Where does beef come from? Where do tomatoes come from?
A few years ago, I heard about a group of school children in the UK being asked the same question. Where does beef come from? Where do tomatoes come from. Naturally, one would answer, “from a cow” or “from a farm.” But not these kids. Their answer? “From the grocery store.” Ok, fair enough.
Thinking it might have just been childish cheek, they were then asked, well where does the grocery store get it from?
They were stumped!
While I think (or at least hope) that most of us adults have a better sense of reality, I can’t help but think that we sometimes have the same shortsightedness when considering the items we buy. Like how wine simply comes from grapes, then magically appears in a bottle at the liquor store.
As it relates to packaging, I hear a lot of comments about how a certain product is overpackaged, un-environmentally friendly or just plain excessive. “Don’t you know you’re hurting the environment?? You monster!”
Well, sure if you consider it from the grocery store to the home, that may be true. But think about where your beef, or your tomatoes or even your protein powder comes from. And it ain’t just the grocery store!
The modern industrial supply chain has evolved into complex trade routes, assorted manufacturing locations and a significantly longer length of time for ‘cradle-to-grave’ manufacturing than what one might expect. The role of packaging isn’t just to fulfill you, the shopper’s – needs when you see it in the aisle. It also serves to protect it from the rigours of cross-country shipping, the extreme temperatures of a metal trailer and the physical conditions of a distribution hub.
And in fact now, with e-commmerce rising, distribution has become so personal, that it isn’t enough to just survive getting to the store. Packaging needs to survive being tossed around by Fedex and by being flown in the cargo hold at 30,000ft. Where the original first impression was made and set during shopping, now the first impression can be easily shattered by a damaged box arriving at your front door.
So before you loosely claim a package as being overpackaged, un-environmentally friendly or just plain excessive, think about where it might have come from. What bigger waste is there, than a broken package, unable to fulfill its purpose?
*And if you’re curious, there was a similar report from 2012 that asked similarly profound questions. You can find that here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/9330894/Where-do-milk-eggs-and-bacon-come-from-One-in-three-youths-dont-know.html What’s more shocking is that in this article, the clueless respondees are 16-23!!