Friday, October 15, 2010

"100% Recycled" or is it?

Yesterday, I ventured into Staples to buy printer paper and faced my biggest moral dilemma of the day. Perhaps even of the week. I was greeted by an entire wall of multipurpose paper of 3 major varieties: Regular paper, 50% Recycled and 100% Recycled. I'm environmentally conscious so it's a no brainer- I reached for the 100% recycled. Looking at the prices is where the dilemma stepped in.

Regular paper was 1/2 the price of the 100% recycled!

I stood there for 10 min trying to decide what to do. I live in NYC. Things are expensive. I have rent to pay and my an expensive, organic, whole food loving bottomless pit to feed! Can I really justify paying $11 for a ream of printer paper just because it's 100% recycled?

My wrinkled forehead must have been projecting some "help me" energy because a salesperson came over to ask if I was OK. (Note: not to ask if I needed help- if I was OK.) I wanted to scream "I'm not OK! This is what's wrong with our world. This is the same reason my organic, locally grown apples are are so much more expensive than the ones with the waxy covering and 1,500 food miles!"

I couldn't bring myself purchase anything but the 100% recycled and spent $11 on a ream of paper. When I got home, I found some disappointing research. It turns out that the marketing industry knows exactly how to dupe earth loving consumers like me. That lovable 100% recycled logo falls under the realm of free domain, meaning virtually anything can wear that logo. Here comes my broken record shpeal: you have to READ THE LABEL!

Here's what I found. Check out the percentage of post consumer fiber in the paper- the higher, the better.

You also need to take into consideration how it was bleached. Is it TCF: Total Chlorine Free- no chlorine, but it also means it's not recycled paper, ECF: Elemental Chlorine Free-no chlorine gas but other elements containing chlorine or PCF: Process Chlorine Free-non chlorine alternatives are used and it meets the EPA's 30% minimum requirement for recycled/post consumer waste content. (the best of the 3 options)

Upon inspection I found that my purchase yesterday was 100%% post consumer waste and ECF. Not great, but at least it's 100% post consumer waste.

Looooong story short. Being a "green consumer" means that you have to be conscious of ALL your daily choices. Learn to be skeptical of everything you see in bold print, and in reference yesterdays rant, read between the lines. Sometimes that means going one more day without paper so you can do a little research before making a decision.

In earth loving health,


Joanie Johnson, HC

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Read between the lines, or at least the back of the box!

Are you a sucker for buying a product because of the health benefits listed on the front of the package? Healthy catch words like whole grain, fiber, and vitamins are all over the front of our cereal boxes, pastas, canned goods, even chips and other junk foods! Every time we fall for it, we are being the good consumers that the food industry hopes we are.

The Institute of Medicine released a report on Wed stating that food companies should focus on labeling the nutrients most responsible for obesity and chronic disease on the front of their packages. These of course are already listed on the back of the package or side nutrition bar, but who wants to actually read what they are eating? It's much better to put our full trust in the food industry that they won't feed us something bad for our health. (Insert sarcasm here)

Will you find yourself picking up that same package of "healthy" chips if it is blaring terms like calories and saturated fat? Hmmm.

The Institute of Medicine is working with congress and the FDA to standardize labeling on food products. I'm going to be optimistic that a change will be made soon. In the meantime, don't be blind to the nutrients that you are putting into you body...or not putting in! Take an extra 30 seconds, turn the package over and find out what's in there!

You can find a recent New York Times article on the topic here: Group Seeks Food Label That Highlights Harmful Nutrients

and the Institute of Medicine report here: Report at a Glance

In Health,


Joanie Johnson, HC