Whole Foods to start selling ‘imperfect’ fruits and vegetables

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Why we should stop being so shallow towards our food’s appearance

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 17, 2016

First it was organics, now Whole Foods is aiming to make the buying and eating of “imperfect” fruits and vegetable as mainstream as drinking kombucha.

Approximately 20–40 per cent of all fruits and vegetables end up in the trash. According to Environmental Protection Agency, US consumers wasted 35 million pounds of food in 2012. There are a number of reasons why such a large quantity of food ends up in the garbage, and including the fact that supermarkets have a high standard for the produce they sell. So, like a model for a talent agent, the tomato in your supermarket must also go through an appearance assessment.

Now whether this experiment is going to work for Whole Foods and a number of other forward-thinking grocers is still up in the air. Consumers, especially consumers in developed countries, are quite fickle about what they buy. We work hard for our money, so why would we buy something of lower quality when we can have the better one for the same price?

Still, there is something heartwarming about finding a good home for these rejected fruits and vegetables. Like an orphanage for food, it’s good to know that Whole Foods is doing its part to change the superficial ideal that is ultimately harming our society. Buying “ugly” food is not a novelty, though. It’s not a freak show, it’s not for a one-time entertainment, it’s something we need to make habitual. That is where the challenge will be.

We must remember that in the end, it all just ends in the same place. Why does it matter how good an avocado looks before you mash it up into guacamole? Why does it matter how a carrot looks before you toss it in a stew? Sure, some fruit and vegetables—those you set on a platter for a house party, for example—need to look somewhat desirable, but in the end, why does it matter?

We are so shallow about fruit and vegetables, but when it comes to animals we are fine with them being unattractive. Beef, pork, and seafood are not as cute as the little potato, but many of us eat them all the same. As long as you can tell the difference between fresh and spoiled, it rarely matters how the ingredients look.

In fact, I believe we should start eliminating the idea of disgusting food from our society altogether. Our diets consist of many environmentally damaging productions. Acres of forestland are dedicated to cattle. Animals that were once in abundance, like species of salmon, are now being carefully rationed for fear of causing a greater imbalance. Yet, there is one species in the animal kingdom the Western world still finds grotesque: insects.

Like ugly fruits and vegetables, insects are often scorned for their pesky nature. We see them as many things, but nutritious is not one of them. However, many people in developing countries depend on them for survival daily.

Pushing for ugly foods to be sold is a small step, but there is a long way to go to create a sustainable world. If that is the goal, we need to change our opinions about imperfect fruits and vegetables—and soon our opinion about all things edible.

The millennial priority shopping lists

Photo illistration by Joel McCarthy

Five things you should purchase if you actually have money

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. January 27, 2015

Youth is wasted on the young, but money shouldn’t be. I know we might be a little strapped for cash here at the moment, but that is not going to be the case forever. We have our five-year plan and all our investments are in order. No time to worry about the future. That’s why we should take advantage of our current disposable income. The question is, what should we actually spend it on? Booze? Rent? Food? Those are all legitimate options, but here are my top five purchases to make if you are lucky enough to get a sudden influx of cash.

Plane ticket to anywhere: Any extra money I have I deposit into a saving fund dedicated to plane tickets and other traveling expenses. I’m passionate about traveling and I can’t imagine my life without the anticipation of another trip. Instead of spending money on more things around the house, I choose to go somewhere, see something new, and create worthwhile memories and experiences. There will come a day when I won’t get the opportunity to travel, but before then I want to see as many different places and experience as many different cultures as possible.

Better, healthier meals: It’s easy to get into the habit of eating poorly. Fast and unhealthy food is convenient and cheap and that is why we gravitate to it. When we receive some extra cash, why are we still making excuses not to eat healthier or fancier? Buy some vegetables or go to a restaurant that requires reservations. I enjoy fine dining as much as I enjoy McDonald’s. I have to tip more at one, and that is why I’m not a regular at Tojo’s, but I like treating myself and my friends and family to an evening of extravagance when I can.

