Published on: April 30, 2009Now available on iTunes…
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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you this morning by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.
This is going to be a short one this morning. As I record this, I’m getting ready to go in for an emergency root canal … and between the Vicodin for pain and the Xanax for my dentist phobia, I may not be real cogent.
I would refer you to a column by Siobhan Phillips that ran on Salon.com this week all about so-called “ethical eating.” She started from the premise that while ethical eating is a good idea, it may simply be impractical for a lot of people.
“I had wondered about the elitism of ethical eating ever since I started reading about the movement in books like ‘The Omnivores Dilemma,’ ‘Fast Food Nation,’ and ‘Food Politics.’ When Alice Waters told Americans that they could dine better by forgoing ‘the cellphone or the third pair of Nike shoes,’ my monthly cellphone bill totaled zero and I owned just one pair of sneakers. When Michael Pollan urged citizens to plant a garden, I was living on the 10th floor of an urban apartment building. When Barbara Kingsolver wrote in ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ that sustainable cooking could be thrifty, her recommendations included a plot of land and a second freezer that I didn't own. My kitchen had the dimensions of a medium-size walk-in closet. And I was better off than many in my neighborhood.”
In other words, living up to the expectations of people like Alice Waters and Michael Pollan isn’t always a matter of choice. It often is a matter of circumstance.
I happen to have enormous respect and admiration for people like Alice Waters, but emulating her lifestyle and approach to food just would take too much energy. Is this laziness? Maybe, to a degree. But it also is a function of having a life to lead, of having a business to run, of having children to raise, of having a marriage to tend to…not necessarily in this order, by the way. (I need to say that because tomorrow is my 26th wedding anniversary…assuming I survive the root canal, which at the moment seems dubious…and putting Mrs. Content Guy last probably isn’t the best idea.)
The best approach that retailers can take, I think, is to present options. Actually, you have to do more than present them. You can explain them, you can educate people about various levels of ethical and sustainable behavior … but you shouldn't take a holier-than-thou approach to these communications. Most people, I firmly believe, want to do the best they can…though sometimes those decisions are compromised by the realities in which they find themselves. But if we help people understand why certain decisions make sense, how to integrate them into their lives, and what the repercussions will be…I think we can get a point where more people eat sensibly, cook intelligently, and behave sustainably.
In the end, as in most things, it is all about common sense and transparency. Speak with the shopper instead of at the shopper, and you go a long way to creating a sense of community. Which is a great first step, I think, toward better living in a better world.
For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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