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Polution hobillion; Earth 1
January 11, 2006 8:39 PM   Subscribe

So with global warming being linked to all sorts of bad things lately, and our illustrious leaders doing nothing about the problem because they don't want to slow down the economy, its good to see someone doing something about the problem, Whole Foods is the first fortune 500 company to go 100% green. And I for one am happy as a clam. This just goes to show you that you can have a wonderful, profitable business, without raping the earth, your customers, or your employees.
posted by stilgar (54 comments total)

 
"Whole Foods executives say the move was the result of the environmental activism of its Colorado employees." Now if only wall-mart employees would rise up like this we would be getting someplace...
posted by stilgar at 8:47 PM on January 11, 2006


Worst case scenario- the Norwegians inherit the Earth.
posted by stackmonster at 9:05 PM on January 11, 2006


Norway might get really cold.
posted by troutfishing at 9:08 PM on January 11, 2006


I disagree, I think it IS possible to have a wonderful, profitable business and still rape your employees.
posted by soiled cowboy at 9:20 PM on January 11, 2006


soiled cowboy: yeah like american apparel
posted by jojomnky at 9:32 PM on January 11, 2006


global warming means less clothing on hawt ch1x0rz.
posted by quonsar at 9:36 PM on January 11, 2006


Profit? So the proletariat still doesn't control the means of production? And you call this progress?
posted by loquax at 9:39 PM on January 11, 2006


Norwegians have already taken over Minnesota, and it's all right, except that every so often you run into people named Knut and Ansel.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:41 PM on January 11, 2006


hawt ch1x0rz

I, for one, am glad quonsar's back.
posted by spacewrench at 9:48 PM on January 11, 2006


I wonder how much energy the open air vegetable refrigerators use per year...

I'm in the mood for the Whole Foods salad bar suddenly
posted by MillMan at 9:58 PM on January 11, 2006


hawt ch1x0rz

Is this the new spell checker I've heard so much about?
posted by Rothko at 10:00 PM on January 11, 2006


"100% green" would probably be a massive overstatement.

I am guessing that goods are being delivered to their stores by conventional fossil fuel transport, without even looking further to the non-green nature of the entire chain of events that brings these goods into existence.

It's a start, though.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:08 PM on January 11, 2006


Profit? So the proletariat still doesn't control the means of production? And you call this progress?

No, just a new market share that Whole Foods is going to get from the good press (like Metafilter!).
posted by iamck at 10:15 PM on January 11, 2006


Hippy vegan trust-fund babies rejoice. Now your granola is even more crunchy. Me, I'll buy in when the average lower income consumer can afford to shop at Whole Foods.
posted by drpynchon at 10:21 PM on January 11, 2006


We pass the extra cost for maintaining these ridiculous things on to you!
posted by zerolives at 10:38 PM on January 11, 2006


Eating a primarily vegetable-based diet from Whole Foods is cheaper than eating a standard American processed food diet just about anywhere. Granted, some people don't consider meat a luxury, the processed foods at Whole Foods are expensive as hell, and a fast-food diet is cheaper than any cook-it-yourself diet. It drives me nuts, though, when my family complains that I'm uppity for eating organic vegetables when I spend less money on food than they do for their candy bars, TV dinners and potato chips.
posted by rhiannon at 10:42 PM on January 11, 2006


We pass the extra cost for maintaining these ridiculous things on to you!

That's kinda the crux, ain't it?

There are those that are willing and can pay a premium for a low environmental impact product (the wealthy).

There are those that will increase their environmental impact for convenience (the busy).

There are those that will increase their environmental impact for the sake of "bargain shopping." (the middle-class)

There are those that have a high environmental impact because they make so little environmentalism is a luxury (the American poor).

Then there are those so poor that they depend on people by the millions choosing low cost over environmentalism at the store so they can make a subsistence living (the ones overseas making the shit).

