Facts about packing peanuts, and what Seattle says about REI 

So you’ve just shown up on campus this week for orientation and have unpacked your dorm-room’s-worth of CDs, stereo components, photos of your dog, and Ramen noodles. Or perhaps you recently returned to your Bitterroot home after a weeks-long evacuation, and you’ve just gotten all of your guns and Hummel figurines out of storage. Or maybe you live in the city, and have just finished unbundling those really enviable $1,100-andirons you ordered from the Pottery Barn. No matter what the cause is, there’s a whole lot of unpacking going on these days. Which caused us to wonder: What the heck can you do with all of those leftover packing peanuts?

For the answer, we turned to our old friends at the Plastic Loose Fill Council, the Oakland, California-based organization that has dedicated itself to the salvage and reuse of packing materials of all kinds. They referred us to something called the Peanut Hotline, which in turn informed us that Missoula’s official peanut-renewal headquarters is The Shipping Depot at 2120 S. Reserve. There you can drop off your used nuts to be reused, and they stress that they accept all kinds of packing stuff—from the well-known fluffy, white peanuts that are more commonly used, to the somewhat exotic, greenish, figure-eight shaped pieces, which, we learned, are technically known as Flo-Pak® and themselves are made from recycled polystyrene. More than you wanted to know about the junk that surrounds your fine breakables, perhaps, but it just goes to show you that no one knows trash better than us. Please recycle.
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From our Media Watch Department: Todd Frank, new owner of The Trailhead outdoor store in Missoula, scored a coup against the Garden City’s newest chain store, REI, by appearing in a color photo on the front page of the business section in the Seattle chain’s hometown paper, The Seattle Times.

In the Aug. 1 feature, Times reporter Robert Nelson profiled Frank’s business venture and pondered the effect that the major retailer will have on Missoula’s cuttthroat outdoor gear business. “I thought it was a fair and balanced article,” judged Frank. “I was at a trade show last week and lots of people gave me copies of it.”

While a feature in the large regional paper hasn’t done much to directly boost business, Frank figured his interview and photo in the Times settled a score with another corporate-owned fixture of the Five Valleys, the Missoulian. “When REI moved in, it made front page news,” explained Frank. “When The Trailhead, which has been a downtown business for 26 years, changed hands, it was not mentioned at all.”

Frank holds no grudge, though, considering the huge PR resources that big retailers have over small independents. “I imagine that REI hires a public relations firm to take care of these kinds of things,” he observed.

As for combating the corporate machine, Frank advocates for locals to remain loyal to one another. Home Depot called a while back,” recalled Frank. “They wanted to know if we would’ve liked to open an account with them. I told them we were quite happy with our local hardware store and weren’t changing anytime soon.”

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