Eating SunChips in the Name of Science

By Cam Mather

Every once in a while an innovation comes along that you just have to pay attention to. As someone who lives off the grid I know what you’re thinking. Cam’s going to blather on about thin-film solar, vertical axis wind turbines or some other green technology. Nope, in this case I’m talking about Sun Chips. Yes, that’s right, the junk food made by Frito-Lay. That’s what I’m blogging about.

Sun Chips now come in a 100% compostable bag. I’m sure their website explains what it’s made of, but I’m just way too hip and techno-savvy to waste time researching corporate propaganda. No, I decided instead to just test it myself.

To start with, I had to start eating Sun Chips. This was the hard part of the task. I’ve always liked Sun Chips, but this time, it was work. I had to eat the whole bag so that I could see just how compostable it really was. As soon as I was finished, I headed out to the backyard to bury that bag in the dirt. I felt like “Morgan the Wonder Dog” with a bone.

I’ve been doing this kind of research for years. We have exhibited our books at various Eco-Fairs and Green Expos over the years and have seen all sorts of cups, cutlery, plates or whatever. I like to bring these items home to test them. I staple them to the side of our guesthouse, on the south side where they are exposed to bright sunlight. Michelle gets pretty tired of seeing these items stapled to the side of the building. I’ve experimented with plastic disposable cups made from cornstarch and plastic bags that claim to be “bio-degradable”. That’s a weasel word. Spent nuclear fuel can be considered “bio-degradable” if you’re prepared to wait 25,000 years. Frankly, I haven’t been that impressed with the stuff I’ve stapled to the wall. It’s lasted way too long. Some of it’s been there for years.

I’m sure the manufacturers would use the excuse that it only works in a landfill. When I see what the sun does to anything else I leave out in it, if the cornstarch glass won’t break down after a few months of sun and rain, I’m skeptical about it breaking down faster in the landfill without any oxygen.

I have a good feeling about the Sun Chip bag. It’s different. It’s a crazy new space age material, bordering on scary. And it’s noisy. Really noisy. I like to sneak junk food. Some nights when Michelle is upstairs reading I’ll sneak just a few Sun Chips. But Michelle has exceptional hearing and when you eat Sun Chips out of these insanely noisy compostable bags, I’m sure my nearest neighbors 4 kms down the road can probably hear me!

Last month I was speaking at an environmental conference and the participants were given a “loot bag.” The items were in a cloth bag of course, and included one of these new bags of Sun Chips. I was just about to get started presenting my afternoon session when a busload of high school students was ushered in to the back of the lecture hall. They all began opening their noisy bags of Sun Chips. It was like being trackside at a NASCAR race. People sitting near them suffered hearing damage. I finally insisted that everyone open his or her bag at the same time to get the cacophony over with! Apparently compostability comes with a price!

It doesn’t matter. I’ll persevere. I’ll keep eating Sun Chips until I can definitively prove whether or not their composting claims are true. I don’t care how long it takes. They say it takes 14 weeks. Doesn’t matter, 14 weeks, 14 months, 14 years, if I gain 300 pounds I’m going to prove this one way or another. Stay tuned!

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About Cam
Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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