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At Costco Members Get Good Prices, Organic Produce, and Toxic Flame Retardants

Does anyone out there watch Modern Family? There’s an episode when the characters Cam & Mitch go to Costco. Cam is all about Costco, while Mitch thinks it’s a ridiculous proposition – who could possibly need or use all that stuff? By the end, Mitch wants to buy a shed (sold at Costco) to hold the boxes and boxes of diapers and other stuff they absolutely must have. Watch the clip.

That episode pretty much sums up how I went from Costco disdainer to Costco lover. My husband and I had our wedding invitations printed there, bought our first lawn mower there, get our tires replaced there and yes, have bought a considerable amount of diapers there too (but not enough at one time to put in a shed).

We have made a conscious decision to go to Costco over other big box stores, because of their commitment to paying living wages to their workers, the selection of more affordable organic fruits and vegetables and of course, the samples. Beet hummus?! What kind of wondrous world we’re living in! Of course we need a gallon!

Now that I’ve established my Costco fan girl bona fides, I have a bone to pick with our favorite Pacific Northwest company. Part of the “Costco Code of Ethics” is to “take care of our members.” It turns out that they aren’t taking care of their members when it comes to toxic chemicals. They have yet to announce a policy to restrict harmful chemicals in the products they sell, even though other big box retailers like Sam’s Club and Target have established such chemical policies.  Sam’s Club and Walmart recently announced major progress in implementing their policy.

Those retailers and others have identified over 1,000 chemicals of concern and are using their considerable purchasing power to make a difference with their suppliers. Costco is a model corporation in so many ways, but lags behind its competition when it comes to protecting its members from chemicals that have been linked to cancer, lower IQs and reproductive harm.

Washington Toxics Coalition has been encouraging Costco to be a leader in selling safer products free of harmful chemicals as part of the national Mind the Store Campaign. And while we are encouraged that they have expanded their offering of furniture free of toxic flame retardants (although we would like to see a comprehensive policy on flame retardants) and have made progress on reducing the use of BPA in their canned goods, we know they can do better when it comes to clothing and other product categories. According to their Code of Ethics, “Our members are our reason for being – the key to our success. If we don’t keep our members happy, little else we do will make a difference.”

Well, Costco, as a member, I’m telling you that I’m not happy that you aren’t doing everything you can to ensure your suppliers sell safer products free of unnecessary toxic chemicals. I expect more from you.