Friday, October 08, 2010


In this article from the Wall Street Journal, aspects of it are examined that no one likes, and some that everyone—almost—did.

An excerpt.

“The environmentally friendly Sun Chips bag is getting sacked. As Suzanne Vranica reported in The Wall Street Journal Wednesday, Frito-Lay succumbed to market reality. The company introduced the fully compostable, plant-based bag in January to loud acclaim. It looked like a green triumph—until customers started complaining about the noise, noise, noise.

“Instead of the slight crinkly rustling that accompanied digging into the old plastic bag, the new bag announced each reach with a big bang. The racket clocked in at around 95 decibels, louder than a lawnmower, a coffee grinder, or certain breeds of dog barking in your ear. (The European Union requires workers to wear ear-protection when exposed to such noise.)

“Customers expressed their dissatisfaction with the new packaging by choosing not to buy it, and this has some environmentalists all worked up. Over at Mother Jones, writer Kate Sheppard declares that the early retirement of Sun Chips' eco-bag is "Why We're Doomed." She's miffed that "a little noise was apparently too much for Americans to handle." She likens the snack-sack push-back to Americans' lack of enthusiasm for compact fluorescent light bulbs, which many resist because "they simply don't care for the way they look," the selfish brutes! Being willing to make aesthetic compromises "is the absolute, bare-minimum level of sacrifice Americans are asked to make." With no little contempt for the "couch potatoes [who] can't hear their TVs over the sound of their chip sack," she concludes that "If the sound of a crinkly eco-chip bag is too much to handle, then the human species really is screwed."

“Ms. Sheppard may be a bit overwrought, but she has one thing right: You can add the Sun Chip bags to the pile of eco-virtuous products that consumers found less desirable than the traditional products they replaced. Compact fluorescent bulbs are so unloved and so widely unadopted that Congress had to resort to conventional-bulb prohibition, with incandescent bulbs getting Volsteaded come 2014. Low-flush toilets and low-flow shower heads failed to lure consumers from their water-guzzling predecessors, so the new devices were propped up by federal regulations—though resourceful end-users removed the flow-limiting gaskets to make their showers less stingy. Congress, it should be noted, has yet to mandate deafening snack-food packaging.

“Why do today's environmentally conscious alternatives so often seem such sad substitutes? It's not as though there haven't been products with environmental benefits embraced by consumers.

“Market-friendly economists have long pointed to the introduction of kerosene, gas-lighting and then electric bulbs as putting an end to whale oil for lighting. In whaling's heyday, there were alternatives for fueling lamps. But the quality of the light from burning whale oil made it something of a luxury good. The move away from it wasn't just because there were cheaper options, but because the new technologies were both cheaper and better.”