Kombucha Update

** 12/31/08 Update: I've been craving Kombucha all week, and this morning I stopped by my local Whole Foods for a fix. I passed through their dairy aisle because I was curious about their selection of unpasteurized milk, and noticed that the glass milk bottles (all from California farms) do specify that the bottles should be returned so they can be washed and refilled. I spoke to a Whole Foods employee to ask if they actually do take back bottles at the store, and not only do they take back their milk bottles, apparently all of their vendors take back their respective bottles whenever they make deliveries!

I was unable to reach anyone at GT's Kombucha by phone so far this morning, but this gives me hope that when they take back their bottles from Whole Foods, they are washed and reused. If this is indeed the case, I would strongly advocate returning your Kombucha bottles to Whole Foods instead of taking them to a recycling center or tossing them in the recycle bin for curbside pickup. In fact, if you buy any beverage from Whole Foods, please return the empty container there. Not only will you get your 5-cent deposit back, but you will give the bottles a chance to be reused instead of recycled.

I also called my local Ralph's and Pavilions/Vons grocery stores to inquire about their CRV policies. Pavilions does not take back any containers - they must be taken to a recycling center to retrieve your deposit. Ralph's takes back only select glass milk bottles. If you are concerned about maximizing the life cycle of beverage containers, Whole Foods seems like the place to shop.

My most frequent grocery stop has long been Trader Joe's - it's affordable, small and neighborly, and for delicious, convenient prepared foods they can't be beat. However, despite their in-your-face encouragement to bring your own shopping bags, it's a packaging nightmare there.

There is a limited amount of produce that isn't wrapped, bagged, or boxed in plastic, and they offer no bulk dry goods. I used to live one block from the original Trader Joe's store in South Pasadena, and would walk there almost daily. I still hold a soft spot in my heart for good ol' TJ's, but as I think harder about the environmental impacts of my lifestyle, I have been leaning more toward shopping at Whole Foods.

I've read criticisms of Whole Foods that accuse the retailer of misrepresenting, through signs in the store, the proportion of their produce that is grown locally. In my opinion, however, Whole Foods has advantages over more conventional grocers. Yes, many things are quite pricey at Whole Foods, but they carry a wide selection of bulk dry goods, and also offer things that are difficult to find elsewhere (like raw milk, Kombucha, and natural personal care and beauty products). After learning today that beverage bottles all go back to their sources, I have yet another reason to favor shopping at Whole Foods!

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