This Week in Consumption

My friend Kalki, who lives in the NYC area, was giving away some beauty products and offering them to whoever wanted them. Having some of my own half-used beauty products laying around the house, I offered a swap instead of a one way send. What I ended up getting was Bed Head Brunette Goddess shampoo and conditioner (smelling strongly of fake brown sugar) and Kiehl’s Herbal Toner with Mixed Berries and Extracts and Ultra Facial Moisturizer (she also sent me a grab bag of other things). In return, I plan on sending her some left over Aveda Tourmaline Charged cleanser and face cream – both seem to be too heavy for my skin.

Trading left-over products seems a lot more eco-friendly than sending them to the trash pile. However, I should likely underline the word seems.

From a recent New York Times article Buying into the Green Movement:

It’s as though the millions of people whom environmentalists have successfully prodded to be concerned about climate change are experiencing a SnackWell’s moment: confronted with a box of fat-free devil’s food chocolate cookies, which seem deliciously guilt-free, they consume the entire box, avoiding any fats but loading up on calories.

My “Thinking Green” makes me feel good — as does many other forms of consumption. I can feel guilty about one thing, and then consume another, and feel like I’ve done something good. I think that the analogy to SnackWell’s is a particularly great one, and it reminds me of Michael Pollan’s essay,
Unhappy Meals

Consider what happened immediately after the 1977 “Dietary Goals” — McGovern’s masterpiece of politico-nutritionist compromise. In the wake of the panel’s recommendation that we cut down on saturated fat, a recommendation seconded by the 1982 National Academy report on cancer, Americans did indeed change their diets, endeavoring for a quarter-century to do what they had been told. Well, kind of. The industrial food supply was promptly reformulated to reflect the official advice, giving us low-fat pork, low-fat Snackwell’s and all the low-fat pasta and high-fructose (yet low-fat!) corn syrup we could consume. Which turned out to be quite a lot. Oddly, America got really fat on its new low-fat diet — indeed, many date the current obesity and diabetes epidemic to the late 1970s, when Americans began binging on carbohydrates, ostensibly as a way to avoid the evils of fat.

I love that SnackWells is name-checked in these two articles published 6 months apart. Even better, it’s used to illustrate our misguided consumption of stuff. The 20th Century brought us a larger food supply, and cheaper crap for us to fill our houses and spend our hard earned dollars on. All of it is fueled by this ridiculous belief that we have a limitless supply of energy – in whatever form it takes, from energy as fuel for our cars and machines, to keep this stuff easily within our grasp and energy as food, making us and our children wonderfully fat. We can’t STOP consuming and no group making money today really wants us to STOP consuming as much as we do. Of course, I’m happy to be proven wrong on that declaration.

I can’t help but think about a family trip to Disney World a few years ago, when we sat in an air conditioned theatre and engaged in some thought-provoking edu-tainment Ellen’s Energy Adventure in Epcot. Ellen Degeneres and Bill Nye (the Science Guy) bring up important points about our waning energy supply. Never fear, though, because in the end, we still have an inexhaustable amount of brain power to think of a solution to the energy crisis.

That is, except when you and everyone else with the brain power to figure a solution haven’t eaten in days, and are away from any clean source of drinking water. (The brain seems to work better when well rested, fed and watered.)

I could go on with regards to this weeks thoughts on consumption, but currently, I have an aching belly from nibbling while baking Lavender Shortbread Cookies and making German Potato Salad for the Fourth. I have, indeed, over-consumed, and the day isn’t even done yet.

Have a happy and safe Independence Day. Make a point to exercise a civil liberty today.