Every Little Bit Counts

I  am often searching for a cause. I’m driven in part by my desire to give back, sometimes by thinking I can make a difference, and occasionally simply to prove to myself that I still have value beyond what I do at home. Causes have taken many forms over the years including supporting and volunteering for charities, helping local small businesses,  being an adjunct professor (certainly not a financial imperative), and helping friends and family where I can. My latest cause falls into the category of Sisyphean tasks that I, reluctantly, take on to remind myself (and the world) that we can all be better and smarter. On my hit list are companies that produce a product, that I as a caregiver depend on, where there is a lot of waste.

For example, I serve J a lot of yogurt, specifically, Chobani non-fat Greek yogurt (with fruit on the bottom) mixed with some granola — her go-to breakfast. We can go through about 20 cups of yogurt a month and at $1.10 to $1.80/cup, the cost adds up. What I noticed after opening and serving hundreds of these cups over the past two years is that I can’t get all of the yogurt out of the container. There are two ridges, one near the bottom and one at the top that thwart any attempt to clean the inside out with a spoon. I’ve tried a small rubber spatula but it just shouldn’t take that much effort. I’ve measured what remains in the cup over the past fifty cups or so and it averages 10 grams or about 7% of the contents. At an average $1.40/cup, the waste equals about $0.10/cup.

Chobani Cup Measurement

This might not seem like much, but if you extrapolate it out for a full year. it adds up. An easier way to grasp the magnitude of the issue is to consider the impact to Chobani’s bottom line if they could reduce the amount of yogurt in each package by 7% and still charge the same amount per cup! Anyway, I’ve made my concern know to Chobani thru their Facebook page and they responded with “Thanks for the feedback – we’ll pass it along, and send you some coupons.” Note: They quickly sent $2 worth of coupons — hmmm.

Now you might be asking what does any of this have to do with being a caregiver. The answer of course is money, with a bit of my passion for efficiency thrown in. We’re living on J’s long term disability insurance, much reduced from our pre-stroke earnings, and while I don’t want to cut us off from things we love for the sake of savings a few cents, I would like to maximize the value we get from our purchases. When you analyze what is the true cost of many of the products we use, these “few cents” really add up.

Next on my list is Mott’s Applesauce — we go through a lot of applesauce each month since I have to crush J’s pills. I buy the 48 oz. container which suffers from the same problem as the Chobani cup — too many ridges make getting every last drop out impossible. My measurements show that nearly 10% of the contents is left in the container. Interestingly, with some containers, you can usually just stand it upside down to get reluctant contents out, like with ketchup bottles, but for some unknown reason, the Mott’s cap is not one piece, so the liquid leaks out. I consider looking for other solutions to this problem to be too much effort — after all, a simple packaging change would solve the problem. Companies need to think first about product usage and waste, and than consider marketing gimmicks and packaging efficiencies within that context. I’ve posted my concern on their Facebook page but haven’t yet received a response.

Some of the other products I have problems with include Tranquility Premium Overnight Disposable Absorbent Underwear, Bonne Maman Preserves, Mini Babybel Cheese — the list keeps growing. Each of these products have different deficiencies. The underwear’s problem is that, in J’s size, they come in packages of 18 — not a number that makes any sense to me. Sure, I can (and do) order them by the case which just means I get multiple packages and waste more plastic. The preserves jar suffers from the same problem as the yogurt and applesauce — too many ridges. And the Mini Babybels …. well, what can I say … I haven’t done the measurements yet but I wonder how much the pretty wax wrapper weighs compared to the 20 grams of cheese. I know these cheeses are cute but I’d like a larger portion option.

Waste is a huge problem for the world, especially so in our consumer-oriented society. Companies are becoming increasingly aware of product and packaging waste issues, but it’s often in the context of lowering manufacturing or shipping costs, and not about how to make their customers happier. If we all become more sensitive to these issues and let the manufactures know our concerns, maybe we can make a difference. Do you have any products that you find are wasteful?

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