Tag Archives: Walmart

Who Owns Your Grocery Store?

Take a moment and consider the following statistics:

Groceries and food are unique in that all Americans buy groceries and food—the difference being that food can be purchased both in its ingredient form (e.g. groceries) and its prepared form (e.g. restaurant meals)—regardless of income level, race, etc.  This is literally something that we all should be interested in.

I would contend, however, that most consumers do not give a second thought to groceries outside of what they write on weekly shopping lists.  Granted, there are informed consumers who seek to maximize their grocery dollars or seek to spend their grocery dollars on products that match a certain set of beliefs.  In a nearly $850 billion market there are a lot of people who just go about their business in a routine.

It’s not merely about funneling dollars from corporations that do not share your beliefs—although that is a big part of the allure—but also about creating an economic system where small purveyors can access markets.  If you are a producer of anything, be it food or lawn mowers or children’s toys, supply to Walmart means being big.  Like really big.  If you are a local grower with a seasonal schedule Walmart or Kroger will not even take your call.

However, these are the kinds of enterprises that we need to support in a world where our food increasingly comes from fewer and fewer suppliers.  It is not a sustainable or resilient system to have single points of failure for entire segments of our food system.  That is where we stand right now.  If Tyson Foods went out of business tomorrow how much chicken would disappear from the shelves of your grocery store?  My guess is a lot.

This is where our grocery spend comes into play.  We can choose to spend our grocery dollars on a daily basis at stores that support local providers.  The best part is that this is not a change that requires a serious capital outlay—like buying an EV or installing solar panels—and it does not require large lifestyle changes—you are still shopping for groceries after all.

The goal is to find a locally owned retailer of groceries and shop there as much as possible.  It’s a little like George W. Bush imploring the American people to go shopping after the attacks on September 11th.

It’s a little more complex than that, but the idea is extremely simple.

In my household we spend an average of ~$770 per month on groceries based on actual spend going back to last summer.  Yes, I have a problem with tracking things on spreadsheets.  My goal is to direct as much of that monthly spend to local retailers and providers of food.  It is fairly easy for me to shop local since I have access to an excellent cooperative grocery store—NewPi—and a vibrant selection of farmers’ markets when the weather improves.  I would contend that most people also have access to these kinds of retail outlets.  Take a moment and find your local coop.

As it stands right now for the year, our household spend is ~40% local.  There is much room for improvement.

Final Report on 2019 “Resolutions”

It is time to take stock of my so-called New Year’s resolutions for 2019 and see how I did.

Without further ado, here is the list:

  • Decarbonize transportation—My 2015 Nissan Leaf has been in the garage for about a year.  Over that time ~7,987 miles at an average efficiency of 5.2 miles per kWh. The Leaf saved ~9,119 pounds of CO2 being emitted compared to my prior vehicle.  Furthermore, I added ~62% generating capacity to my home’s solar photovoltaic array so for 2020 I should be driving on sunshine 100% of the time.
  • No more Amazon—A little bit of failure and a little bit of success. I definitely spent a lot less money at Amazon than in prior years, but it speaks to the company’s ubiquity that I ended up buying anything at all.  Want to buy that odd little gadget?  Guess what, Amazon is about the only place to find fulfillment.
  • No more Walmart—A little more success as I the only trips to Walmart were few and far between for the year. Over the course of the entire holiday shopping season it never entered into my mind to even shop there.  Once a store is no longer part of your “consideration set” that has to be considered a success.
  • Read twenty five books—51 books read.
  • Drink local—Pretty good, but I think I can do better in 2020.
  • Declutter my house—Fail. My family and I spent some time getting rid of old clothes and other stuff that was taking up space in our closets.  However, it feels like we replaced whatever we got rid of over the course of the year.  I know that I will never be a fervent follower of Marie Kondo’s methods nor will I ever embrace modern minimalism.  I thought I could do a little better.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—One toilet was replaced. A second toilet is scheduled to be replaced in January.  The third toilet in the house does not get enough use to merit replacement at this time.
  • Plant at least five trees—Two Norway spruce trees are in the ground.  Three Colorado blue spruce trees in the ground. Mission accomplished.
  • Reduce lawn coverage—Fail. I had the best of intentions to start replacing some of my lawn with mixed plantings and landscaped beds.  While I got the trees in the ground the rest of the plan did not come together.  This is where I am going to focus my 2020 landscaping efforts.
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—Over 3,000 miles ridden on the year. Mission accomplished.