Then, ironically enough, there are those who make millions off of the environmentally damaging system so they can afford recycled organic tiolet paper--to feel good about themselves (the Captains of Industry).
posted by sourwookie at 11:24 PM on January 11, 2006


I have to smile at Daniel Gross's take from this article:

The company stepped on its line a little.

"It's a sales driver rather than a cost," the company president said. "All of those things we do related to our core values: help drive sales, help convince a customer to drive past three or four other supermarkets on the way to Whole Foods."

So Whole Foods is going to pay above-market prices for energy that doesn't burn fossil fuels, in the hopes that customers who like the policy will burn more fossil fuels by driving past several other supermarkets to get to Whole Foods.
posted by JackFlash at 11:38 PM on January 11, 2006


This just goes to show you that you can have a wonderful, profitable business, without raping the earth, your customers, or your employees.

No, just my wallet.

I'll stick to Trader Joe's and the local co-op market, thanks. Whole Foods is ridiculously expensive. Plus, I'm pretty sure both of these stores treat and pay their employees a hell of a lot better, if anecdotal information is at all accurate.
posted by loquacious at 11:53 PM on January 11, 2006


I've heard Costco, while otherwise not green, treats its employees well...
posted by ParisParamus at 12:15 AM on January 12, 2006


too well, according to Wall St analysts who want to see more $$ flow to the bottom line & dividend checks.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:50 AM on January 12, 2006


Wind turbines are beautiful. I'd be happy to subsidise their development, purely on aesthetic grounds.

Of course the only real breakthrough will be when wind power becomes economic, so companies don't have to use it as a loss leader.

a fast-food diet is cheaper than any cook-it-yourself diet

Is that true? I would've imagined a food blender plus a huge sack of raw vegetables could whizz up vast quantities of nutritious soup for a very, very low cost.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 1:55 AM on January 12, 2006


Yea I love Whole Foods. Got a squash on layaway. Should be ready by Thanksgiving.
posted by raaka at 2:05 AM on January 12, 2006


If a corporation can make this decision, why can't all of us, as individuals, choose to make the same decision in our personal lives? Oh well, I'm off to go rape something.
posted by quadog at 2:16 AM on January 12, 2006


Starry-eyed idealism aside, this doesn't do a whole lot, as noted, to change America's car culture. It doesn't even really reduce fossil-fuel energy production -- essentially it reduces the price by a blip. The best thing it does is help subsidize wind power. But the hybrid automobile experience is that a handful of consumers buy a Prius at a many-thousands-of-dollars premium, even with tax credits -- and car manufacturers get to maintain existing CAFE standards for their entire fleet. This probably works out to something pretty similar in a macro sense.

It's ultimately not going to help to have individuals opt out of a tragedy of the commons. It may make those individuals feel better.
posted by dhartung at 2:44 AM on January 12, 2006


I would've imagined a food blender plus a huge sack of raw vegetables could whizz up vast quantities of nutritious soup for a very, very low cost.

in the long run, sure. but the initial or start-up cost involved in purchasing a blender, acquiring the recipes/know-how, and getting to the raw, organic veggies is prohibitive for those already living paycheck to 2-days-before-next paycheck.
posted by carsonb at 2:50 AM on January 12, 2006


but the initial or start-up cost involved in purchasing a blender, acquiring the recipes/know-how, and getting to the raw, organic veggies is prohibitive for those already living paycheck to 2-days-before-next paycheck.

Don't even bother with the blender then. recipes, knowhow? Soup is not rocket science.

Get some Veg, bit of stock, add to water, Boil.


Or... Stew:

1. Get some veg, add some water, add a bit of meat (pork sausages are great, stewing beef, whatever... boil and simmer.

Much much cheaper than fast food. all you need is a stove and pot.

