Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Minor Musing About Waste And Stupidity

Yeah, I'm gonna be the old curmudgeon who complains that things were better back in the day.

Dana Gunderson notes, "Today, we’re discarding 50% more food in the U.S. than we did in the 1970s." Gunderson elaborates,
People all around the world are investing time, land, water, energy, and loads of other resources to grow, store, process, and transport food, only for nearly half of that food to be thrown away.  Those potatoes on a breakfast platter get shrugged at because of a low-carb diet.  The cheese, for which the kid screamed bloody murder, only gets one bite before that kid is off to play again.  The chips remain at the bottom of the nacho plate because who can really eat that many chips.

In the United States today, about 40 percent of all food goes uneaten.  Each year Americans are throwing away the equivalent of $165 billion in uneaten food, making food the single largest component of solid waste in our landfills. This costs the average family of four between $1350 and $2275 annually.
Maybe there's not connection, but I'm going to blame the increased promotion of Black Friday. The shopping day that's designed to appeal to Americans' irrationality:
The big problem with Black Friday, from a behavioral economist's perspective, is that every incentive a consumer could possibly have to participate — the promise of "doorbuster" deals on big-ticket items like TVs and computers, the opportunity to get all your holiday shopping done at once — is either largely illusory or outweighed by a disincentive on the other side. It's a nationwide experiment in consumer irrationality, dressed up as a cheerful holiday add-on.

As Dan Ariely explains in his book, Predictably Irrational, "We all make the same types of mistakes over and over, because of the basic wiring of our brains."

This applies to shopping on the other 364 days of the year, too. But on Black Friday, our rational decision-making faculties are at their weakest, just as stores are trying their hardest to maximize your mistakes.
There's something perversely American about turning a day of thanks into a day of waste and then following that debacle with a day of stupid consumption. The combination certainly appeals to lesser angels of our nature.

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