FROM ECO BAGS TO WHOLE FOODS
By: Chit U. Juan
Back in 2007, at a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) conference my former company displayed our programs using a backdrop of cloud and trees and used the word “sustainability”. Everyone took a second look and wondered what exactly we meant. Soon we used the term “eco-bags” and started a campaign about less packaging with plastics.
A few years later, municipalities and cities started , one by one ,to pass ordinances to ban plastics in retail establishments as a sign of helping the environment and I guess to give way to consumer demands as well.
The next product is Styrofoam. I remember having literature about “safe” styro but I never believed our country was equipped with recycling facilities that were safe to recycle it. Then, styro went the way of plastic bags and were soon replaced bigtime by fast food outlets to paper boxes. Also, when a nationawide chain like Mercury Drug changes its plastic bags to paper, that’s a big step.
When we put up ECHOstore in 2008, we stopped the use of portion control sachets of sugar and creamer. We even stopped serving non-dairy creamer and chose fresh milk instead. Our customers just took to it and never questioned our “anti-portion control” practices.
I remember the President of a multinational FMCG company saying their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was to provide their products in sachets.so the poor could afford them. But he did not mention its environmental impact—then Pepeng came, Sendong came, Milenyo came. What was found in the rivers and esteros? The empty wrppaers of portion packs that were supposed to be the firm’s CSR for the poor. Today we see many more “CSR” projects for the poor—refill packs of even vinegar, ketchup, tomato sauce—all because packaging cost of glass bottles are more expensive and will render the final product size unaffordable. But is it really CSR? Maybe we should just say it is a marketing strategy to reach more markets.
But, I am happy the eco bags, “no plastic bags “and cardboard boxes are now in fashion. The next part would be what we eat. What do we put in these cardboard boxes anyway when we buy food? Just recently a store opened in our neighborhood to provide healthier convenience foods. That’s a good idea. Eating healthy on the run. It actually is a paradox. If you will eat on the run, it may as well be a fruit or nuts. Eating healthy is mindful eating. Taking the time to savor each morsel of food. But, don’t get me wrong, these new options are well-received. So with juice bars and delivered juices and detox drinks.
Next would be fruit markets. A friend and I were discussing how fresh bananas are now available at 7-11 convenience stores. Nice idea. I saw that in Japan as well and maybe the local 7-11 franchise is following suit. Now there is no excuse not to have a fruit, even just one fruit a day..fresh bananas.
Next would be whole food markets. Where you can buy prepared “slow food”?. That is an oxymoron again. Slow food that’s pre –prepared? But I know that’s where we are headed.
If city governments were able to change the rules on use of plastic, styro and other non eco-friendly supplies, maybe they will soon regulate even the food that is offered by restaurants. That they be safe and healthy for consumers. Already we are seeing more “farm to table “ restaurants. More local fast food offering less fatty, and processed food, and more vegetable choices.
So it is only a matter of time and I am confident it may happen in my lifetime. To see restaurants and cafes cooking from scratch. To see consumers bringing a lunch box from home with a piece of fruit and maybe brown rice and a piece of chicken or pork with vegetables.
In the US, a fast food chain is already struggling unless it changes its menu to healthier choices. It will soon happen in Asia as well. Fast food joints will be forced by consumers to offer healthier breads, healthier sandwiches and even brown rice (I see more restaurants already doing this option of red or brown rice).
Just like the switch from plastic to reusable bags, I know it will happen with food, too. And government is also watching and will soon put its foot down. And maybe in my next government-sponsored meeting we will have brown rice biko or kalamay and coffee instead of a fastfood burger or fried chicken.
Let’s see them changing habits and let’s be part of the change, too. Let’s eat sustainably.