Over the past months, I have been extremely pleased to see sustainability-related topics being addressed in the local free press of Central Switzerland. This was not the case when OUTSIDE THE BOX opened its doors, so there has been clear progress and it can only be commended.
This week Zuger Woche looked into the latest work of Konsumentenschutz, the Swiss, independent association looking into and after the consumers' rights, reviewed the packaging of fruits and vegetables sold in Swiss supermarkets.
Randomly picking 10 shops from the bigger brands (Migros, Lidl, Coop, Denner and Aldi) in Bern and Basel, the Konsumentenschutz looked if vegetables and fruits were available in bulk or if they were packaged in plastic.
54% of the overall picked products were packed, not so bad, you would think. The results for biologically/organicly-produced items are however absurd: 84% of the items were wrapped in plastic, with a special shaming finger on Migros, Lidl and Denner where all organic products were wrapped.
As we shop indeed in the Lidl next door, which has a good umbrella of locally-produced items, it has been indeed a point of discussion: either you get the unwrapped cucumber which is not organib (but at least local), or you get the organic version covered with plastic. I had been in favour of the former option, which support the "less plastic" cause while generating less/no waste. I was wondering however if there was any reason whatsoever which would justify this extra packaging, and it's been an interesting hunt for information. The only information I could find here is dated 2014 and explains that this extra packaging is needed to protect organic food against chemicals and conservatives that are used and sprayed on food items to protect them against pests (A great other reminder to always, systematically wash your food before cooking!).
To me this is obviously counterproductive, especially in a country where we are lucky to benefit from a lot of locally-farmed goods (this was clearly not the case when we were living in Dubai, and the geographical scope of what we would define as "local" was surely different). This is even more absurd that many organic products we can find in supermarkets (look into exotic fruits and grains as example) are imported from all over the world by plane or ship, adding to this extra packaging a layer of transportation-related CO2 emissions.
So, what to pick then between pest and cholera?
Well, as I said earlier, I would rather pick unpacked, locally-produced than wrapped, imported food. I am priviledged in Switzerland to have this opportunity with no specific extra costs, and it makes me feel better especially if I know I can support local businesses with a lower CO2 footprint in my hands from transportation and unnecessary packaging (if only for instance food labels were including also the item's CO2 footprint along with its caloric values!).