There’s an Organic Sucker at Every Rest Stop
Traveling on the Interstate, as I did today, provides an acid reminder of how quickly people adapt false spending habits to support the delusion that living sustainably is easy. How people tell themselves that by spurning Starbucks-sized brands, they are pioneering a truly green marketplace. And when I say “people,” I mean “Alec Appelbaum.”
I style myself an aware consumer, draining my checking account each month at the Greenmarket and in purchases of biodegradable takeout. I know at bottom that buying more stuff than you need, even if somebody else’s stuff is more toxic, hardly spells leadership toward a stable climate. But at top, I feel more purposeful when what I buy labels itself as organic, certified humane, FairTrade, and so forth. I also feel like spending more. Hm. So imagine me in a travel plaza on the Adirondack Northway, trying to pick a lunch for my three-year-old.
Yes, that’s me, striding away from the Starbucks and the Famiglia Pizza, toward the glow of the “Healthy Choices” display in the Travel Mart. That’s me, about to pay $8-something for cranberry-chicken salad. That’s me, amiably reading the nutrition facts on the label.
That’s me, trying to fathom how a salad contains 72% of the recommended daily intake of fat. (The croutons, my friend. The croutons.) And that’s me wondering how adroitly I’ve chosen a bumper crop of “healthy” products during similarly engine-addled moments over the past several years.
Our economy needs to refine and expand ways to reward local production and distribution of natural food, associated cleaning and education services, and relevant manufacturing and distribution. There was a farmer’s market in the rest stop parking lot, hearteningly, but it didn’t seem to be doing brisk business. (A sign read; “Please do not handle the fruit. This is a farm market, not a petting zoo.” It’s kind of long for a tagline.) But we will build a sustainable-food industry by making better food, not more pious buzzwords, a signal for a price premium.
My daughter got her lunch from Starbucks’ sandwich case, plus raspberries from the farm stand. And I’m glad of it.
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