Sunday, January 24, 2010

Oakland Farmer's market says 'eat less salad'

The Oakland Farmer's Market has banned plastic bags. I wrote a comment on the Oakland Local site about this article.

But comments on other people's sites are, well, on other people's sites. And this seems important somehow.

The key is that in Europe people mostly bring their own bags. But if you don't bring your bag you can just buy a bag for about 40 cents. No moralizing. No fuss. Simple, and (and I know this is a bad word in the progressive community, but it is true) this is a 'market based response' to the issue.

OTOH, the Oakland farmer's market has decided that ideological purity means that you can not buy salad greens which are guaranteed for seven days in a plastic bag. Rather, you have to decide to eat your more fragile produce earlier in the week, and eat your robust vegetables later.

WTF? For want of a 1 cent plastic bag the Oakland Farmer's market is literally saying 'eat less salad.' You can't eat salad every day if you shop at our market because we have decided that one particular bit of the modern economy, the one penny plastic bag for salad greens, is morally evil and must be banned.

Here is the comment I posted.


I am personally disgusted by our practice of throwing out bags, and general lack of reuse, but I am a little confused here.

As near as I can read, the headline on this article should be "Oakland Farmer's Market says 'eat less salad greens'"

At least in the case of salad greens I think this article is specifically saying that a bag which costs 1 cent allows people to keep salad greens fresh so that they can be consumed over the whole week before coming back to the market to get more. And that the fact that this bag is made of plastic means you should just not eat salad during the later part of the week.

The alternatives to having fresh salad greens which are offered are, well, none. You can eat your salad greens early in the week before they spoil and eat root vegatables or something for the rest of the week.

I think this is a major 'WTF' on the part of the market. At least in the limited case of the salad greens the market is now banning (no, this is not a 'policy' it is a ban -please don't newspeak this!) the current best state of the art way of delivering salad greens to people because of a specific ideological crusade against plastic.

I just spent five weeks in Vienna and Berlin. Almost everybody there brings there own bags, but if you don't there is a nice stack of bags at the register.

They are nice bags. A bit nicer than our use-once stupid bags, and a step below our (and their) reuse many times heavy duty bags.

And the clever hack which is part of why most people bring their own bags is that they moved the store bags from the right side to the left side of the cash register.

If you want a bag you pay Euro 0.25 for it. About 40 cents plus or minus.

And with that simple move people have the incentive to bring their own bags, and the store makes money if you need a bag, and you have a gentle reminder that reusing bags is a good idea plus it will save you a real amount of money.

And there is no moral watchdog banning your actions. There is noone who is shaming you if you forget your bag.

OTOH, the Oakland Farmer's markets believe that shaming people and banning the best technology for the specific task of getting salad greens home and preserved is reasonable.

Again, WTF?

I'm going to post this comment on my blog and I welcome comment there or here. Maybe I am missing something important. But it just seems that telling people that a 1 cent bag which will let them eat salad all week is wrong is stupid of the market. And that dictating policy with bans which hurt both consumers and producers is simply stupid.