Friday, December 26, 2008

Et Tu, Klean Kanteen?

Hi there! I hope everyone had a nice Christmas/Hanukkah/Thursday. My family and I had a wonderful day together, opening presents, eating too much food, watching Wall-E, and playing Monopoly.

Good times! But that's not actually what I want to write about today. Instead today, I'm going to talk a little about plastic. Or more specifically, the plastic found in the caps of Klean Kanteens.

So, as most of you know, my Klean Kanteen was stolen with the rest of my contents of my messenger bag. Which meant that last Friday, when Beth of Fake Plastic Fish and I went to Rainbow Grocery, I decided to replace it.

And that's how Beth and I found ourselve staring at a bunch of water bottles for about 15 minutes discussing the relative merits of one water bottle that had a stainless steel cap but came packaged in plastic versus another water bottle that had a plastic cap but was unpackaged.

Now, first of all, I want to clear something up. Beth says on her blog that I said that shopping with her is stressful. Now it is true that I did say that. But what I also said was, "This is why I don't shop!" It's not just Beth, it's shopping in general. Because frankly, being a non-consumer is much less stressful and guilt-inducing than staring at water bottles for fifteen minutes. I came extremely close to saying, "Screw it, I'm just going to use a glass jar." Except that, I'm sorry, I know Mr. No Impact Man uses a glass jar, but I just dont. want. to. I did the whole glass jar thing for a bit during my non-consumeristic days, and it made me feel a little like a bag lady. Also because I'm clumsy and always dropping stuff and glass, you know, breaks.

The point is, I needed a new water bottle, and the lack of a perfect option caused me to be paralyzed by indecision for fifteen minutes.

So. First off, Beth and I would like to encourage all y'all to write Klean Kanteen and ask them to not make the plastic caps their default cap. (Also it would help if Klean Kanteen didn't package the stainless steel caps in plastic, but one thing at a time.) Here's the email I wrote to Klean Kanteen:

I wanted to write to you as a loyal Klean Kanteen customer because while I
love your product, I do have a concern about your water bottles. Specifically,
that the water bottles now come with a plastic cap as the default cap. One of
the reasons that I switched to Klean Kanteen was to get away from plastic, so I
was disappointed when I learned that now Klean Kanteens all come with plastic
caps, and that if you want a stainless steel cap, you still have to purchase the
Klean Kanteen with a plastic cap and then purchase a separate stainless steel
cap. I would really love it if instead you offered two different options so that
people could choose to pay a little more for a Klean Kanteen with zero plastic,
if that's what they wanted.

Thanks for your time, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Okay, so that's my letter to Klean Kanteen, and if you want to email them, you can reach them at Klean Kanteen, 4345 Hedstrom Way, Chico, California 95973 or email them at

But beyond that, there is something else I want to talk about, which is, this. There are very rarely going to be perfect choices. When Beth and I were at Rainbow Grocery, we found cocoa powder in bulk, and fair trade packaged cocoa powder. But we never found bulk fair trade cocoa powder. Similarly, my bulk food store in London sells bulk organic sugar. But it doesn't sell bulk fair trade organic sugar, so instead, I buy packaged fair trade organic sugar.

The point is, we have to make choices sometimes. And as frustrating as it is to have to choose between fair trade sugar in plastic versus plastic-free unfairly traded sugar, unfortunately that is life. So what I'm trying to say here, is, if you find yourself staring at sugar for twenty minutes, and you think you're going insane, well, you're not alone. I've been there. We've all been there. And in the end, you just need to take a deep breath, and make a choice. And then, yes, maybe talk to the grocery store manager about why they don't have fair trade sugar in bulk, or write Klean Kanteen a letter, or what have you, but, at some point you then need to let go and accept that you made the best choice you could make given the circumstances. Don't go home and beat yourself up over sugar. Or Klean Kanteens. Or cocoa powder. Because life is too short, and beating yourself up and feeling guilty doesn't do any good anyway.

Also, next time Beth and I hang out, we are definitely going to karaoke. But not because shopping with Beth is stressful so much as karaoke is just awesome.


Green Bean said...

