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Seeds of Change New Plastic Seed Packages

san marzano tomatoKermit knew what he was talking about when he said that it's not easy being green. Sometimes the most environmentally friendly choice isn't always obvious. Everyday when I get a cup of coffee at my 9-5 job I'm reminded of this. We have Styrofoam cups at the office and you'd think that would be the worst environmental choice for a coffee cup that you could make, right? Well not always.

Making a Styrofoam cup consumes less resources than when you make a paper cup. And what about bringing in a ceramic mug and washing it everyday. Well according to this study, it would take about 1000 uses of a ceramic cup before it becomes more environmentally friendly than Styrofoam cups when you factor in the hot water used to wash it. And then there's all the variables that these types of studies don't take into account. What if I rinse out the ceramic mug and have a second cup of coffee without washing it. What if I rinse out the Styrofoam cup and do the same. How about if I make a few cups of coffee and put them in a thermos at my desk and then pour them into a ceramic mug with a picture of my kids on it. What if the picture of my kids was taken at a nuclear power plant. And why am I drinking so much coffee anyway?

These are the kinds of questions that people are asking about Seeds of Change new plastic seed packages. I've included a snapshot from their newsletter where they announce the reasons why they're switching to the new seed packages (click to enlarge). They're obviously a very green company and I'm sure they've done lots of research into what the best solution for them.

Seeds of Change Seed Packages

The paper or plastic question isn't as cut and dry as you'd think anymore. My advice is to weigh your options and do what's best for you as well as what's best for the environment. And if I wind up making some of the wrong choices, well I'll make up for it by composting.


  1. justin said...
    why are you using hot water to wash out the mug? it's your mug; deal with the fact that you have germs that not-boiling water would have killed.
    and besides: the heat required to actually kill the germs is higher than you'd normally spray on your hands.
    now, if you're just going to remove the grime from your mouth, a nice clean sponge/rag would do much better than hot water.
    Anthony said...
    Hi Justin,
    As far as I know, you need to wash dishes with hot water. But if I'm rinsing out a coffee cup because I'm having another cup then sure, just a quick blast of water is fine.

    Personally, I feel that even if they're my own germs, they should still be washed away at least once a day.

    But I like you're idea of keeping my mouth clean instead of my cup. If my mouth was clean then I'd just drink my coffee straight from the pot. I'm sure my co-workers wouldn't mind. :)
    Dee/reddirtramblings said...
    That was a really good post about how confusing all of this green stuff and carbon footprint stuff is. It makes my head hurt. I just compost, recycle what I can and do the best I can. I thought it was amazing that Seeds of Change was making this change. However, I will reuse the envelopes to place friends' sharing seeds in them. Love your blog.~~Dee
    jodi said...
    It makes my head too, all this green-washing hype--and the green-brownshirts who want to nag, legislate, haggle, harass and otherwise get after all of us about every little thing! Pity they wouldn't turn their attention on those in power or in business where the real problems lay, instead of on ordinary people. This is a great post, and I'm so glad you brought this topic up.
    Patrick said...
    I think the last thing you said here is probably the most important. The world isn't going to be saved by what packages our seeds come in. If there is some reason you prefer plastic packaging there's not a lot wrong with that.

    I think SoC's claim that they are making an environmental decision is bordering on disgusting. In the real world plastic is almost never recycled, regardless if it's possible. It's just one more extension of our consume and throw away world that they are switching to non-biodegradable packaging. Whatever the reasons behind their decision they were commercial not environmental, and following up with lots of PR doesn't change that.

    I almost never grow anything except heirloom varieties, I save my own seeds and what SoC sells is not useful to me. Yes, they sell lots of heirloom varieties and there is no shortage of stories about how much they support seed saving and biodiversity, but they also sell F1 hybrid varieties. Like nearly all other companies that sell F1 varieties they have agreements with their suppliers not to clearly distinguish clearly between OP/heirloom varieties and F1s. This means I can't buy anything from them because I don't know what I'm buying.