A McDonalds will probably set me back around £4 or so. For that money I could buy some carrots, parsnips, sweet potato, potatoes, sausages, an onion, garlic and some stock. cheap, cheerful, nutritious, tasty and anyone could make it.
posted by twistedonion at 4:09 AM on January 12, 2006


I wonder if more people live within 2 miles of a McDonalds than live within 2 miles of somewhere to buy fresh veggies... I should think the answer is yes :(
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 4:35 AM on January 12, 2006


i don't think you get it, this purchase will be like removing 60,000 cars from the road. also if major companies buy large amounts of wind power it gives wind power producers the incentive to make more of it, thus creating economies of scale thus lowering the cost of wind power (thus making it more popular etc etc). where i live our electricity costs just went up 82% and our natural gas costs just went up 42%, wind power and solar power stay the same cost year after year due to the fixed cost of the "fuel" (sun), if this trend continues it will be oil and gas that is more expensive than wind very soon. as far as doing anything about Americans car culture there is only so much a grocery store can do...however as gas becomes more expensive i think the SUV problem will fix itself due to market pressure.
posted by stilgar at 5:03 AM on January 12, 2006


also imagine what would happen if whole foods start to put solar panels on the roof of there stores, they could literally become small power plants selling the extra juice back to locals...seems like a good way to hedge your investment in expensive and (slightly more) risky organic farming. I really think wall-mart should do this. They have enough roof space (literally millions of acres of roof space), and no trees to provide shade (thanks to the massive parking lots), and could use their massive lobbying power to pressure local governments into providing net metering laws so they will get market rates (with a slight wall-mart discount so everyone will buy it) for the electricity they sell to the local grid...they could make a lot of scratch, especially if they just bit the bullet and did it all in one year (lowering there profits massively for one year and then forgetting about it).
posted by stilgar at 5:08 AM on January 12, 2006


I'll stick to Trader Joe's and the local co-op market, thanks. Whole Foods is ridiculously expensive.

Amen. Everytime I walk out of that place, my ass hurts and my wallet is a hell of a lot lighter. Trader Joes seems to be more in line with reality.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:55 AM on January 12, 2006


The Whole Foods at Union Square in NYC is INSANE. I went once on a Saturday to pick up a chicken- and there were people everywhere! They had to have an employee acting as line director ("Register 6 is open, step down, ma'am!"). I didn't have to wait too long, but it was far too crazy and I don't think I'd be able to do my regular shopping there.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:20 AM on January 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


Speaking of unions . . . Whole Foods is a union-busting chain. I'm glad they are going "green." It's good marketing for them, of course, or they wouldn't do it. For the prices they charge, they could burn dollar bills for energy and have plenty left over not to pay their workers well.
posted by spitbull at 7:35 AM on January 12, 2006


... without raping ... your employees.

Whole Foods management has been loudly anti-union for years (CEO John Mackey famously compared unions to herpes in 1992) - I'm sure many of their workers and suppliers would disagree.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:37 AM on January 12, 2006


Could we put a moratorium on the whole "rape the earth" rhetoric? Thanks.
posted by Nelson at 8:25 AM on January 12, 2006


global warming means less clothing on hawt ch1x0rz.
Typically quonsar. *shakes head* Anyway, welcome back quonsar.
posted by nlindstrom at 9:04 AM on January 12, 2006


stilgar: not to burst your bubble, but don't think think maybe somebody thought of this before and perhaps it turns out things are not the way you would like them to be?

Solar cells that generate electricity are expensive, and don't generate very much electricity. The only people running off 100% solar are using a lot of very low power appliances and lights. IE. Hippies living in a dim house with no blender and luke warm hot water.

You can get some useful results running water across the roof to warm it before the hot water heating system, but that's about all solar is really good for with any technology you can deploy today.
posted by Leonard at 10:26 AM on January 12, 2006


Whole Foods management has been loudly anti-union for years (CEO John Mackey famously compared unions to herpes in 1992) - I'm sure many of their workers and suppliers would disagree.

Unions are not inherently good. Just because the premise behind them is a good thing, doesnt mean they arentcorrupt, greedy bastards. Also, when you factor in the amount of union dues that people have to pay, couple with teh return on their investment and the frequency that the employees get screwed on something that the unions do, I dont think unions are all that.

