How Can You Pick Green Products That Will Thrive Through The Downturn?

slate's The Big Money site takes up the question, noting that the recession might actually be good for the environment on balance. After all, the greenest shopping is not shopping at all. Next best is buying secondhand.

Slate's The Big Money site takes up the question, noting that the recession might actually be good for the environment on balance. After all, the greenest shopping is not shopping at all. Next best is buying secondhand. Both of these, of course, are thrifty as well as green choices.

Energy-efficient choices like hybrid cars, CFL lightbulbs, EnergyStar appliances and insulation also save consumers money despite higher up-front costs, so demand for them should stay strong.

Where we've really seen a weakening, and are likely to see more, is in demand for products whose environmental claims are intangible and accompanied by hefty price premiums. This is especially true of organic foods which, the New York Times recently reported, have slowed from 20 percent annual sales growth in recent years to just 4 percent. Whole Foods Market, the flagship of sustainable groceries, is going through the toughest period in its history, with quarter-to-quarter net income slumping.

As an avid Whole Foods shopper myself, I find the objectives of sustainability, health, and good value often--but not always--converge. Vegetarian meal options are cheaper and better for the planet than meat (which we don't eat) or fish. Seasonal, local fruits and vegetables are simultaneously the cheapest, freshest, and lowest-carbon-footprint options. Literal "whole foods" such as bulk whole grains, dried spices, and canned beans are healthier and cheaper than processed, prepared meals and snacks. If I skip the organic raspberries flown in from Chile, I can splurge on the organic products that are most important to me from a health and ethical standpoint: eggs and milk.

Of course, I probably just described the lowest-profit-margin products in the entire store. How will you adapt your sustainable shopping habits to the recession?

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5 Comments

  • Edward Reid

    David Wayne Osedach:

    Does Whole Foods allow into their stores food with your company's (Senomyx) products in the ingredients?

    All:

    The whole foods at Whole Foods or any other similar market are definitely the way to save a little money

  • Lewis Perkins

    Anya, I love this blog entry and it opens up many ideas. One is that in downwards times, we have a great opportunity to create and improve upon our communities. Rebuilding the tribes. Look at what the folks in New Orleans have done after Katrina. Or the Townspeople in Greensburg, Kansas. Our issues will seem slight (we hope) in comparison. A great way to lower our costs is to shop for more than one. For instance, I live alone and shop for one. Often times I leave town before the produce has been consumed. What is we leveraged these valuable resources amongs our close friends. Cooking for one another, sharing from our gardens, our cupboards and refrigertors. It will not only help reduce what goes to waste and lower the cost per person, but it will also help us rebuilt community. Just a thought!

  • maryanne conlin

    Whole Foods has competition from new entry, Sprout where I've found much more reasonable prices. I think we'll see Whole Foods adpat by revising their product offerings, reducing margins and, of course, squeezing manufacturers - which really means green and organic product producers, especially smaller ones need to develop strong positioning statements beyond green, ramp up their marketing, in perhaps non-traditional ways and look closely at ways to streamline production.

  • david wayne osedach

    Just take a look @ Whole Food price gouging! $18/lb for 'organic' almonds. $4.29 for Trader Joe's almonds.