 

For 2020 I am going to try and build on what was done in 2019.  The goal is to improve each year.  Different goals or different metrics, but the overall theme is improvement.

Stay tuned!

Friday Linkage 10/11/2019

Apparently James O’Keefe and his repugnant brand of “investigative” whatever was a little too tame for the right wing.  Now they are paying for people to go to town halls and say shit like this woman, who is an operative for LaRouche PAC.

We also live in a world where a sixteen year old girl worried about climate change is the subject of an adult wishing he had a sniper rifle.

WTF?

On to the links…

Revealed: The 20 Firms Behind a Third of All Carbon Emissions—You can worry about plastic straws all you want.  These twenty firms are the reason why the planet is screwed.

A Champion of the Unplugged, Earth-Conscious Life, Wendell Berry is Still Ahead of Us—The world needs more Wendell Berry.  This quote says it all, “the origin of climate change is human laziness.”

Record Debt and Inequality Gap? It’s Almost like 40 Years of Republican Tax Cuts Failed.—Can we finally put to bed the lie that is supply side economics?  Arthur Laffer was wrong.  His acolytes were wrong.  Now, if the goal of Republican tax cuts was to wreck the economy, increase inequality, and hamstring the government…mission accomplished.

Five Radical Climate Policies That Most Americans Actually Like—It is not really that difficult to find a consensus on addressing climate change through proposals that the vast majority of people understand and would accept.  I am sure that Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity would bloviate otherwise but they can run themselves with their millions of dollars to make themselves feel better while we move on to real solutions.

The Northeast US has a Carbon-Trading System. It is Boosting, not Hurting, State Economies.—This is a free market solution that should have right wingers slobbering, but since it does not allow fossil fuel companies to spew emissions at an unchallenged rate there is no way they can agree.  Too bad.

The U.S. Southeast: A Hotspot For Uneconomic Fossil Power, Already Costs Consumers Millions—It is almost as if red states led by Republicans are trying to prove that they will follow bad policies for no other reason than…um…Fox News?

Trump’s Pledge to Save US Coal is Failing, Leaving Coal Country in Crisis—There was never a “war on coal” as understood by Republicans.  The market moved against coal in such a way that made it fundamentally non-competitive before environmental concerns were figured in.  Combine the two and it is a loser for just about everyone who does not have a vested interest in burning more coal.

Plastic Waste is Everywhere in Grocery Stores. Can They Cut Down?—Shopping for groceries is like shopping for plastic sometimes.

A Carbon-Neutral Burger? It’s not Impossible.—All right, if all we ate was an occasional grass fed, grass finished hamburger or steak there would not be any problem.  However, people do not just eat red meat occasionally.  It is a constant presence in their daily diet.

Here’s the Actual Impact of Cutting Down on Red Meat (and Everything Else)—Let’s just simplify this entire exercise.  Reducing animal based food products—meat, eggs, dairy, whatever—is the single biggest dietary change you can make in terms of emissions reductions.

Planters on Brighton Boulevard Aren’t Just for Show, They’re Keeping Garbage Out of Waterways—This is just a really cool idea that seems like it would be easy to deploy in a lot of places.

In a Sign of Cleanup Success, Dolphins Are Living and Giving Birth in the Potomac—We can do better.  We can restore ecosystems.  We have to power.

How Interchangeable Parts Revolutionized the Way Things are Made—What seems obvious in hindsight was not so obvious at the time.

Third Quarter New Year’s Resolutions Progress

It is now October and that means it is fall.  It also means that I am nine months of the way through the year which is probably a good time to check in on where I am at with my resolutions or goals for 2019.  Here goes:

