Photo via WSJ
In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey admitted the national supermarket sells "a bunch of junk." Mackey was promoting Whole Foods' impending Healthy Eating Education initiative—their response to the American obesity epidemic.
While he didn't frame the program in environmental terms, healthy eating has obvious environmental implications. As we've stated in the past, obesity is very carbon intensive with an estimated 1.0 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions per billion people released into the atmosphere annually.Mackey describes how Whole Foods went down the fat road. The store started off in Austin, TX as your more conventional health food store: 30- 35% of sales came from fresh products and 15-20% came from the requisite bulk food section. But as market share increased and they attracted a more conventional food shopper, the whole foods got displaced by the processed foods (today their bulk section is down to meager 1%).
As part of the initiative, Mackey said the store would have cookbooks and a help desk to promote healthy eating. There will also be competitions amongst the staff for who is the healthiest. He did not, however, say that they would be actually removing any of the junk that litters Whole Foods' aisles (the author has fallen into the delusion that an organic "sandwich cookie" is much better than an Oreo). In fact, the details of his diet "revolution" are still being worked out.
While Mackey is working out the details, he might consider some suggestions. The Healthy Eating Education initiative rewards store employees based on conventional standards of health: body mass index, lowered cholesterol, etc. The idea being that a healthy staff will interface with customers causing a ripple effect. What if, in addition to above factors, the initiative included environmental considerations? For example:
After all, someone could lose a bunch of weight and lower his or her cholesterol with a bunch of processed, heavily packaged foods from halfway around the world. If the program were to consider the environment, the word "health" might conceivably expand beyond the waistline.