Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Wal-Mart and Organics: A Neo-Green Dilemma

My sister-in-law sent Samantha and me an article from CNN Money yesterday, announcing Wal-Mart's entry into the world of organic food and clothing.

Let that announcement settle in for a second: Wal-Mart is starting to go Organic! Wow!

This is either one of the worst announcements ever in terms of its potential impact on the environment, or in the long run, it may be the best.

On the negative side, Wal-Mart's big-box, suburban-style development has wrecked a lot of natural land, added traffic to local roads, increased pollution and damaged local water tables/bodies. In addition, think of all the pollution generated by the massive amount of "stuff" that Wal-Mart buys and moves from factories around the world to its 7,000 store locations. Add to these impacts all of the negative claims made about the store's treatment of its workers , and this whole thing looks a bit scary.

Now, think about the potentially positive impacts of this announcement. Wal-Mart's massive size and efficient distribution system has the potential to lower the price of organic products, across the board, This is good news for those of us trying to live a greener lifestyle. It's also good news for the poor to middle-class consumers around the world who will soon be exposed to healthier food and greener products at Wal-Mart, at a reasonable price. Their sudden exposure to these products and their increased demand for them could change the way we shop, forever. Add to this Wal-Mart's October 2005 announcement that they will significantly increase fuel efficiency of their truck fleet over the next decade; reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% over the next seven years; reduce energy use by 30% and cut solid waste generated by its U.S. stores by 25% in three years, and it's easy to see a silver lining.

So, check out the article here and ask yourself the same questions I'm struggling with. Wal-Mart is going Organic, but at what cost? It's a Neo-Green dilemma.

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