Milk delivered in earth friendly packaging

I have been scouting for a local diary farm so that I could buy milk in my own container and stop bringing in plastic milk cans. I feel guilty about the grocery store plastic milk can every time I have a cup of tea or gulp down a spoon of home made yogurt.

source:americanprogress.org

My friends who buy milk (including Soya) in cartons aren’t doing the planet a favour either. Plastic lining and the lid section on the terta pack and even other biodegradable raw materials which went into manufacture of these cartons are to be given a thought, in terms of their necessity and impact.

 source: svna.org

Until a few years ago, milk men delivered bottles filled with milk and used to take back empty bottles to the dairy/delivery centers.

 
source: momentumspk.co.uk
 source: theprudenthomemaker.com

In the eastern world, even today, we have a milkman delivering milk to our door step. He measures out portions for every household and pours it into our own containers. I would like to share a very nice video about a milkman from Punjab from youtube. In a way, reducing food miles and green choices were/are a part of everyday living with people in this part of the world. ( Simply put, food mile is the total distance traveled by every morsel that reaches our plate and its impact on the environment.)

However, the scene is changing for the worse. With each passing day, this naturally eco-friendly population is leaning towards a non-green lifestyle.

There are milk co-ops and large scale dairy companies which sell plastic (Sic!!) pouches or tetra packs. These small prepacked  portions are delivered door to door or at local distribution stations every morning. Although these options are not very green, they exist. There are a few organizations working on helping the dairy industry making earth friendly options.

source: picturejockey.com

source: chillycrap.com

During one such research, I chanced upon this website which provides a list of Diary farms in the US, which sell their ware in eco-friendly glass bottles. (ah! so much like the old times!!)…I was however disappointed to see that none of the diary farms in the state of Georgia were a part of the list…The website, aptly called Mindfully.org, has provided a list under the segment. here: Dairies Using Glass Bottles for Milk in US

One of the eco-friendly alternatives to plastic cans and tetra-packs would be milk vending stations at grocery stores or public locations. Milk would be supplied to these location from local dairy farms and dispensed into containers we carry from home.

 source: whytraveltofrance.com

These vending machines could be set up by local diary farms and there by reduce food miles. Is this a far fetched thought, not at all. It is very much with in reach of retail chains to set up vending facilities and there by promote local dairy industry and enable supply of fresh milk every day or atleast alternate days. What we need is more number of people in the corporate decision making teams to work on feasible eco-friendly alternatives and think beyond sales figures and return.We as consumers need to think and make wise choices..We have to strive not to leave a claustrophobic planet for our children to live in….

An old proverb always holds good…Long term vision and gains always weigh more than short term returns…

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Retail Industry’s Return Policy – Impact on the environment

Retail industry is in a never ending race to keep prices low and remain competitive and appealing to customers. In reality, operational costs and other capital costs are always rising and never come down. However retailers are forced to remain competitive (quality and price), in addition to providing a set of perks to customers.

One such perk being the return policy. Let us try evaluating the impact of one returned good on the environment.

Image source: kotv.images.worldnow.com

Each time a consumer walks in to return his purchase, he gets his money back.Examining the retailer’s side of the story – allowing customers to feel empowered means ensuring themselves (retailers) a loyal customer base and also a possible increase in the number of customers. It sounds like a win-win right !! Rather, the actual story may be otherwise. All this has a cost, in terms of economics and the environment.

One of the three things is what happens to the product.

  • It is dumped in a trash can if it is a produce or a consumable,
  • sent back to the supplier if the product is faulty
  • goes back to the shelf for a reduced (open pack) price. 

Any of these scenarios translate into a financial strain on the retailer. Most retailers try to maintain a customer friendly return policy and allow return of a product in the most deplorable state. Though this looks appealing in the short term, both the customer and the retailer lose in the long run.

How does this happen?
Every return adds up to the operational and overhead costs for the retailer. By law, retailers and suppliers have a limit on the number of products they can account for as write-offs. They have to consider logistics cost and stocking/inventory management of the returns before they are sent in through the proper channels (as mentioned above). All this means added costs for retailers/suppliers and a an inevitable struggle to remain competitive in a cut throat franchisee environment. This could mean quality deterioration. Although consumers may not observe sudden drop in quality, it does happen over a period of time. Every retailer tries to increase pressure on the suppliers, manufacturers and transporters to keep costs low. But  that doesn’t happen always. At least a part of the costs have to be borne by the retailers themselves. That means costs are invisibly passed onto consumers. Thereby we, as consumers, have unknowingly increased the future costs for ourselves.