  • Decarbonize transportation—My 2015 Nissan Leaf has been in the garage for almost nine months. Through the end of September 2019 I have driven ~5,893 miles.  By trading a Ford F150 for a Nissan Leaf I have saved ~6,733 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted.
  • No more Amazon—While I failed in the first quarter and succeeded in the second quarter, the third quarter was a little better. I spent some money that I was “awarded” from work via a gift card.  It was money spent at Amazon, but it was not my cash and I felt that the effort to transfer the funds was not worth the return.  Trying to reduce my spending at both Amazon and Walmart has made me think about our consumer habits in general.  More to come.
  • No more Walmart—Spent about a $100 on school supplies for a work organized effort to help out area kids during the back to school time. Walmart was running sales where I was able to pick up whole classrooms’ worth of some supplies for a few dollars.  It was craziness and well worth failing in my goal to make it happen.
  • Read twenty five books—38 books read in the first nine months.  Mission accomplished.
  • Drink local—Doing pretty good so far.
  • Declutter my house—This is probably the singular failure so far this year. Sure, some stuff has gone to Goodwill but I feel that on the whole nothing is less cluttered than it was nine months ago.  Maybe I can sprint to the finish.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—I have picked out the model of toilet to replace my existing commodes. I have even purchased the wax rings to install the new toilers.  Now I just need to get a free day on a weekend to spend a few hours doing some plumbing.  Can you tell that this is my favorite way to spend a few hours on a Saturday?
  • Plant at least five trees—Two Norway spruce trees are in the ground. Three Colorado blue spruce trees in the ground.  Mission accomplished.
  • Reduce lawn coverage— No real progress, but I have plans. I promise!
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—I am sitting at ~2,718 miles for the season as the month of September came to a close. Surprisingly, September was a real dog of a month for riding as the weather really conspired to keep me inside.   Mission accomplished.

So far, so good I think.

Friday Linkage 8/9/2019

No links next week since I am going to be on vacation and completely out of touch with the world…at least in terms of electronics.  I am going to enjoy a lot of snorkeling, cold beers, and not worrying about the latest tweet storm coming from our dear leader.

See you in a couple of weeks.

On to the links…

Economic and Environmental Cost of Trump’s Auto Rollback Could be Staggering—Who is surprised that a reactionary rollback of well thought out environmental regulations will have drastic economic and environment costs?  No one raised their hand.  Color me shocked.

Speak Up Now to Save Our National Forests—Another brilliant idea from the people trying to loot our public lands for private gain.

Trump’s Environmental Legacy Will Take Time to Erase—Yes, it will take time.  Yes, it will be undone.  November 2020 is the most important election since the Great Depression.  Look at what four years of Donald Trump has done to America.  Do not try and imagine four more years.

How Climate Change Could Trigger the Next Global Financial Crisis—The next financial crisis, which is coming sooner rather than later, may be exacerbated by climate change or even caused by a climate change related disaster.  Will it still be a Chinese hoax for our tangerine hued leader?

How American Cities Score on Clean Energy—Until sometime in January 2021 we will have to look to American cities for leadership in the clean energy transition.

Why Is U.S. Demand For Solar Panels Booming?—Taking advantage of a tax credit that is due to begin phasing itself out over the next few years may be artificially driving demand for solar panels into 2019, but maybe there is a solid base of demand for homegrown clean energy.

US Utilities to Boost Capital Spending in Shift Away from Coal—Coal fired power plants are going to be considered “stranded assets” in the very near future.  That is to say these power plants will no longer be assets in the traditional sense, with a commensurate value on the open market, but that the intrinsic value will be zero because there is no buyer available on the open market at any price.

1 Stat Shows Coal-Fired Power Plants Have Passed the Point of No Return—The death spiral is real.  It is now just a question of how fast we can retire these coal fired power plants and get on with our lives.

How The Clean Energy Transition Could Save More Than It Costs—The discussion has moved from the feasibility of the clean energy transition to a discussion about the potential cost savings of the transition.  We’re talking about saving money and making clean energy.  The market has spoken.

Using Electricity at Different Times of Day Could Save us Billions of Dollars—Demand or load shifting is one of those holy grails of infrastructure planning.  If you can shift peak demand to other times the load on the overall system is decreased and redundant capacity can be reduced.

Sorry, Scooters Aren’t so Climate-Friendly After All—Lifecycle costs are a bitch, man.  Just get on a bicycle and be done with it.

What Grocery Stores Won’t Tell You About Plastic—Bring all the reusable bags you want to the grocery store.  It’s a start, but until the grocery stores demand changes from their supply chain there will be little real impact in the reduction of single use plastic packaging.

Subway Partners with Beyond Meat as Part of its Comeback Bid—Non-meat meat alternatives are now considered an appealing part of a restaurant’s menu in an effort to combat falling sales and perception issues.  Think about that for a moment.

Second Quarter New Year’s Resolutions Progress

June has come and gone.  Summer is officially here.

