Posted by: nickgerlich | March 12, 2008

In The Bag

You would think that companies who profess to be one thing, would not fall into the trap of demonstrating the oppostie allegiance. After all, the Hypocrisy Police are alive and well, and standing on every street corner. It’s hard to do anything remotely wrong these days, because someone with a whistle will call you on it.

Yesterday I went to one of my favorite stores, Whole Foods. WF is the oh-so-trendy full-service destination to buy groceries that are not laced with preservatives, colorings, flavorings, and other chemicals. You pay much more for less, I suppose, but the place was packed with Bobos and I imagine a few “for-reals” as well. Everyone was scooping up home kitchen essentials as well as exotics. If I had to guess where Apple Store employees shop, this would be it.

Whole FoodsBut what slapped me in the face were the signs proudly proclaiming that Whole Foods will soon be giving up plastic bags by Earth Day this year (22nd April), and using only paper grocery sacks thereafter. Or, better yet, encouraging shoppers to bring their own reusable canvas bags.

Hold the phone! Did someone just say plastic?

Yep. Turns out this retail garden of greenness has been contributing to our impending natural disaster by using plastic bags that can take up to 1000 years to biodegrade. They have now had a change of heart, yet one cannot help but wonder how much damage has been done while campaigning for wholesome living.

I would have expected such a paradigm shift from a mainstream retailer like Wal-Mart or Target, but not Whole Foods. I would never think of even having the choice of paper or plastic (which, by the way, I faced yesterday when making my purchases). This is a disconnect of the highest order.

Now don’t take me wrong. I like Whole Foods. They have been on the cutting edge of healthy foods for 30 years, having started humbly in Austin with but one store. They recently completed their acquisition of Wild Oats, and although they are now feeling some competition from mainstream grocers stocking some organic products, they are on a tear. They have their own line of private label organics (365), and have convinced a growing number of people to forego the quick-and-easy choice of buying standard fare at any other grocery. Finally, they were a pioneer in e-commerce food retailing back at the turn of the century (although it did not prove to be fruitful).

I just can’t believe Whole Foods is even wrestling with the plastic issue at this late date. It’s kind of like waking up and hearing that Bill Gates is no longer the richest man in the world.

Dr “Hole In One” Gerlich

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