Monday, November 29, 2010

Confessions of a WM shopper

An article written for greenadine website—the mood is still relevant, and the need is ever-present. So here as a first column on the green side of this page...
confessions of a WM shopper.

Before a green wave sweeps my words away from the shores of reality, please allow me some introductory disclaimer here. I do hold some healthy distrust of all things commercial and refute the merits of advertising.
Now i do have a small household to maintain and though i can subsist on micronized economics, not everyone shares my minimalism. So, i shop, rarely, but yes i visit Wal-Mart. Me and the local Amish.

Everywhere i have lived, Wal-Mart has been the closest and cheapest store.Coincidence? hardly! i trust some demographics were at play. So, i take the back roads and slink along the aisles, choose my organic toothpaste, virgin soap and low VOC paint. then move over to the organic vegetables, the whole grain pita, and jar of olives.

Before this turns into an attraction for green shoppers, let's look at Mega mart's supply chain effect. As of Sept. 2007, the retail giant launched their first of many offensives on the Global War-ming front.
Their Great value brand of CFLs compact fluorescent lightbulbs, being a clear objective in the greening spectrum.The management clearly intends to supply sustainable goods at affordable prices.

They have the clout, the means and the connections to do so. Their large clientele will purchase large amounts of these products; which will create a wide ripple effect throughout the economy, and synergistically, the ecology.

Wal-Mart is keeping tabs on suppliers via a scorecard. They are asking for packaging reduction of 5% by 2013. it sounds ridiculously dismal, 50% by end of 2010 would certainly impress me, and produce a healthier impact on the environment. But, the math is more complicated than first appears.

Product to package ratio--space utilization--distance traveled--package transport, all are factors in the computing and recording of figures involved. Further complicating the process of research and fact finding, trade associations and academics must meet and agree with each step and statistical configuration. NGOs and suppliers must validate the accounting and then return it all for speculation by the retailer.

Whatever happened to cow-barn--milk-bottle--truck to store- to basket-and home fridge.. no more waxed cartons, plastic islands and errant paper cups blowing in my yard. No need for long trains to haul tons of detritus out of state. And no more plastic bags needed to haul the single product sans clear plastic shell.

Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart announced his company plans in Jan 08, he means to cash in on the nascent wave of concern over the environmental condition. Not that i ever noticed too much concern on the faces or in the baskets of shoppers.. therefore that's where supply precedes demand--management makes the egg and the chicks will follow--good marketing as usual. perhaps finally aiming in the right direction.

From the top down, emphasis is renewed on ethical sourcing and fair trade, advancing ahead of predicted resource shortages and poor global economy. Out of necessity, the focus is shifting toward energy intensive products and energy efficiency. The whole strategy is concentrating focused effort ahead of foreign oil trade inequities.

Build it and they shall come around, with millions in tow. Turning green consumerism into green cash. It's amazing what the the profit margin can accomplish. Climate Change scientists have tried to steer the affluent polluters toward saner behavior, for years. And now the marketplace is taking over for the last fistful of dollars quick, before it all crumbles. You can breathe now, mega mart will save us from ourselves.

photo credits: Calvin Jones

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