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In from the Cold, at Wal-Mart

Posted 20 December 2008 by Anastasia O'Rourke to Opinion.

The thing about researching eco-labels is that it tends to follow you around, especially in consumptive moments. There is no escape: apparently not even in wal-mart! How is it that I succumbed to the pre-snowstorm shopping frenzy, and at wal-mart in East Haven CT of all places?

Well it happened, and I at least I can report that in amongst all the mega-chip, maxi-pad, 24-pack chicken leg purchasing going on, I found some organic spring onions, cilantro and tofu. So funny when you see yourself in the eyes of your trolley neighbor waiting to check out. I must be fitting in some new demographic/market segment for wal-mart: over educated label geek feeling out of place but nonetheless having a great time. Well there must a few of us because my organic tofu was fresh and I have to say, pretty tasty.

In hunting down the said soy-protein, of course I started to look for other labels. After all, I just heard a talk from one of wal-mart’s sustainability managers at the Sustainable Brands International conference and was impressed by the diligence they’re applying worldwide. So yes, there were a few eco-labelled products, including organic cotton sheets which I liked to see there, but didn’t buy.

But the ratio of “good” stuff to – well I don’t want to say ‘bad’ but rather non-good (or even more PC: non-labelled goods) was probably 1:5000. That is a total guess. I doubt the store manager would allow an audit, and to be honest, I wouldn’t spend my time doing it anyway.

Speaking of time, all that label spotting meant that the snow started to bucket down, and I subsequently got stuck in a huge traffic jam on the way home. Sitting there I was thinking about how the emissions from which probably offset all the good stuff I bought.

So we are out of the cold and on the store shelves, but then back out in a traffic jam? Next step, world domination.

  • Why create another standard that will only be used at one retailer. What about one with broad market appeal, such as JumpGauge Interactive Labeling (http://www.JumpGauge.com/)? Consumers could use it at all retailers, not just Walmart. Interactive labeling also offers greater transparency and knowledge transfer than a simple questionnaire