Letters to editor
Sound Consumer | October 2007

Letters must be kept to 250 words or less and include a name, address and daytime phone number for verification or they cannot be published. We reserve the right to edit for space, clarity and accuracy. Please e-mail letters to


Farm Bill

The opportunity to have the article “The 2007 Farm Bill: What we need and why” published in your paper made my year. You helped me get the ideas across much better than normal, and we’ve used it to help explain things. Thank you so much for your support. We sure need more co-ops like yours throughout our society. Thanks again.
— George Naylor President, National Family Farm Coalition

Editor: We’re honored that someone of George Naylor’s stature wrote a cover story for the Sound Consumer in April. The points he argued for the Farm Bill were cited by an article in The Nation magazine: that Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Tom Harkin should embrace Naylor’s proposals and that they “will benefit family farmers by giving them a fair price for what they produce instead of continuing with ineffective subsidies that have failed rural America.” Naylor advocates replacing subsidies with a price “floor” and reinstating strategic grain reserves to stabilize crop prices.


Toxic pesticides on apples

I read in The Seattle Times about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency re-authorizing continued spraying of chlorpyrifos (sold by the trade name Dursban) on apple trees to kill pests. It breaks my heart to see this because it’s toxic not only for consumers but also very hard on the sprayers and farm workers who have to endure the direct exposure.

My family loves apples and has been a great consumer of Washington apples. Allowing farmers to use such a virulent and carcinogenic pesticide disturbs me enough to now consider avoiding non-organic Washington apples. Our friends who also have children will become aware of chlorpyrifos used on apples and also will consider not purchasing non-organic Washington apples.

Apple farmers must be more creative in taking aggressive and alternative steps in finding less toxic chemicalsor processes for pesticide and fungus control. I hope you’ll circulate my concern to Washington farmers because I believe my voice represents the concern of many in my community.

I know PCC is very conscious about the products it purchases for its customers. That’s why I’m a long-time shopper at PCC.
— Edward Melillo, Seattle

Editor: We couldn’t agree more. Keep in mind that Dursban (the trade name for the chemical chlorpyrifos) was banned from domestic home use in 2000 after the EPA announced it was shown to cause brain damage in test animals. It’s disturbing that it’s still allowed for application on food crops, including apples.

Many pesticides banned in the 1970s still are showing up in foods consumed today because pesticides can persist in the soil for years. PCC’s organic apple farmers do not use any synthetic chemicals, such as Dursban. FYI, PCC just sent a letter to the USDA during a public comment period about the re-registration of various pesticides that are especially harmful to farm workers.


No more plastic shopping bags

I would like to thank you for your decision to discontinue use of plastic grocery bags. This is truly a significant and important step towards environmental responsibility.

On my walks to work or through my neighborhood, I see indicators every day — the tip of the iceberg, really — of the damaging impact of discarded plastic bags. Not a day goes by without my seeing at least one bag floating on the breeze to end up blocking a storm drain or, worse, making its way to a body of water where it either eventually will entangle or lodge itself in the digestive tract of wildlife and cause wildlife kills.

Surely we humans can forego the convenience of a point-of-sale plastic bag and find better alternatives [bringing our own canvas bags] to avoid the sinister impact of plastic bags on the environment.

I am, of course, preaching to the choir here. One of my PCC canvas bags is from the early ‘80s when I first joined; it is still being used. You [we], PCC, have been promoting reduction of plastic bag usage for at least 25 years. Thank you for this recent stand and for the positive influence you have had and will continue to have on so many of us.
— Edna J. Glenn

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This is a brave move and I’m really proud of you for having the guts to do it. We will be shopping at your stores more often now. The paper versus plastic debate is silly; plastic just doesn’t break down, ever. It’s a small step but a brave one that sets precedent. Thank you very much.
—Nic Johnson

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I commend PCC for the decision to discontinue offering plastic grocery bags. We recently traveled through Italy and everywhere we saw locals using paper, cloth or woven baskets to bring their goods home. If a shopper wanted plastic, they paid extra for those bags. The message was clear.

We’ve been shopping like this for years. I’d like to see consumers throughout the U.S. start toting their groceries in the same way – in sustainable bags or baskets. This move by PCC will help get things going in that direction. Keep up the great work and thank you for your independent thinking!

