In The Conscious Kitchen and in The Complete Organic Pregnancy I urge people about a zillion times to “ask questions” when shopping. Being a conscious consumer is a sure fire way to get conscious goods. But most people don’t entirely know how to put this into practice. Or what to do with the answers.

A woman I know who runs a local mother’s group near me in New York has been going through her own green transformation lately. It has been really fun for me to watch and hear about it as she goes greener every day. She has a great methodical approach and is both skeptical and outraged. She’s doing her own research. And she has made a lot of excellent changes that will affect her family and the earth. She has come a long way since I first met her. Her transformation is her own but I’m proud and honored to have influenced her in any way. She emails me from time to time with questions or just to let me know that she’s made big strides. I love these emails.

Last week she wrote me very disappointed. While shopping at her local Whole Foods, she asked what kind of plastic wrap they used in their cheese department. She wrote down their answer and researched it once home — an excellent thing to do with an answer!! — only to find out it is PVC containing the plasticizer DEHA. She wanted to know if I knew about this. PVC is a highly toxic material, from manufacture to disposal, and not something that should be around our food. I do mention in The Conscious Kitchen that some plastic wraps can be PVC while the majority of the ones on store shelves these days are plastic #4 (safer). I don’t use plastic wrap at home, but it can be hard to avoid taking it home from a store when shopping, especially with something like cheese.

The point of avoiding plastic at home is to minimize exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals. It’s also to avoid involvement with the environmental impact associated with its manufacture and disposal. Instead of throwing up her hands and giving up, this mom contacted the powers that be at her Whole Foods, made them aware of her dismay, circulated the information to other local moms, and even got a petition up online asking Whole Foods to stop using the PVC wrap. There is power in (pissed off parent) numbers and I suspect she will get the store to change what they’re doing. I hope so. And I hope anyone reading this will ask their supermarket what they use around their cheese, meat, and other plastic-wrapped items, and demand similar action if it, too, is PVC.

Now the question is how to get this stuff off all cheese everywhere. That’s harder and involves legislation. But concerned consumers can also influence their elected officials. I suspect we’ll get there sooner rather than later, especially with moms like this educating themselves and pushing us in that direction.