Taking part in this diet has caused me notice many things about my lifestyle. Just as soon as I’m ready to congratulate myself for hardly ever driving a car or eating only sustainably produced meat, I am confronted with my beauty product habit or my salt and pepper grinders.
I absolutely love these grinders. All I have to do is press a button and immediately, freshly ground salt and pepper fall over my food — they even have a spotlight that comes on while you’re grinding.
I never considered that these grinders were anything but awesome. But after I began the diet and viewed them in the light of their energy use — they run on six AAA batteries that need to be swapped out every eight weeks or so — I must admit they are ridiculous. I’m perfectly capable of using a hand grinder, even though it’s not as cool. How many things like this would we avoid buying if we thought about the environmental impact first?
Ironically, the same purchasing power that allows me to have ridiculous salt and pepper grinders affords me the advantage of being able to buy eco-friendly things that others cannot. I can accept a higher price for things like grass-fed meat (though I’ve noticed that when it comes to ground beef at chains such as Whole Foods and Wegman’s, price differences between conventional and grass-fed ground beef are now either small or nonexistent), organic greens at the farmer’s market and Method concentrated detergent.
These purchasing decisions are made even easier by the fact that they mostly benefit me: organic products are better for me, and concentrated detergent is a lot easier to carry. This is where the marketing and manufacturing industries have tremendous power: They can create products that are easier on the environment. Maybe they can even price them so that they’re competitive with non-eco-friendly choices. And they can make them the same or better than what we had before.
Last year, Kimberly-Clark rolled out (excuse the pun) tube-free toilet paper, which my mom proudly informed me that she’d purchased at Sam’s Club because well, it’s just cool. Even though the idea of taking out the tube seems trivial, it will save 160 million pounds of trash, according to the company’s estimates — and, perhaps just as important, it represents a shift in thinking about a product that has been the same for years. We always took that cardboard tube for granted; now we wonder, why did we ever need it in the first place?