Again, thank you PCC for taking the high road. These “little things” add up, can cause people to think in new ways, and can change habits of behavior — and that is the key.
— Susan Marten

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It makes me proud to be a part of PCC to know you have made a tough decision to do what’s right for the environment, even though it means some customers might find it inconvenient at first. Banning plastic grocery bags is the right thing to do and I suspect we’ll look back on this in a few years and note that PCC was “ahead of the curve” on this issue. Your commitment to our eco-system and health over what’s convenient is highly laudable. Congratulations!
— Sarah Westervelt

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Congratulations on your decision to move away from plastic bags. I appreciate that PCC is making a difficult, perhaps unpopular and/or costly choice in the name of doing the right thing. Your choice to do away with plastic bags has helped renew my commitment to bringing my reusable cloth bags with me in the future.
— Melanie Trowbridge

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If you’re keeping score, mark me in the “I admire PCC for taking a stand on the plastic versus paper bag issue.” Roanoke is 20 to 25 years behind Seattle in consumer awareness. Heck, we’re still talking about the Nixon impeachment and that movie “Dirty Dancing,” starring Patrick Swayze, that was filmed near here.
Your bold action has inspired me to take a closer look at this issue.
— Bruce Phlegar, General Manager, Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op

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Hurray! Wonderful! I think PCC is doing the right thing and I applaud your courage. Being a 20-plus-year member, who brings her own bags to the grocery store, I think it’s great. I love PCC because it is more than just a grocery store. As a co-op, I expect it to be member-driven, not market driven.

The reason I hate plastic bags is that they’re not only icky for the environment, but groceries packed inside them end up rolling all over my trunk by the time I get home. They’re useless for holding groceries. Can’t wait to get back to the store and buy one of those spiffy canvas bags with the leaf logo. I love using my PCC bags everywhere I shop. I’ve even had checkers from other grocery stores tell me that they love shopping at PCC.
— Mary Ingersoll, Burien

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I just wanted to say thanks for leading the way in removing plastic bags from your stores. I’m wondering if you will offer cloth bags that you can put a deposit on, or any other option besides paper. Of course we’ll try to encourage folks to bring their own bags. You guys rock,
— Marc Fendel, Seattle Drum School, Georgetown

Editor: We wish we could have a bin of bags for reuse (and charge a deposit, if I understand you correctly) but public health rules prohibit reuse of grocery bags.

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I’m almost surprised to find myself writing this letter weighing in against the idea of charging for bags, given that I am an avid environmentalist and just about always bring my own bags when I shop. The problem is that charging at the store level poses quite a dilemma. If we do this at PCC while surrounding stores do not charge, it effectively raises the price of shopping at PCC for most shoppers — and let’s face it, natural and organic products already cost noticeably more than standard groceries. This likely will drive customers elsewhere.

Advocating for a city or countywide measure that requires all stores to charge for bags, perhaps through the auspices of the public waste utilities, could bring about a larger change without shunting shoppers away from PCC.
— Deborah Epstein

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Great news about our co-op abandoning plastic shopping bags! I’m so pleased cashiers will no longer have to ask “Paper or plastic?” But I’m disappointed we couldn’t go all the way by charging a Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB) fee for shoppers who need paper shopping bags. I agree with the many young co-opers who have voiced the need for an additional charge when provided with paper bags.
— Greg Hunicutt

Editor: To answer Deborah and Greg, it sure would be simpler if a citywide policy leveled the field for all retailers, or at least grocery stores. You may know that Seattle’s city council has committed to studying the plastic bag issue in 2008, but it’s not clear what the council might go for — a plastic bag ban and/or charging for any new bag. We have a date with one councilman to discuss a citywide policy. My state rep indicates she, too, might float a proposal for a statewide policy of some sort. In the meantime, we’re working on an educational campaign and an incentive program for BYOB.


Bulk frozen produce?

Although I’ve always been pleased by the bulk food section at your stores, I do not understand why you don’t offer organic frozen vegetables, organic frozen fruit, and organic cheeses in “bulk” sizes. Many shoppers who are committed to buying organically — but struggle to do so because of cost — would appreciate these products being offered in larger sizes. I went on a trip around the Midwest and found numerous co-ops that offered these products in warehouse sizing.
— Mike Magnan Elliott, Langley, WA

PCC Grocery Merchandiser Stephanie Steiner replies: The only large-size/bulk product available is from China (Woodstock), but we’ll look for products that fit this need. Meanwhile, we have Remlinger in bulk size, but it’s not organic.

More about: farm bill, pesticides, shopping bags, toxins

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