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...the ability of the supermarkets to circumvent consumer power.
...the psychology of manipulating the masses.
Of course this goes on! Still, if the supermarkets are catering to an emotional need, know it, know how to do it better than the competition, and exploit that knowledge and ability as much as they can, they are still, ultimately, giving people what they want! Just like the demise of the free bag (I live in Germany and have largely lost touch with what's happening in the UK, but supermarket bags are 10 cents here, which must represent a pretty good profit margin), with which they are appearing "green" and making consumers feel good by reducing the waste per supermarket trip by 0.01% when there are probably other things they could do with far more impact on waste. That practice adds value to the supermarket run to consumers who, for the token sacrifice of being forced to reuse their bags, can feel a whole lot better about how wonderfully green they are, as they load up the boot of the V6-engined BMW with vegetables flown in from halfway around the world. Of course it's manipulative, but you can't say it isn't giving people what they want!
Thus to suppose that the supermarkets are what the people actually want or would choose is questionable...
Well, I would say the supermarkets are giving people what they actually want. It's up to individuals to realise when they make nonrational choices and when their propensity to do so is being manipulated, and react accordingly. Or not, if they prefer being emotional rather than rational beings. In practice, most of us are a mixture of the two.
...the Totnes people, who have even issued their own Totnes Pund so that money circulates within their own community, is described as "North Korean".
Well, I didn't know that fact - but it gets even more North Korean by the post. Having some kind of community (government) diktat that restricts the free flow of capital is a strong parallel with North Korea. The rest of the world is moving in the opposite direction to Totnes. My initial contention was the NK is very keen on "self-reliance" - it largely eschews trade with the outside world (and places severe restrictions on the flow of capital), with predictable consequences for their economy.
...they are seeking a degree of self-sufficiency.
There's nothing wrong with that, but I don't see the point in dictating that self-sufficiency will exist on the village level and the village level only. Sure, every village needs a shop, but it doesn't need an investment bank, university, or pharmaceutical company, provided it trades with those instutions elsewhere. If we want village-only self sufficiency we will have village-only services. Instead we need to be self-sufficient at the family, town, national, european, and global levels in different things.
In all probability, however, the success of the Totnes initiative will probably be just as dependent on the emotional rather than the logical as the supermarket model.
I agree. It sounds like it is driven by a combination of socialist ideology and nostalgia.
This is an overlooked aspect of the use of Petroleum Products and the continuing growth of that industry. Packages are mostly plastic, are hard to open, and increase weight to be transported.
Consider, which I am sure all the posters have, that this simple idea, to reduce shoplifting and to preserve products from deterioration is the basis for our continued dependency on Oil. Not to even mention the landfills useage.
This is a hidden aspect of the Oil Products useage we have in our society.
Would it be correct to say. Lets dig out all these hidden useage items, across the USA spectrum, offer reasonable solutions after a due and diligent R and D effort to identify the ramifications of imposing a solution?
Hit and Miss,do gooders, Social ills fixes, without a reasonable assurance that the imposed solution will work, without causing more problems, seems to be our modus operandi.
I noticed that recently the local supermarket has taken to bagging bunches of bananas.
This is not an aid to shipping, since they come in the same cardboard boxes as ever and which are still simply opened up and placed on the shelf.
So again, why?
Compare the local greengrocer with the supermarket and see how many products are pre-wrapped in the supermarket by comparison.
The supermarket carrier bags are a diversion. Doing away with them isn't really doing anything.
In our house it will mean buying more bin liners so we have an added cost and an added profit but a doubtful benefit.
Sorry, but supermarkets seem obsessed with packaging. The supermarket bags are simply a minor part of all that packaging burden.
Bagging bananas causes them to ripen quickly which means they are more likely to end up as waste after you get them home. It also makes it more difficult for the customer to screen out imperfect fruit (every pre-packed bag of onions has a bad one in, doesn't it?). Believe me - they'll have done their sums on this - bagging (unless done at the supermarket itself) will increase pre-sale waste, but if that is outweighed by increased overall sales because of at-home waste, and an increase in the amount of wholesale fruit that can be presented to the customer, they still win.
Have you not noticed that your supermarket potatoes now last at most 2 weeks before they go soft and sprout? I have no idea how they do that. Ones from the garden can be stored for 3 months or more.
Now do supermarkets really require to package everything in plastic?
Tescos: most of the vegetables in plastic.
In Boston last week at Whole Food Market, all the vegetables displayed unpackaged, not some, all unpackaged. It was a very much more impressive display and the vegetables looked fresh and tasty.
Let's not defend the supermarkets too strongly.
Incidentally, in Woburn MA residents are part of a scheme that encourages them to grow their own vegetables... this is evidence that the Totnes phenomenon is not an isolated instance.
Oh, and Whole Food Market provided paper bags to cart stuff away, not plastic.