There was an example at some company I know, where they had a facility somewhere, and they had 6 police calls a month, and 3 arrests on drug counts, and even trafficking. This was a "union shop". After the company went in and busted the union out of that shop, the arrest have gone down to 0, police calls have gone down to 0 and the amount of fights have gone down to 0. Also, they do not need 120 employees now, they got rid of 20 people who were involved in fights, and thanks to the union being gone, they dont have to worry about losing productivity, because they kept all the hard workers and removed all the under performing ones.
posted by subaruwrx at 11:23 AM on January 12, 2006


There was an example at some company I know

a friend of mine told me about a welfare mother who drives a cadillac.
posted by 3.2.3 at 11:30 AM on January 12, 2006


Just out from National Geographic: Trees linked to Global Warming - "We now have the specter that new forests might increase greenhouse warming through methane emissions rather than decrease it by being sinks for carbon dioxide."
So maybe if we just cut down all those trees a bit faster everything will be OK?
posted by Lanark at 11:38 AM on January 12, 2006


Wow, trees cause pollution? Ronald Reagan was right all along!
posted by alumshubby at 12:12 PM on January 12, 2006


Unions are not inherently good.

Well, no, of course not - but it seems clear that WF's workers aren't going to have their entirely realistic demands (wages that reflect the huge profits they're generating for the company, and staffing that allows them to reasonably manage what are often very crowded stores) without the collective bargaining power that they'll gain by unionizing.

It's a risk, but better than the alternative.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:17 PM on January 12, 2006


Subaruwrx: Unions are not inherently good.

Agreed. But corporations, churches, governments, pirate ships and dust bunnies aren't inherently good either. Inherent 'goodness' isn't the point of unions. The point is to provide protection and collective bargaining rights for workers.

But I'm glad you backed up your argument with the example about some company you know, where some stuff happened, and it was like, anarchy, and then the company kicked some ass and now everything's better without that union. Because broad generalizations go down best with unverifiable anecdotes.

On preview: what 3.2.3 said.
posted by palinode at 12:21 PM on January 12, 2006


global warming is a myth
*sweats in 50+ degree Chicago weather in January*

“Ronald Reagan was right all along!”

Well....he useta be.

“[There is an] absolute necessity of waging all-out war against the debauching of the environment. . .The bulldozer mentality of the past is a luxury we can no longer afford. Our roads and other public projects must be planned to prevent the destruction of scenic resources and to avoid needlessly upsetting the ecological balance.”- Ronald Reagan

Still, that’s a bit too touchy-feely for me. Environmentalism is where the rubber hits the road insofar as it’s where “big government” meets the commons. I think a lot of lefty folks (not necc liberals) took up environmentalism as a cause and made conservatives nervous as a “getting the feds to make you do stuff” sort of thing. Which is part of the problem, you could probably get away with polarizing something that’s the status quo, but not something you want to change.
That’s the thing though - while the left seeks to make changes in the law, environmentalism should be more of a conservative cause because it seeks to maintain the status quo of the commons. Our air, water, nature - all the things we own jointly as a society. Seems it’s only the hunters that are still around to champion that cause lately.

“The great error of our nature is not to know where to stop, not to be satisfied with any reasonable acquirement; not to compound with our condition; but to lose all we have gained by an insatiable pursuit after more...It is an incontestable truth, that there is more havoc made in one year by Men, of Men, than has been made by all the lions, tigers, panthers, leopards, hyenas, rhinoceroses, elephants, bears, and wolves, upon their several species, since the beginning of the world. . .” - Edmund Burke
The Vindication of Natural Society,

This is the issue. At some point it is not the humans that must be limited, but the blind engines we create to amass wealth. As loathe as I am to endorse greater government control, in this case it’s warrented, because it is not individual freedoms which must be restricted, but universal access to common property/rights that must be protected.

Environmentalism is for the left what gun rights are for the right.
While I can blame the left for monopolizing the issue and jamming the gears because of partisan politics I can equally blame the right for allying with business and betraying the principles of Burke (et.al) to amass wealth.

