When we become dogmatic about something, be it religious belief or political mindset or which kind of sweetener we should be using for the sake of our health and wellness, how do we truly know that what we’ve become staunchly supportive of (or opposed to) is a wise choice? We’re freaking out: but are we freaking out about the right things? Could we, maybe?

Consider our collective ‘BPA-free water bottles’ fervor back in 2010-2011: alerted to the dangers of BPA in our plastic water bottles, we all went out and replaced our Nalgene water bottles with BPA-free Nalgene water bottles (or metal ones, or glass or….whatever. You get the point. We took action quickly. We spent money. We felt relieved and somehow safer for having done this). But is investing in new water bottles an appropriate response to the true threat of BPA? What about handling sales receipts? And is BPA the only cancer-causing chemical byproduct of plastic that we need be concerned about?  And what about the fact that virtually all of our food is somehow packaged in plastic (the chemical compounds of which manufacturers aren’t required to disclose)? Shouldn’t we be responding/reacting to that? Why aren’t we? The threat seems higher, the impact more severe…

I wonder if I’m out of touch with the current general social consensus about this – but then I wander through the grocery, with most products still wrapped in plastic. And purchased in plastic, because in most cases, that’s our option (or perhaps the only affordable option)… clearly, we’re still buying this stuff in its styro-plasti-polymer encasements…  how is there no panic, no demands for change?

I wonder if it feels like too much. Too much risk, too much information, too much attention required to figure this stuff out… No one’s made it easy (at least not as easy as manufacturing and marketing and buying BPA-free water bottles).

I know very little about food packaging and safety. I know I need to eat, and sometimes (ok, more than sometimes), immediate hunger comes before long term health and wellness considerations. But wouldn’t it be helpful if we could get organized enough to drive change in our food systems? How can we become more attentive, thoughtful consumers when it comes to our own health and safety?

Would it make sense to have companies be accountable for listing the compounds and byproducts they’re using and producing? A sort of social impact bottom line? If it’s already happening, perhaps the data needs organizing for easier digestion?

And in Minneapolis (market managers, take note): there’s huge opportunity to drive change from the ground up with the launch of — or transition to — a plastic-free farmer’s market.  If you’re already working on this, please ping me.

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