New furniture (especially bed): Nothing symbolizes growing up like purchasing your own furniture. The day you decide to throw away your parents’ hand-me-downs and go shopping with the mission to create your own space is a monumental milestone that many people fail to commemorate. Obviously you can get by with what you have. You know, the couch from Craigslist, the table from your aunt’s garage, and the cheap, squeaky IKEA chair that pretty much grew up with you. I don’t care how sentimental you are, things get old, and you deserve new furniture that represents your taste.

New “comfy” pair of shoes: Few things in the world can guarantee to ruin your day: missed opportunities, regrettable comments or actions, and painful shoes. You might have one pair of shoes, you might have a thousand pairs, but what is important is that you have at least one comfortable pair of shoes. If you have one, then buy another one. Buy one in every style that you need. If it’s not comfortable, throw it away! Live a life where every step is enjoyable.

New technology: If you are the kind of person that says, “Yep, the Motorola flip phone from 2006 is still good for me, I don’t need smartphones,” then there may be no saving you. Technology is here to make our lives better. For it to improve we must continue using it, even as consumers. We must continue learning from it. We might not be the innovators, but we should be able to identify with the latest software and certain standards of technology usage. So buy a new desktop, buy a new tablet, and subscribe to digital media. There is a whole world out there waiting to be explored.

Advertisement, a reason to sell-abrate

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An Opinions article brought to you by the ‘Other Press’

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. March 18, 2014

I’m not an easy sell and I’m not a compulsive buyer. I can’t be—I wouldn’t survive if I was.

I work hard to earn my money and I choose to spend it on the things that I enjoy and with the people who I like. But I’m also reasonable; I budget wisely and do my best to avoid falling into debt. Many may consider it a marketers versus us game of tug-of-war with our paycheques, but I don’t see it that way.

I appreciate advertisements, because they aren’t pick-pocketing me on a busy street. They’re presenting the value of a brand in a way that might or might not attract my attention. Sure, advertisements are biased and appeal on many different levels, but as someone who understands the value of a dollar, you better appeal to me or I’m not buying.

Advertisers are not competing against us, but against other brands. So where some people say there’s too much product placement, I say good. It should be survival of the fittest. After all, advertising is art with a clear purpose.

I know it’s annoying to sit through those five seconds of commercial before your YouTube video, and I know it sucks to listen to the rambling of voices attempting to sell you something on the radio when all you want is some Beyoncé, but the alternative is having to pay for the services. God forbid I cough up my lunch money for a monthly subscription of YouTube, Google, Facebook, or any other free-to-use platforms that sustain themselves on advertisements. If you ask me, I think we are getting a pretty sweet deal.

Companies hate spending money on advertisements, and they hate it as much as we do when those ads are ineffective and annoying. Brands need to know their audience better and thanks to the technology of search engines, they are getting improved results.

I hope one day all marketing strategies will be targeted advertisements. If you show me something I actually want, I’ll appreciate it; if you show me something that is completely useless to me, like a diaper commercial, I’m just going to wait patiently for the baby to finish falling over and acting cute.

It does feel a little bit like Big Brother, knowing everything you do is recorded by a league of marketers. Still, if Big Brother knows that I’m searching “how to fix my plumbing” on YouTube, then Big Brother can rightly assume that I’ll need to find a good hardware store nearby, as well.

Our privacy is compromised regardless. Don’t be fooled, even your dirty Snapchat pictures can be recovered if you tried hard enough. But this is just the world we live in now and we can’t meet every technology and intelligence with paranoia.

Public places used to be train stations, shopping malls, office buildings, and school campuses, but now the Internet is a public setting as well. Advertisements are going to extend from the billboards you see on the streets to the iPhone app you look at before you go to bed. Embrace it. Adapt to it. And celebrate that we live in a time where we have a choice—because we are the ones with the power, not the brands.