It also means that it is a good time to check in on where I am at with my resolutions or goals for 2019.  Here goes:

  • Decarbonize transportation—My 2015 Nissan Leaf has been in the garage for almost six months. Through the end of June 2019 I have driven ~3,706 miles.  By trading a Ford F150 for a Nissan Leaf I have saved ~4,181 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted.
  • No more Amazon—While I failed in the first quarter, I feel like I am nailing it in the second quarter with $0—yes, zero—spend at Amazon in the past three months. It is surprisingly hard to resist the temptation to just order something from Amazon at nine in the evening.  It is like our brains are wired to just hit the “add to cart” button.
  • No more Walmart—As with my goal of spending no money at Amazon met with reality in the first quarter but improved in the second quarter, so too did my attempt at not patronizing Walmart. Zero dollars in the second quarter.
  • Read twenty five books—23 down, 2 to go.
  • Drink local—Doing pretty good so far.
  • Declutter my house—I started off with the best intentions in January, but after taking an entire car load of clothes the effort to get stuff out of the house has kind of fizzled. Again, I feel a little overwhelmed by all of the stuff that we have in the house.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—I have picked out the model of toilet to replace my existing commodes. Now I just need to get a free day on a weekend to spend a few hours doing some plumbing.  Can you tell that this is my favorite way to spend a few hours on a Saturday?
  • Plant at least five trees—Two Norway spruce trees are in the ground. I am actively hunting for additional trees to plant, but the nursery stock locally has not been very attractive.
  • Reduce lawn coverage— Plans are laid out and some of the hardscaping materials are sitting in my driveway. However, this is the kind project that has to wait until the temperature declines a little bit.  Spending a day digging out turf when the mercury is over 90 degrees and the humidity level is above 90 percent is a no go.
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—Almost 1,200 miles have been spent in the saddle so far and this includes a lost week spent on vacation in Colorado. I had the best of intentions to ride while I was out in Summit County, but I chose to hike and raft instead.

So far, so good I think.

First Quarter New Year’s Resolutions Progress

The year is one quarter behind us, which means that we are three months closer to a world where the phrase “President Donald Trump” is not something we have to utter every again save for historical remembrance.

It also means that it is a good time to check in on where I am at with my resolutions or goals for 2019.  Here goes:

  • Decarbonize transportation—My 2015 Nissan Leaf is in the garage. So far I have driven the little EV ~1584 miles and saved ~1732 pounds of carbon dioxide.  Based on the average price of fuel in my area and the average fuel economy of the vehicle mile I am displacing with the Nissan Leaf I also saved ~$162 in just fuel costs.  This assumes that I am using grid electricity with an average carbon intensity and an average price.  This will drop even further when I add solar panels to my existing array.
  • No more Amazon—Kind of an epic fail. Four days into the new year I ordered something off of Amazon.  In my defense—if such an explanation is allowed—I had a gift card, so not using it would just gift Amazon that money, and I needed a Level 2 charging cable for my Nissan Leaf.  On the plus side that is the only thing I purchased.  In the end, Amazon got about $150 of my money.  On January 4th.  Damn it.
  • No more Walmart—Nothing illustrates the difficulty of avoiding Walmart than my spring break trip. Somehow, someone forgot our bag of toiletries at home and did not notice until we were unpacking in Avon, Colorado for a week of spring break skiing at Beaver Creek.  What to do?  Spend $100 at Walmart replacing toothbrushes, shampoo, and what not.  Do not bring the kids with you into a grocery store after spending more than 13 hours in the car.  They are like locusts looking for crops.  Damn it.
  • Read twenty five books—13 down, 12 to go.
  • Drink local—Doing pretty good so far.
  • Declutter my house—I started off with the best intentions in January, but after taking an entire car load of clothes the effort to get stuff out of the house has kind of fizzled. Again, I feel a little overwhelmed by all of the stuff that we have in the house.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—I have picked out the model of toilet to replace my existing commodes. Now I just need to get a free day on a weekend to spend a few hours doing some plumbing.  Can you tell that this is my favorite way to spend a few hours on a Saturday?
  • Plant at least five trees—This is a goal for the warmer months. We are not there yet.
  • Reduce lawn coverage— This is a goal for the warmer months. We are not there yet.
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—It may not be warmer yet, but my gravel ride is all kitted up for the new season.

So far, so good I think.