Impact on the environment…
Let us look beyond our wallets and assess this issues in terms of impact on the environment. Environmental costs associated with every product begins from its source of raw material, adds up through the entire value chain and ends with its consumption and disposal of packaging products. Use of non bio-degradable products adds to the stress on the environment as they are here to stay – forever!

For a product to qualify as being environment friendly, it needs to be green at every stage in supply chain/value chain.

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, manufactures and retailers are supposed to account for the impact their product has on the environment, this process is environmental accounting. Every Enterprise Resource Planning software has a provision for this accounting process. I have my own doubts whether a profit-oriented organization will ever look into the environmental aspect seriously. Eco-impact calculators are supposed to be a part of every audit which happens in companies. What bothers me is if they ever look at these modules beyond their computer screens and the spreadsheets.

What we could do…
We as consumers can work on our consumption patterns and think twice before billing a product. It is difficult to see why many Indian friends of mine have eased themselves so well into this binging mentality. Indian retail industry never allowed for returns or even exchanges in some cases. Consumers have to be conscious of what they buy. What I cant come to terms with is the way Indian consumers behave in the USA. Cheap and shady behavior of (Indian) consumers in the US, and things they get away with is shocking. Does it never occur to them that it is going to come back to them (in true economic sense). That is how economics works!…and it doesn’t take an Amartya Sen to understand this.

Do we need to add more than the usual to this?

Image source: newyorkpersonalinjuryattorneyblog.com

Why not to invest in gold – A social and economic perspective

Gold is one of the most over rated commodities in the investments market. Most commodities can be made to look lucrative by sheer manipulation by a group of well connected buyers. These buyers’ extensive networks, can fluctuate the supply and demand. Hence, it has been a point of debate among analysts about feasibility of opting for Gold as an investment option.

Unlike any other mineral or metal, gold can be mined in its pure form, also called raw gold. Investment in gold happens in three forms – jewelery, coins/ biscuits, and raw gold. I am not sure of the purity of gold jewelery we buy from jewelers in India. Although they claim to sell 22k jewelery gold, time and again, it has been proved that most jewelery is not more than 21k (most reliable sellers). So is there a real reason to go about accumulating gold in jewelery or any other form. There was a time say just a few years ago when investing in gold meant a washout investment with no dividends and an added headache of storage and safe guarding the metal. I do not want to delve more into the financial analysis part of owning GOLD.

Gold coins

Image source: i.ehow.com

Raw gold – nuggets

Image source: nevada-outback-gems.com

Major cause for concern is the dowry system prevalent in India. Even in the most decent of families, brides are put on a comparison chart for the amount of jewelery and money they bring into the family. Financial strain on a girl’s parent turns into a perfect alibi for female infanticide and foeticide in in India. Dowry system is a major strain and a huge emotional trauma for the girl as well. It is rather a matter of ridiculous pride to show off the loot for the groom’s family. It doesn’t stop there….greed leads to murder or suicide(Newspapers carry at least one story each day). Educated and well to do families don’t stop lusting for more money and literally auction off their sons in the marriage market. (Pathetic).

It is not a great thing though but, I too was among those who were taunted for not having enough gold. My parent’s financial situation, my aversion to gold and the compulsion to wear jewelery for my wedding led me to make some real fine pieces of precious stone jewelery in silver…ridiculous as it may seem but my family calls them artificial. Time and again I have tried making them see the economic and aesthetic perspective of my choice, but I failed..god save me……:).

A good friend of mine believes – heavier the bride’s wedding neck wear (mangal suthra /thaali), the better it is for her married life…(in a way yes!! she wont be tortured or insulted in her in-law’s home)….Are such thoughts nothing but justifications for the dowry system. I am not sure. My question – what about those families who cannot afford heavy jewelery?

I have been researching on the green perspective on gold mining. the post is turning out to be quite horrific…and its coming soon….

Save oil – keep your cost of living low

For all those skeptics who think going green is nothing more than a buzzword and a Fad and also say that you alone cant change the world….think again….

Here is one more reason to quit relying on disposable water bottles (also to work on the addiction to plastic grocery bags)..To keep your fuel costs low! Do you think you need a reason better than that?

Image source: eesiflo.com

World economy relies on fossil fuels. Unnecessary diversion of non renewable, expensive and scare fuel to unsustainable industries (read plastic bags and bottled water industry among other list of things) doesn’t make any sense. Instead of complaining about ever increasing cost of living, we could conserve and stretch our resources and keep cost of food, fuel and everything in general, low.

