Sunday, October 5, 2008

Whole Foods Holes

When i lived in SoDak i used to leave the dusty Black Hills behind every couple months, and go visit my sis in Colorado. The purpose of those escapes was to drink good beer in a nice pub, buy cool shoes, and go shopping at 'real' stores. Not to mention the sweet hikes in the Rockies. On these trips i would often find myself dipping into the Ft. Collins Whole Foods to grab some treasures that i could not get up in SoDak.

But i haven't been in a Whole Foods since i got back to Oregon, until today. And maybe it was all for the better. It is amusing to me how your perceptions change, based on where you live. Here i am able to demand more from the places i shop, and put up with less b.s. Not even taking into consideration the pending litigation against Whole Foods for their alleged monopoly on the organic market when they bought and closed all the Wild Oats stores in the nation, i just really did not enjoy my experience there. Working in the suburban town of Beaverton -- home to Nike and Intel -- the choices are limited for conscious places to buy lunch. Most of the time i am schlepping out dozens of stories or slapping a show together during my time in the 'burbs, so i don't have time to go out for lunch anyway. But today i did.

The brand-new store on Northwest Cornell -- near the border of Beaverton and Hillsboro -- is a perhaps good place for the suburban set to be softly, and expensively introduced to the organic and natural foods world. It has all the appeal that a boutique grocery store is supposed to -- the olive bar, the copious deli with hot and cold selections, the white-coated workers, willing to cut you off a slice of gourmet cheese... and on top of that, plenty of organic produce. But little is local, and the store's owners most certainly are not local. The corporation's (with its 44,00o+ workers) headquarters are in Texas. And at the checkout stand today, they were selling cd's of Miley Cyrus -- also known as Hannah Montana. Well that was just about it. As i said, perhaps this is a good place for suburbanites to "live green, light." But perhaps not. Perhaps it's a gateway to the organic movement. Perhaps not. But i can't help thinking that if this is what people perceive the organic movement to be about -- selling organic mangos alongside Miley Cyrus -- then we are headed for more misguided overcommercialization of something that should be all about getting back to roots.

There is just something dangerous about feel-goodery that makes people think they are doing the right thing, with little check on whether they are or not. Then they can write off all the other terrible things they do. Kind of like the carbon credits business. Then again, i can imagine a world where all grocery stores are organic. The mix is already happening in most mainstream stores here too. But perhaps that is a little less disturbing because they do not claim to be the be-all end-all of the organic movement, as Whole Foods does.

Eating local means ensuring that the person who delivers the food to your mouth did not have to transport it thousands of miles, using many gallons of gas to do so. It means eating foods that fit your climate, because you live in said climate, and your body acclimates to food grown in your own environment better. Supporting local business means your neighbors are not going to go broke and have to shut down their business and foreclose their home. And it means that the taxes they pay will go back into your local schools and roads -- two things that Portland desperately needs to revamp and repave. In that light -- you could even go hyper-local on my ass and say that i shouldn't be shopping in Beaverton if i want to benefit Portland schools. Point taken, self. Thank you.

My point is, as the 'green revolution' grows there are going to be more and more temptations that will seem like the good fight, but are really just good marketing. And it's up to all of us who care to patch up the Wholes.

By the way, an article in this week's Oregonian gives you some information and guidance about going hyper-local and shopping the local co-ops.

You say you want a revolution... well...

No comments: