5 packs
  • Rubber Gloves (*the plastic ones do not work with ice cream* - 2 pk containers) - about 5
  • 8 oz Styrofoam cups (used for ice cream when customer doesn't want a cone) - 6 boxes
  • 12 oz Styrofoam cups (for malts) - about 6 boxes
  • 16 oz Styrofoam cups (for Root Beer floats) - about 6 boxes
  • 2 cardboard signs (Markers to write the menu on)
  • 409 Spray (To wash off tables and counter)
  • Water - depending on weather. Last year we went through 120 (24 pack) cases.
All I see when looking over this list is a lot of unnecessary waste. Plastic waste! The bane of my existence. Sometimes people get stuck in a rut and just keep doing things the way they have always been done without questioning it - even if it makes no sense! Coming in with fresh eyes, we wanted to make some changes for things to run more smoothly. I wanted to make some changes for things to run more environmentally friendly.

I threw out a Superhero SOS asking for sources of relatively-inexpensive-more-sustainable-than-styrofoam-and-plastic supplies. You all offered up some great ideas on how to run greener. Serving cones to skip the cup and spoon was a recurring one. I agree with you, and we do sell cones - lots and lots of them - but, malts and floats are one of their biggest sellers (i.e. money makers) and what we sell was not up to us. So the cups, spoons, and straws had to stay. Thousands and thousands of them.

Plastic waste

Plastic waste

Plastic waste

I had hoped to source more sustainable versions of these. One reader (Beth) commented on a site called Green Duck (shopgreenduck.com). They have a wide variety of eco-friendly products, many of which are compostable. Unfortunately at this time there are no facilities in my area with the ability to do so. My little compost pile at home does not get hot enough or have the capacity to handle the amount of waste being produced. All of the waste from "The Dairy Bar of Environmental Destruction" is being sent to Xcel Energy's waste-to-energy plant for incineration. Since it was going to be burnt, I thought my best bet was to find paper cups. Better than Styrofoam, cheaper than compostable.

My initial idea was to ask the local Pepsi company to donate cups. Paper cups, no expense, more profit, I thought they would jump on the idea. Nope. The Dairy Bar wants to promote dairy not soda. {And apparently environmental destruction, although I don't think that has even occurred to them} Okay, I can understand that. {The dairy not soda bit - not the environmental destruction part. That boggles my mind.} Plan B. My aunt owns a restaurant so enlisted her help. We found paper cups through one of her distributors. Wholesale prices, local pickup, still good. Or, so I thought. The rest of the group was not so down with the paper versus plastic price difference.

8 0z cups would cost $158.31 extra for paper
12 oz cups would cost $112.32 extra for paper
16 oz cups would cost $42.09 extra for paper

So in all we would have $312.72 less profit going with paper. The group felt this was too much. Really? I realize that for some people $312.72 is a lot of money. But, in this affluent country, in the grand scheme of things is it?

Let's break it down. Those figures are for the week - 6,000 cups of each size.

8 oz cups: $158.31 divided by 6,000 = 3 cents extra per cup for paper
12 oz cups: $112.32 divided by 6,000 = 2 cents extra per cup for paper
16 oz cups: $42.09 divided by 6,000 = .007 cents extra per cup for paper

I want to puke. No, really. Those numbers make me sick. For mere pennies, those things we cast off as worthless, throw in a jug and never do anything with, or do not even take the time to stop and pick up - for mere pennies we are willing to trash the planet - forever? Sorry, but WTF is wrong with us? Are we that nearsighted that we cannot think beyond the present, get past the immediate gratification, and see through the almighty dollar?

How do you get people to see beyond the face value of a dollar and realize the true cost of their choices? And, how do you do so without being pushy or coming off as crazy environmentalist?


Anonymous said...

Well said! I work for a company that uses words like 'good stewardship' and 'sustainable' without knowing what these words mean. I am in a constant battle to have them recycle.
This post helps me to feel less alone in the struggle.

Surviving and thriving on pennies said...

I would bow out gracefully. My guilt ridden stomach would not be able to handle it. Think of all the money they would save if they didn't use disposables. Struggle is exactly the word that comes to mind.

Daisy said...

Keep trying, love. Keep showing them the numbers and showing the planet that you care. It's a terrible struggle; thank you for taking the time to make an effort.

Melissa @ HerGreenLife said...

I feel your pain. While bowing out would be tempting, that would virtually ensure that the practices would not change.

My first thought is to offer a discount for people bringing their own reusable cups, but you should probably check into health department code on that. (It can be pretty frustrating how health rules, in the name of protecting us, can be so detrimental to the environment -- many times they just go too far.)

I'm surprised that paper is more expensive than plastic. It sounded like a somewhat significant price difference until you broke it down to the per cup level. Could you increase the price of each item by one or two cents to cover the extra cost? Or maybe just increase the price of one of the sizes by five cents to keep the numbers round?

underbelly said...

What about enlisting the kids to ask neighbors for donations to cover the costs? Either that or raising the price a few cents. Kudos for trying, though, I don't think I could handle that.

Heather said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
panamamama said...

Oh I am feeling your pain. Pennies! I am in charge of fundraising this year and really want to say no to any plastic incentives. Hope they listen. I tried to pick an all environmentally friendly fundraising company but was shot down because they don't give the same profits...

Lisa@MomsGreen Shopping List said...

I know how you feel! Last week I watched the branch manager at the bank I help out at, throwing piles of old cardboard boxes and metal shelves into the regular trash bin outside. Not to mention the hundreds and hundreds of pamphlets that banks print and throw out monthly. It makes me want to slap somebody and say "Are you blind or just stupid?"

Condo Blues said...

Did you present it as extra pennies first? That makes it a little easier to swallow than the lump sum. I can understand the rock and a hard place because your goal is to raise money for your charity. Low overheat means more money for charity.

Wouldn't the paper cups go to the trash burning power plant too? Paper cups are coated with a petroleum/plastic wax and can't be composted. So either way, it's going to burn.

Jaime said...

Maybe with more time to plan for next year you could find novelty items that could actually make more money? I just saw this article and it made me wonder if there would be any fit for your event next year. (Not sure it mixes with dairy, but cool idea at first glance)


knutty knitter said...

A nice selection of the nastiest plastic pollution photos might help. Especially the ones with cutesy animals....

Extra kudos if you can get a few local and perhaps more relevant ones.

Just a thought

viv in nz

OneHealthyGirl.com said...

I recently found this great source (I have no affiliation): http://www.bpiworld.org/Certified-Bioedgradable-Foodservice-Items-Plates-Cups-Utinsels?emulatemode=2

I've bookmarked it to reference before any school fundraisers this year.

Sorry about your unfortunate situation. It'll be a great day with people embrace today's profit together with investing in the future.

What Pigs Don't Know said...

Wow! This is unbelievable. I wish I had an answer for you. I like the ideas listed by others to either just charge a bit more - no one would be the wiser - or allow a discount for bringing your own cup. I still have no idea how to enlighten others without sounding like a quack - or a broken record. I just started volunteering at the local hospital, and the amount of waste is just staggering. Today I even brought home about 20 cardboard backers to stacks of various ER intake forms. I figured the kids could draw on them before I put them in the recycling. The hospital just trashes them.
Glad I found your site! - Carrie

Beate said...

How about buying some plastic and some eco-frienly, give customers a choice and charge 5c more for the eco-friendly version? This way you are creating awareness at the same time - mixed with a little education if appropriate.


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