It is simple, our dependence on shipping and transportation is directly impacted by fuel costs and so is the entire pricing economics around the world. We can start by making minor changes, using our own cloth or jute shopping bags and avoiding use of disposable water bottles/beverage bottles for starters. Let those grey cells buzz…..I would like to quote a research I found on a website: farmfeliz.org

Food for thought….

  • In California, 18 million gallons of bottled water was shipped from Fiji in 2006, producing about 2,500 tons of global warming pollution. Most bottled water comes in recyclable PET plastic bottles, but only about 13 percent of the bottles we use get recycled. (CA figures). In 2005, 2 million tons of plastic water bottles ended up in landfills instead of getting recycled. Source: National resources defense council:
     
  • PET plastic bottles take up to 1,000 years to decompose and contribute to the vast vortex of plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean, which is harming wildlife.It takes 3 liters of water to produce 1 liter of bottled water. Source: Sierra Club
     
  • Plastic (PET) bottles generate more than 100 times more toxic emissions than an equivalent amount of glass. Source: Berkeley Ecology Center
     
  • The total amount of energy embedded in the use of bottled water is the equivalent of filling a plastic bottle one quarter full of oil.Source: Pacific Institute
     
  • The GGPNC sponsored “King Oak Gardens project” utilized, during its Big Sunday event, filtered water at an estimated savings of 900 bottles x .40 cents = $360. As a result of this success, according to Sherri of the Big Sunday organization, they are studying the feasibility of using filtered tap water instead of bottled water at 2010 events. Source: GGPNC green committee
     
  • According to Ramona of FOLAR, it is her experience that they do not find a lot of plastic bottles during their clean up events because she believes they are collected along the river during the year for their redemption value.
     
  • In 2004, nationally, 85 percent of all non-carbonated PET bottles ended up in landfills, or as litter in parks, roadways or rivers. In 2005, 28 billion per year or 66 million water bottles were purchased every day in the U.S. The market is growing. Source: Container Recycling Institute.
     
  • ”….U.S. demand for bottled water requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel some 100,000 U.S. crs for a year,” Source: One World.net
     
  • In 2008, 200 billion gallons of tap water supplied to 4 million residents of Los Angeles met or surpassed all health-based drinking water standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of California’s Department of Public Health Source: LAWDP 2008 water quality report
    There is lot more to do and miles to go on the green front…my request is to spare atleast a minute a day to ponder on the choices you made through the day. With a little efforts, things can improve for the better….Live well and let live!
     
    Take care

SUD-CONOMICS!!….Intro

Can one describe how it is to be challenged?…Either emotionally, mentally or physically?…I am not sure. It is a dreadful state!…Time and again, I have seen myself swinging between having a tiny ounce of confidence and loads of lack of it! …leaving my deep rooted thoughts at that!

Each one has a specific definition for success and failure. Parameters differ and so do perspectives of those parameters. Human quest for finding some meaning for each breathe inhaled /exhaled has been eternal. I am not the only one doing it; nor am I the only one trying to convince myself of sanity in such a quest.

Success to me is not failing as a human. This may sound too melodramatic, but yes; Thats the way it is. If I am able to go to bed at peace with myself, having done at least one thing right for the day means a lot. Moving onto somethings more important in life!

I would describe myself as an aggressive Earth friendly individual. I am an ardent and a staunch believer in the fact that we have borrowed this planet from our future generations. Every act of ours, both right and wrong has a major impact on our future and the future of our children. Hoard to accumulate “wealth”, is taking us nowhere. There seems to be no limit on our targets (to save money, accumulate property, invest in savings?)….I get to hear mind boggling numbers from a cross section of people. Each one’s economic background, access to means for wealth accumulation, exposure to ways and means to spend those earning, and the list goes on.

I always think about Maslow’s hierarchy when I think about the Mad rush this world is into to hoard up “stuff” for the future. (I recommend – reference to :WIKIPEDIA ; love wiki for this! :D).. more insight into why i say that!

It is not possible for the current generation to stop and think about Economics when it is seemingly a time to “save for our children”. Though not new, I would like to present an interesting angle to this fundamental belief of our human race.

Every body would have heard about terms such as ” cost of living”, interest rates, returns on investment etc. But if we actually understood them as they apply to regular life…is a question better left unanswered. I intend to write more on sudconomics soon!