By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Like so many environmentally aware, or environmentally “sensitive” people, I am an inveterate label reader. I know the sugar and fiber content of an array of packaged foods, from Frosted Mini-Wheats (the high fiber somewhat redeems the sugar) to Haagen Daz (some of the best-tasting sat fat around).

As with any addiction, there’s been some collateral damage to family relationships. Only the brave and highly motivated will go grocery shopping with me. And there’s been bleed over. Having read most of the labels, I’m seeking new highs and find myself compulsively evaluating the packaging (this goes way beyond squeezing the Charmin).

This week I was distressed to find that inside my large box of crackers (from Costco) were six more boxes of crackers, each containing the different variety promised on the main container box. I don’t know what I thought would be in there. Not a jumble of crackers. But it sure seemed like some sort of paper band could have held all these boxes together, instead of a complete outer box.

I was put out to find that someone (not me) had bought a plastic container of vegetables, ready to be steamed right in that excessive, plasticky container. Grrrrr.

On the upside, I discovered that Lean Cuisine comes in PETE plastic. This #1 plastic is recyclable — though even the Lean Cuisine website admits the market for recycled plastics is weak right now. But on the health front,  this probably means that you don’t have to pop the frozen blob out of the container before heating it because #1 plastic has not been implicated as a plastic that leaches BPA, a harmful plastic additive (see our latest story on plastics ).

Of course, since I’ve been popping the frozen blobs out of frozen food containers (we’ll save the discussion on the nutritive value of these meals for another day), I’ve begun to wonder why we even need the microwaveable trays. Since the food is frozen solid, do we need a tray and a box? Wouldn’t one or the other do? A little better tray, and less box, or more box, less tray? Even people eating at the office could scrounge up a paper plate to compensate.

As I’ve said before, it won’t end global warming. But it could be one small step.

At least in some offices, and schools and other places where we congregate to eat Lean Cuisine, people are  recycling these containers. I know of one teacher who collects them from the staff for recycling. Of course, it takes a little extra effort. Did I mention that he also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro over the holidays?

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