A good friend of mine lives without a fridge.
His decision to sell his fridge ten years ago, back in his late twenties, was based on both practical (space/cost savings, under-use) and deep and meaningful (i.e. “Have you ever asked yourself why we need fridges…?”) grounds.
But he’s still fridge-less today and, despite some awkward conversations along the way – especially with new girlfriends – he’s learned a bit about consumerism. Namely that it’s not cut out for people that don’t have fridges.
For example, he’s a chicken lover (eating, not petting), but when he’s only got a small hunger (quite a rarity for him), he can’t buy one chicken breast in the pre-packaged meat area of a supermarket. In fact, he’s noticed that it’s painstakingly more cost-effective to buy half a dozen chicken breasts than it is to buy two.
As my friend went on to talk about the cost of whole chickens, packs of yoghurts (not easy without a fridge), and tinned goods (very useful without a fridge), my mind took me off on a stream of consciousness taking in: waste; the ‘law’ of supply and demand and consumer choice; clever (but really unhelpful – from a sustainability perspective) marketing campaigns; the distractions of modern life; and Gandhi (of course).
And so I wrote this article.
Here is my, now slightly more organised, stream of consciousness:
The cost-effectiveness of a dozen chicken breasts started me off on Waste…
I reflected on a recent visit to the US mid-West: I love visiting Kansas and have begun to see it as a home from home. But that’s more to do with the people – especially friends and family members – who are notoriously welcoming, generous and caring, than the uncomfortably exuberant guilty pleasures – mainly involving food – that I witness and, yes, have been known to embrace while I’m there.
Without giving you examples of my own experiences, it’s suffice to recall a fun fact that I recently came across, stating that around 40% of all food is wasted in the US, with $107 billion (or £90 billion) of food going uneaten every year.
And that led me onto Consumer Choice…
Educating consumers is key to reducing waste, and it’s heartening to read about initiatives aimed at doing just this, such as the Kansas City soccer franchise Sporting KC teaming up with a sponsor to educate consumers about the positive impact of reducing food waste.
But it feels like consumers are not educated enough on this topic, because they continue to make bad choices that encourage the food industry to sell bad products. And by ‘bad’ I mean not just wasteful but also unhealthy, unethical (especially concerning the treatment of livestock), and damaging to the environment.
Of course, it all comes down to supply and demand. And if we’re not voting the right way with our wallets, then we shouldn’t expect businesses to make decisions for us.
Which turned my attention towards clever marketing campaigns…
Because we shouldn’t expect businesses to make decisions for us, but we should expect them not to pull the wool over our eyes.
Sugar-free isn’t necessarily better, nor is fat-free. Hummus made with organic chickpeas, doesn’t mean that all ingredients are organic. In the United States, the term “fruit juice” can only legally be used to describe a beverage that is 100% fruit juice. Companies with fruit juices blended with other ingredients, such as high-fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners, get around this by calling them juice cocktails, juice drinks or nectar. Nice.
And God knows we just don’t have time to read the labels, because of the distractions of modern life…
My WhatsApp’s blowing up because there’s a big party at the lake this weekend; I just got an email through from a long lost friend, I must read it now; Neymar just scored an amazing goal – let me see if I can find the replay somewhere; and the list goes on.
Yes, in theory, we can be more informed if we’re inclined to do some desk research on the news that sugar may be the downfall of the human race. But do we really have time? And how many of us take time in the supermarkets to compare labels of products to see which has the least additives? Not many, we often go on branding.
And so all of this finally reminded me of Responsible Business…
Why make responsible business decisions if consumers don’t seem to understand, or care?
Well, we met the CEO of a branded giveaways company at a recent workshop and he informed us that, especially as he operates in a business-to-business model, his clients will rarely factor in ‘responsibility’ as part of their purchasing strategy.
Yet he continued on to say that, despite being a small business, he’s committed to going above and beyond what is expected to ensure fair labour conditions, sustainable sourcing, and minimal waste across his supply chain.
He grumbled about the additional costs he had to incur from being a member of the various codes and standards. Though, when pressed as to why he conducted business in this manner, he said that it was because it was beneficial to the partnerships he had.
He suspected that clients hang around longer with his company because the bond is stronger. A bond forged by trust.
Where am I going with all of this? Back to Gandhi of course: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
We can make informed choices on the products that we purchase. If certain things concern us then we should regain control over our lives by taking the time to inform ourselves on the issues that we believe to be important.
Because, in the end, these bones are only bones, and all that really matters is that we gave and that we loved.
My friend has been without a fridge for ten years. What are you doing?