Sustainable Snacking?


I have always been a fan of Frito-Lay brand Sun Chips, as I think they are a healthier (and tastier) alternative to potato chips. The last several times that I have purchased Sun Chips at the grocery store, I noticed that the packaging had a little green “e” icon on it. After Googling the little green “e”, I was able to find out that the Green-e logo is actually a carbon offset program created by the Center for Resource Solutions ( Intrigued, I went to the Sun Chips website to learn more about the company’s commitment to green energy. According to, they have one factory that relies on solar power as its main source of electricity. The Modesto, California plant is currently the only Sun Chips factory (out of eight total) that utilizes solar power, but as their website claims, “it’s a small step in the right direction.”

On my most recent grocery shopping trip, I realized that there has been another change to the Sun Chips bag. Now the package advertises that the bags themselves are fully compostable and claim that they will successfully break down in about 14 weeks. Another example of “green washing” intended to draw in socially conscious shoppers? Maybe. But it seems that other companies are now following suit.

Boulder Canyon Natural Foods, which produces All Natural Kettle Cooked Potato Chips, has also introduced a compostable snack bag, unveiled during Earth Day week. Snyder’s of Hanover, not to be outdone by the other companies, has also made plans to market their organic line of pretzels in compostable packaging. According to, Snyder’s compostable bags will be derived from plant-based materials and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 52% during the production process.

Is the switch to more ecologically responsible packaging due to a consumer demand for greener products or, is this simply a clever marketing tactic that allows these companies to add substance to their green statements? Mother Earth News asked a similar question in the article, “Mother Earth News Finds Compostable Packaging Claims Half-Baked.” After testing several brands of trash bags that were marketed as being compostable, Mother Earth News came to the conclusion that most of the bags did not break down as promised. While the magazine tested trash bags and not snack bags, it makes one wonder how the new compostable snack packaging would fare.

So, what is the bottom line here? If you do not mind the surprisingly loud crinkling of these bags, which makes secret snacking nearly impossible, then I would recommend giving one of these brands a try. If the new compostable packaging lives up to even part of its claims, then there is a clear savings in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and in the amount of waste left behind when you have finished the products. When faced with the choice between a snack packaged in a compostable bag versus one that is made from a petroleum-based material, I know which one I will end up in my shopping basket.

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  1. My recent favorites are the no trans fat vegetable chips. They are actually quite tasty.

  2. That is interesting that the compostable trash bags did not break down as advertised. They should do the same test with these snack bags. Do they actually want people to put these bags in their compost though? Or are they just implying some kind of benefit to trash breaking down quicker at the landfill?

  3. I like yogi crackers. Granola crisps.

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