Living Without Plastic: Organic vs. Plastic-Free

Posted: November 2, 2012 in In My Life
Tags: , , , , , , ,

In my attempts to shop for plastic-free products, I’ve noticed a trend among produce: I can either buy something that’s organic, or I can buy something that’s plastic free.

I first noticed the problem at Fred Meyer during the first week of my pledge off plastic. There, I found that both organic options for carrots had plastic. The carrots were either bagged in plastic, or they had plastic tags. The same was true of broccoli. The organic stuff had plastic tags, forcing me to buy the non-organic option. Even the organic bananas had plastic wrapping around the stems, whereas the non-organic option didn’t.

I thought maybe it was a fluke. Whole Foods would surely have more options. And for the most part, that was true. With a few exceptions, most of the produce had plastic free options, though a despairing amount still had plastic stickers. As an aside, this time of season, it’s nearly impossible to find fruit that doesn’t have those little plastic-y stickers indicating what type of fruit, and whether or not it’s organic. The stickers seem to have some kind of plastic coating to resist water (which actually raises a good question about whether something is really organic if it’s had adhesive on it). Anyway, produce trip to Whole Foods: Success!

Well, almost. I did encounter one more example of having to choose between plastic and organic. The only option so far I’ve found for out-of-season frozen berries is Stahlbush Island Farms, which makes a 100% biodegradable paper-like packaging for its non-GMO berries—note that these are non-GMO, but they’re not certified organic. Blast! I ended up buying them anyway, because I missed having smoothies, and at least this way, I could keep eating berries.

My girlfriend pointed out that some of the non-organic stuff—both frozen and fresh—might come in plastic bags in order to preserve freshness. Since the non-organic fruits and vegetables have preservatives to keep them fresh, it’s less necessary to rely on sealing them up. Between trying to eat organic and trying not to use plastic, I’m just glad I’m not vegan, because I don’t think there’d be much left to eat.

  1. Morgan says:

    In the Seattle area, I prefer to shop at PCC Natural Markets ( and Madison Market/Central Co-op ( for produce. Madison Market has a large selection from local farms!

    • I live in Renton, south of Seattle, and sadly, there isn’t a PCC close by. Whole Foods is the closest decent grocery store, and it’s still a twenty minute drive 😦 I will have to check out Madison Market next time I’m up in Capitol Hill. Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Andrew Jackson says:

    Why don’t you grow your own? Wouldn’t take much land to grow seasonal veg and you wouldn’t have to worry about packaging at all. Though I doubt you would get much of a crop during your 90 day experiment.

  3. mbilsland says:

    I checked out Stalbush farm berries on line for you too. According to accounts the bags though paper on outside have a mystery liner of some type of plastic. When contacted they would not revel what it was. I don’t know if true on all bags, check yours out that you bought.

  4. […] Living Without Plastic: Organic vs. Plastic-Free ( […]

  5. Hi. Yes, mbilsland is right. Stahlbush lines its paper bags with a fossil-based plastic coating that contains a mystery additive (which the company will not reveal) to cause it to break down, supposedly. I wrote up my interview with the company that makes the bags here. I too was fooled by the bags.

    And about organic food in plastic packaging? Isn’t it just the most ironic thing?

    • Hey Beth! Thanks for the visit.

      I was thinking about running an experiment with a compost pile to see just how “biodegradable” those berry packages really are. I clearly need to be more vigilant. I got fooled by Stahlbush, and I just tried ordering toilet paper in bulk from Seventh Generation, as you site suggests (, and they got me too! They stuck a bunch of the plastic air bubble packaging inside. Sigh.

      • Greg, which Seventh Gen TP product did you order? They recently changed the quantity in the box, and it’s a different item now. I updated that blog post with a different link. Is that the one you bought? And there were air bubbles? That’s terrible. Ours came without any, as far as I can tell, but I haven’t checked the bottom of the box. *SIgh*

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