Kashi Company (owned by Kellogg)
Bill Long 4/14/08
Saving the Planet by Destroying It
In our post-modern world, where values are inverted and meaning goes through many transmutations from the time it leaves the mouth of the speaker till it ends up in the ears of the listener, one of the goals most embraced by those in the know is to "save the planet." This phrase can be said in a number of ways--"preserve the environment," "engage in sustainable living," "live organically," "living green," etc., but if and when you meet someone like this (or if you are one), you know each other instantly. There isn't a secret handshake that is exchanged, but there definitely is a shared zeal, a look in the eye, a focused determination that will stop at nothing to see that the planet is saved.
Let me say at the outset that I believe, without equivocation, that it is better to save than to destroy the planet. That is one reason I am no friend of the current Administration in Washington. But what is becoming evident to me is that the language of sustainability or saving the planet, is now used more and more as a "free pass" for those who can continue to live hypocritically, naively, irrelevantly or, in some cases cluelessly. Let's take the case of Kashi, the maker of organic cookies and whole grain snacks and cereals. I have been buying their products for a few years now, and everything they sell tastes great. It is on the expensive side, but I have learned to expect this with people who are saving the planet; I have to pay for rhetoric as well as for quality foods. But, as I say, I don't really mind this, because I generally support the rhetoric of saving planets.
Bothered by Something
But as I was biting into a dark chocolate Kashi cookie the other day something just didn't seem right. It wasn't that there was no prize in my cookie package. It just seemed that they kind of overdid the packaging. Then, as I looked more closely at what I had before me, my vague sense of discomfort turned into horror. They place precisely eight cookies--that is 8--in a plastic holder, that is encased by an aluminum-covered protector, and then is further encased in a solid, large box. But then, I realized that my girlfriend had bought these cookies in a bigger-box, the three-pack, that is so big, sturdy and capacious that Thor Heyerdahl could have crossed the Pacific on it if his raft sank. I looked at the big box, and realized that it is so big that I could probably save it for a future move to carry out some of my voluminous library. And I thought. All this packaging for 24 cookies? 24? One could have used packages about 1/3 as big and solid to sell the same goods. Then, it dawned on me. Kashi has bought into the "packaging revolution," a revolution which Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Prize winner, carefully skewers in his work on microcredit and business profitability.
Turning to the Website
So, I decided to learn a little more about this company, which seems to have contradictions slicing it right down the middle. On the home page is a happily smiling woman, tethered to some object that seems to suggest she is "taking a chance" in life. She is taking a risk, a dare, and of course, she is on the Kashi page. The company wants to give us a daily challenge--"a one-day goal to nurture and nourish your mind, body and soul." It is great that a cookie-maker wants to nourish my soul. What is their challenge for the day? "Unless you recycle, disposable coffee cups and plastic lids pile up..." Well, what if you don't even drink coffee (which I don't--a real virtue, don't you think?)? But why are they so concerned about other people's coffee cups and lids when they have humongous cookie boxes littering the environment?
Well, I had to read further. I clicked on "eco-friendly," which was "topic 7" of their current topics. The window opened to various articles on natural home cleaning and composting and sustainability, three of the pillars on which the modern save the planet movement is based, I am sure. The first article listed, however, is "Tips for Greener Living." I really didn't want to read advice on shutting off the water when I brush my teeth (I already do that), but I did see this line: "Going green is simpler than you might think. Just remember: Reduce..."
"Reduce." Yes, I suppose that is my problem. The company, while claiming to help save the planet while it sets "challenges" for the rest of us, seems to avoid for itself the central "challenge" that the article suggested: "Reduce."
So, here are the questions that I have for Kashi. Why are your packages so huge? How much does it cost you to make all that hard cardboard, plastic and aluminum-covered material? How much effort have you put into looking for cheaper, more "sustainable" ways to market your product? Until they come up with a few of these answers, I will simply continue to make their huge cardboard boxes into rafts--for my next trip across the Pacific.
Copyright © 2004-2008 William R. Long