Which is stupid. You can’t breathe money.

I’ll say this for the whole foods thing - it doesn’t suck. It’s better than allowing what some marketing goof thinks will make the company another nickel dictate environmental policy.

That said, there should be economic incentives and the government should be off it’s ass and finding ways to protect our air and water - because that is capital too.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:14 PM on January 12, 2006


you know... regarding the prices at whole foods (and wild oats if you've ever been), we came up with a couple of slogans:

whole foods: all our prices are organically raised!

-or-

whole foods: you'll love our free-range prices!
posted by narwhal at 1:29 PM on January 12, 2006


The point is to provide protection and collective bargaining rights for workers.
Right, and in that, Unions arent even good for that anymore. Whats the last thing that you heard about Unions? The NYC Transit strike? Yeah, thats a good example of what unions can do. I hate unions. The protect the worst employees while providing nothing to the company as a whole.

That being said, workers need rights, but with the legal system what it is now, I dont think there is a need for unions. Organizations such as the IBEW and other worker benefit groups are far more benficial to everyone.

One more unverifiable anecdote... My father was displaced from work for 8 weeks, unable to provide for his family several times for "sympathy strikes" because he is a teamster and a rival (grocery, trucking, freight, et al.) company decided to strike and get everyone involved. We were not very well off and my father cannot work. We went hungry for a few days, because some group wanted to play hardball and not just take them to court or arbitration.

Lazy ass bastards. Now that I am in middle management myself, I see what a scam the unions are. They are like a legal mafia. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer.
posted by subaruwrx at 1:32 PM on January 12, 2006


Whole Foods? More like "Whole Paycheck". Viva Trader Joe's!
posted by NorthernSky at 1:56 PM on January 12, 2006


My experience of Unions is that there are good and bad - just like there are good and bad companies. I do worry that their priorities are often a bit short sighted when it comes to the environment - e.g. this response to the kyoto protocol
"If the lowest cost fuels are removed from the energy mix, industries that are highly energy-intensive will suffer as will individual energy consumers... We have a duty not to gamble with our members' livelihoods and we make no apologies for defending our members' jobs."

posted by Lanark at 1:57 PM on January 12, 2006


Well, if we’re getting anecdotal. Without help from my dad’s union after he died, we would have starved. If I didn’t have a union job a while back I wouldn’t have been hired back to that job when the layoffs were over. I think there are a lot of good unions out there and, obviously, bad ones. But the right to bargain collectively for labor is ridiculously obvious and necessary.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:44 PM on January 12, 2006


Without unions, we'd all be working to hard to post to mefi.
posted by spitbull at 3:06 PM on January 12, 2006


Um, just to clarify, I eat a primarily vegetable-based diet from Whole Foods, and it is definitely not cheap. That organic shit is expensive.
posted by youarenothere at 4:52 PM on January 12, 2006


NorthernSky: here, here.
posted by youarenothere at 4:52 PM on January 12, 2006


"That being said, workers need rights, but with the legal system what it is now, I dont think there is a need for unions. Organizations such as the IBEW and other worker benefit groups are far more benficial to everyone."

You mean this IBEW? Um, hello. That's a union.
posted by litlnemo at 5:08 PM on January 12, 2006


next time you go into trader Joe's i challenge you to be able to find ANYTHING at all that is not wrapped in at least one layer or plastic/paper/something. Even the vegetables there are wrapped in plastic. what the hell. trader Joe's needs to cut back on its packaging. and Leonard i work for a company that installs solar panels, and i can tell you they can make a very large amount of electricity, if we put solar panels on the roof of every school in America and 1 out of 10 large big box stores we would have enough to power the country. (and yes i realize that we would still need normal power plants to offset night time use etc etc) but what i am saying is that as the cost of oil and gas goes up the cost of solar and wind become a better deal (especially wind). these large corporations are missing out on a chance to make more money (something they like to do) by providing low cost renewable energy to the neighborhoods they sell goods in.
posted by stilgar at 7:00 AM on January 13, 2006


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