    Yes, I can send them an email and ask, but mistakes are too easily made this way and I happen to know someone who wasted two years trying to grow something like this from SoC. Two years, because this is how long it takes before you find out if you are growing an F1 thinking it's an OP/heirloom and trying to save seeds from it. My time is too important to deal with a seed company that won't clearly label what kind of seeds they sell, in a transparent and public way.

    The difference between F1 and OP/heirloom is far too important for a seed company to just 'forget' to label them. If they are not clearly labelled, the intention is to cause confusion, and it's not worth paying attention to or buying any seeds from them.

    The other reason I never buy anything from SoC is because I live in Europe and they only sell to the US and Canada. Why? This too can only be related to them selling F1 seeds, having commercial interests, contracts and protecting markets. There are no import restrictions here to speak of, and no extra paperwork except a customs declaration sticker on the back of the envelop where they write 'seeds' and state a value. Virtually all other US seed companies will send an order to me here as long as I pay the extra postage.

    I understand a lot of people like SoC, but I personally find them a very uninteresting company at best.
    Patrick said...
    A follow up to my last comment. I see SoC now has a special 'Gardeners' catalog, where they clearly state it only contains OP varieties suitable for seed saving. As far as I'm aware, 2008 is the first year they've offered this, but maybe someone who's been a customer for a while knows better than me.

    This is a good start, but I still think there are other more interesting seed companies around.
    Sarahliz said...
    Speaking of paper v. plastic and composting, do you have any notion of what kind of ink is typically used on paper grocery bags? I don't get a daily newspaper (though I have a friend saving some for me for gardening purposes) but do have a stack of Trader Joe's and Whole Foods paper bags sitting around. I'd like to compost them and use them and use them as weedblocking mulch under topsoil in some of the new beds i'm constructing but I'm nervous about the color printing on them.
    Anthony said...
    Hi Dee,
    Yes, sometimes green give me a headache too. And don't get me started on those carbon offsets to reduce your carbon footprint. What a joke! :)

    Thanks Jodi,
    Sounds like you have enough of an opinion to write your own post on this topic. I look forward to it.

    Hi Patrick,
    It's not like I work for Seeds of Change or anything so if you have more interesting seeds companies that I should check out, please let me know.

    I'm only recently discovered your blog so point me to a post in your archives if you're already covered it. Thanks.

    Thanks for visiting. I'm not sure about the paper bags but I do know that Trader Joe's prints their circulars on recycled paper with vegetable oil based ink. I would guess that the bags are done the same way.

    I've never been to Whole Foods so maybe call or email them and see if you can get an answer. Good luck.
    Patrick said...
    Hi Anthony,

    I recently found your blog too, on veggegardeninfo.

    I don't know if you're interested in seed saving. If not, you may prefer different kinds of seed companies than me. Here's a post I made on buying seeds suitable for saving:


    On the front page of my blog are also links to some seed companies and organizations I like.
    Sue Swift said...
    There is obviously plastic and plastic and the recyclable kind (despite Patrick's comments, here we have to recycle, by law, and get fined if we don't)is clearly in a different league to the non-degradable. but even recycling costs energy - transportation to the plant, the recycling process itself etc etc. So it's not always a green option. What attracts me to the SoC decision is that the packets can be reused - not simply for left over seeds but then for your own collected seeds later. Reusing is a far greener option than recycling, whatever the material.
    lisa said...
    I dunno...I kinda like the idea of sticking with paper seed packets. That way, if people DON'T recycle or reuse them, they will at least break down faster. But if it takes more energy to make the plastic, and more again to recycle it, then isn't it more "green" to just throw stuff away in the end? *sigh*...do they make green aspirin for my green headache?
    Terrell said...
    Just wanted to let you know we linked to this article in the March issue of Learning in the Great Outdoors. Thanks!

    Anthony said...
    Hi Terrell,
    Thanks for stopping by. And thanks for linking to me in your March issue. I'm going to take my time and check out each and every link in there. Nice work.

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