But those expectations can go too far when we let false perceptions cloud our decision making. One case in point is at the grocery.
A recent report noted that worldwide we're wasting nearly half our food. The reasons are many and complex, but one factor is consumer pickiness. As one recent article noted:
"... the reason waste is endemic to the current American model of food consumption is largely to do with how we approach grocery shopping. 'Americans expect to see abundance [at the grocery store],' he says. 'U.S. retailers believe shoppers expect produce to be there whenever they want it. The idea of 'out of stock' is so anathema to U.S. shoppers that retailers would rather pay for food that they know they'll waste than risk having an empty table or shelf in the store.'"
In addition to stocking lots of food, stores also tend to remove any produce (or product) that doesn't look just right. The reason? Consumers want their fruits and veggies to look uniform and blemish-free (at least that's the prevailing theory). However, perhaps because of the growth in farmers' markets, with their less-than-perfect produce, some groceries are taking a risk and stocking "imperfect" fruit.
What can we do? Let our grocery stores know we'd be happy for them to stock "imperfect" produce, especially if it causes less waste and saves everyone money.
What else do grocery stores do to appease potentially picky customers? How about wasting tons of energy by leaving doors off the refrigerated cases?
As one grocery spokesperson said, "Customers tell us that they make it difficult for them to shop." Yep, those doors actually cause shoppers to not buy certain products, because they have to open doors to get to them. However, some stores in the UK are experimenting with putting doors on their fridges.
What can we do? Let stores know those doors won't bother us a bit, and that we'd in fact prefer that they conserve energy and allow us to walk down those refrigerated aisles without a parka on.
This kind of "pickiness" extends to a vast array of choices.
I know of one acquaintance who refuses to buy second-hand silverware (and certain other items) from thrift stores, because someone has previously used it. (It seems she's not considering that the sheets they've slept on at hotels have also been used, or that the table service at a restaurant has, too).
Others of us might eschew public transportation because of our perceptions about the level of safety, or the kinds of people who use it. Or insist on cranking up the heat because we want to be able to walk around our house in shirt sleeves, even though it's February. Or replace our smartphone every year because we can't stand the thought of not having the latest whatever, even though we don't know how to use the dozen whatevers that were new to the previous model. These little "quirks" might seem relatively harmless, until we start adding up their impact times everyone else making the same choices.
It can be a bit of a challenge, but when we strive to bring mindfulness to all our decisions, and to question our assumptions and perceptions, we'll often find that we can maintain our ethical standards while becoming more flexible about some of our choices -- which does both us and the planet a lot of good.
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