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Earth Day in Oxford

Oxford observes Earth Day 2024 with several activities, including EarthFest on Saturday, April 20, beginning at 10 a.m., in Oxford Memorial Park. Adjacent to EarthFest, Oxford’s weekly Farmers Market operates on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

Each year,, the organization leading the annual Earth Day observances around the world, adopts a distinctive theme, and this year it’s Planet vs. Plastic. urges a 60% reduction in worldwide production of plastics by 2040.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the average American throws away 487 pounds of plastic annually, compared to 251 pounds per capita in Europe and 152 pounds per capita in Japan and South Korea. Only 4% of plastic waste generated in the United States is recycled.

We recently enjoyed an excellent meal at a restaurant in Oxford. We ate on plastic plates with plastic utensils. The food was served on plastic plates, and the beverages were all in single-use plastic containers. We took home the leftovers in a plastic box. As much as we wish to patronize local restaurants, this meal featured way too much plastic.

MOON Co-op Market tries to minimize the use of plastic, as well as the generation of waste, in part by offering an unusually large selection of items sold in bulk. The bulk items are designed to be taken home either in paper bags, glass jars available in the store or containers brought in by shoppers.

A recent count identified 222 different items sold in bulk at MOON Co-op Market. These bulk items can be divided into three categories regarding the Earth Day goal of minimizing the use of plastic.

The first category is dry goods, including 24 varieties of nuts, 12 types of candies, nine different dried beans, seven types of flour, seven flavors of granola and six varieties of rice. These products are typically sold in plastic bags, so buying from the bulk bins means consuming less plastic.

The second category of bulk items in MOON Co-op Market is a dozen liquids typically sold in plastic bottles, such as shampoo and conditioner. For personal safety reasons, we don’t want glass jars in our showers. MOON Co-op Market suggests refilling an empty plastic shampoo or conditioner container from the large bulk vat. The liquids are certified organic.

The third category of bulk items at MOON Co-op Market is around 60 herbs and spices. These are typically sold in several-ounce glass jars rather than plastic, but the amount in these glass jars is more than most people use. Buying bulk herbs and spices allows cooks to keep only what they need at home.

I was once approached in MOON Co-op Market’s bulk food section by a Miami student who had limited experience with cooking. He was going to cook a chicken for the first time and wanted advice on a suitable herb to sprinkle on it. As this was possibly a one-time culinary adventure for him, it would have been needlessly expensive and wasteful for him to buy a 2-ounce jar of tarragon in the supermarket. I had him buy a spoonful of bulk tarragon for his chicken, for which he paid 25 cents.

Jim Rubenstein is Professor Emeritus of Geography. At Miami, he was Chair of the Department of Geography and Adviser for the Urban & Regional Planning major. He now writes human geography textbooks and consults on the auto industry at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. In Oxford, he is Treasurer of the Board of Directors of MOON Co-op Market.

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