I so know what you mean about making difficult purchasing choices. I often find myself thinking which is better - fair trade this wrapped in plastic or bulk this. I think the right answer is different for all of us. I usually go for the fair trade but I bet Beth usually goes for the plastic-free. Now, I need to get off of my booty and make more of an effort to talk to customer service departments about stocking my dream products.

just Gai said...

Hear hear. Well said. We can only ever do our best in any given situation and campaign for a day when such decisions are no longer an issue. Doing something however small is always better than doing nothing at all.

Silver Pen said...

I find myself in your same situation (with differnt products) when I shop. I also deal with the delema of where so shop. Do I drive to the co-op with the organic, plastic free, sustanable earth frendly products ten miles away? Or do I shop local and walk? You are right, sometimes you just have to make a decision and then stop beating yourself up about it. Thanks for writing.

Anonymous said...

Here we are taking 20 minutes to decide which sugar or cocoa or Klean Kanteen to buy while others pick whichever has the most enticing label and toss it in the cart. If each person would take just a second to consider any of the ramifications of their choices, the world would be better off.

Okay, question: what's your favorite karaoke song to sing?

Farmer's Daughter said...

I couldn't use glass either, as evidenced by the dents in my Siggs and Klean Kanteen.

Crunchy Chicken said...

I want to go to karaoke with you guys!

ruchi said...

GB, I go for the fair trade in plastic too, but I agree that the right answer is different for all of us.

Just Gai, exactly. Let's hope the day that these decisions aren't an issue comes sooner rather than later!

Betty Black, ugh! I know, it's so confusing!!

Beth, I think my favorite karaoke song to sing would have to be Like a Prayer. :)

Abbie, yeah, if I had a nickel for every time my water bottle fell out of my bag ... well I'd have a lot of nickels.

Crunchy, hey next time we're all in a hundred mile radius it's a date!!!

Chile said...

It is very hard to make "perfect" choices because there rarely are such. Good job on writing the company, though, to encourage them to provide a better choice. If they refuse to sell the non-plastic caps as an initial choice, will they at least let you ship them the plastic one when you replace it? (ala Brita)

ruchi said...

Oooh, Chile, that's a great idea! Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

It's all that knowledge. We're just like computers with too much crap installed.

I'm intensely grateful to the folks at our coop who look at everyone's suggestions (More vegan prepared food! Less plastic! More local food! Cheaper food! More wool! More animal-free winter hats!) and go out and find lots of nearly-perfect options for everyone. I think I can never move away because I'll have to do all that research myself and I'll just starve due to decision paralysis.

Anonymous said...

Ruchi -- remind me to send you the video of me singing "Like a Virgin" to Michael at our wedding reception.


amy.leblanc said...

thx - yes, it's nice to know i'm not alone in being this neurotic about buying things.

amy.leblanc said...

also, i think we should all take a minute - particularly while in the middle of such an event - to recognize how PRIVILEGED we are to even have the opportunity to stress out about these kinds of choices.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ruchi, I've been reading your blog for a while. I really enjoy it! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

I live in London too and would love to know where your bulk store is. The only bulk store I've found here is near Marylebone. I live near Holborn, so it is a bit far to go on a regular basis. Thanks!

ruchi said...

Rosa, I know, sometimes it's just nice to have someone make the decisions for you!!

Beth, I TOTALLY want to see that video! Send it to me!!

Amy, you are absolutely right. It is a privilege to be able to make these choices.

Marisa, I go to a place in Islington called Unpackaged- But I don't know that it's any closer to Holborn than Marylebone... it's a little less than two miles away from Holborn High Street.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Ruchi. The location is actually very convenient, as I live just off of Grays Inn Road. In fact, now I remember I walked past it a few weeks ago, on my way back from the Islington farmers market on a Sunday. I noticed the store but it was closed. I was leaving for holidays the following week so didn't have the chance to go, but I'll definitely go this Saturday.
By the way, I'm also a postgraduate student :)
Thanks again

Kale for Sale said...

How did you know I stood in front of the sugar for ten minutes recently? Thinking I was going crazy! Just make a decision, I kept repeating. I ended up with non organic, non fair trade sugar in a box. I couldn't buy the plastic and it could have just as easily gone the other way though and I'd be writing I couldn't buy the non-fair trade. Thanks for writing about this. I'll laugh the next time I find myself see sawing for the best solution.