Does buying green make you a schmuck?

I have been interested for some time about the effect of essentially useless moral badges. By “moral badges,” I mean moral choices that one makes as a statement of one’s values, but have very low expected utility. Whether or not you make this kind of moral choice will not make an actual difference in the world. Examples might be sticking an awareness ribbon on one’s car, or the purchase of items that will only make a difference in aggregate: organic foods, green products, high fuel efficiency cars, low-flush toilets, etc. A law requiring such purchases may ease the collective action problem. But until there is such a law, whether or not you buy the product will not actually change anything.

On the one hand, I can see how taking such actions might be essentially practicing a virtue, thus making virtue itself more habitual. So when it comes time to decide to perform an action that would have actual utility, you would be more apt to do it. You would be practiced in making morally correct choices. On the other hand, I could see that you might use up your reservoir of energy that is devoted to morality on such useless badges. So that when it comes time to decide to perform a moral action of actual utility, you might just say, “Eh, I gave at the office.”

Some recent studies have attempted to suss out the effect of such moral badges. The study design, however, is poor. Despite claims by the authors, they tell us nothing about the effect of such badges.

This study got some press recently. Caveat: I can’t access the study itself, so I’m relying on the abstract and descriptions in blogs. The study showed college students images of either organic foods, comfort foods, or neutral foods. Those who saw images of organic foods were more likely subsequently  to judge debatable moral scenarios more harshly than those who saw images of comfort or neutral foods. In the words of the study authors, “These results suggest that exposure to organic foods may lead people to affirm their moral identities, which attenuates their desire to be altruistic.”

A blogger at Scientific American suggests that perhaps it was not that organic foods make you harsher, but that sweet foods make you more sweet-tempered. Or perhaps more guilt-ridden and needing to expiate the guilt. I can’t read the study, but shouldn’t the neutral foods have controlled for that?

There are other reasons to be suspicious of this study. First is the apparent assumption that harsher moral judgments are somehow immoral. That is itself, of course, morally debatable. I would be hesitant to assume that being more altruistic means necessarily that you are more fuzzy about your moral bright lines.

Also, and more importantly, the students did not buy the products. They simply looked at them. Just looking at something is not at all the same thing as buying it as an expression of one’s moral identity. If I see “It’s a child, not a choice” on a bumper sticker on someone else’s car, what does that say about me, morally speaking? I didn’t put it on my car, I didn’t spend any money on it. In short, the students spent no moral capital on viewing these products. There is no reason to think, therefore, that it affirmed their moral identities. Maybe the students were slightly irritated at the green products and the smug people who buy them, which put them in a more irritable mood for later testing. Maybe it made them feel guilty for not having bought them recently, and that’s why they didn’t volunteer and were harsher. What we still don’t know, despite the authors’ claims, is what these moral badges do when people actually choose them for themselves.

This study attempts to address the failures of the previously mentioned study. It at least acknowledges that there is a difference between exposure and purchasing. It puportedly shows, contra the previous study, that people who were exposed to green products were less likely to cheat and steal. Yet those who purchased such products were more likely. The authors claim that, “In line with the halo associated with green consumerism, people act more altruistically after mere exposure to green than conventional  products. However, people act less altruistically and are more likely to cheat and steal after purchasing green products as opposed to conventional products.”

Yet this study totally fails to solve the problem. The students did not actually purchase the products, just select what they would purchase (and have a 1 in 25 chance of actually receiving) given pretend money. This was not an actual purchase. An academic was watching their choice. They might have wished to impress the test-runner. Moreover, in the experiment the products cost the same amount of pretend money. In real life, of couse, green products almost always cost more and almost always work less well. One is paying more for less effectiveness. It is a sacrifice twice over (in finances and efficacy) to buy green.

Also, these studies are of undergraduate college students. This is problem that plagues many psychology studies, of course, but it might be especially marked when trying to isolate this particular phenomenon. Aren’t college students famously willing to help the world at large but unwilling to sacrifice themselves in smaller scale moral acts? Developmentally, college students are more interested in broader moral statements than smaller scale ones. I would be suspicious that any study of the morality of college students might not generalize itself all that well to people in general.

In short, I am still left wondering about what moral badges do.

Rose Woodhouse

Elizabeth Picciuto was born and reared on Long Island, and, as was the custom for the time and place, got a PhD in philosophy. She freelances, mainly about disability, but once in a while about yeti. Mother to three children, one of whom is disabled, two of whom have brown eyes, three of whom are reasonable cute, you do not want to get her started talking about gardening.


  1. You should look at Robin Hanson’s work on signaling. The “moral badges” you talk about are forms of social signaling. They build links between you and other people that enable trust and a feeling of kinship or allegiance. (Are these things expensive and probably inefficient? Yes. Can you cheat on them? Yes. Are there any better alternatives? Um… there’s the problem…)

    This is also what a lot of our politics actually does, in Hanson’s view. The value of signaling in this context is the reason why we keep policies despite their obvious ineffectiveness. We didn’t create them to be effective. We created them to signal.

    • My exposure to Hanson is limited, but this is a conclusion that I am increasingly coming to on my own.

      I actually have a post in mind on the subject. White Collar had a plug for Ford where the characters talked about a display on the dash that would signal – through leaf imagery – how environmentally-consciously you were driving. I groaned and thought “That’s the sort of thing that would make me intentionally drive fuel-inefficiently.”

      Then I realized that my dash has a MPG number on its dash, and I absolutely tailor my driving to increasing my mileage.

      Lesson? I have an instinctive disdain for environmentalism (signalling/tribalism), but a geek’s appreciation for numbers.

      • *snort* all my “green” decisions are ones that benefit my pocketbook. Including using Simple Green, which is both a timesaver and nontoxic under high heat (and, because it’s so concentrated, it’s cheaper than the non-green alternatives)

    • This is the second time in a week that I’ve written a post where someone told me to go look at Robin Hanson. I suppose I should.

      I have no idea if he has done the research yet, but I went to a lunch with Jonathan Haidt when he gave a talk at my university, and he was thinking along the same lines, i.e., that moral statements can be about tribal membership.

      Intuitively, this seems right to me. But further – does tribal membership or badges make you more or less likely to perform useful good works?

      • More, I’d say. Well, more useful good works and more destructive bad, but the former probably outweighing the latter.

        • Interesting. I wonder why the differences exist when looking at interventions individually (which justifies insurance/government spending on that treatment), but not for intervention generally. I’m also not sure that the claim that cutting spending simply anywhere will be beneficial is warranted. Although, of course, I am a member of a family that is a medical utility sink, so I have a strong vested interest in maintaining public health spending.

          • I suspect most of the cuts he envisions would come to end-of-life care. Lots of interventions do absolutely nothing but cost an enormous amount. And we all find it unconscionable to “pull the plug” on grandma, so we never question them.

          • Per Clancy, a lot of EOL care is actually at the behest of family rather than the person in question. The person in in question is often more ready to go than the loved ones are to be left behind. So the result is that they keep trying so that their family doesn’t feel abandoned.

            It’s a dynamic that had never occurred to me before.

        • For my part, I will readily concede that a great deal of medical spending (which I suspect is nigh unto impossible to quantify) is signalling by doctors that we are Doing Something, and not cavalierly disregarding the worries of our patients.

          • And for my part, I also suspect that some of what parents of special needs kids demand is because they want to do something for their kid. Physical, occupational, and speech therapy helps kids with I/DD. It is by no means clear how much is needed to benefit (most clearly studied with phys. therapy). But parents seem to demand as much as they can get in the belief that they want to do the most possible for their kid.

          • Which brings up the morality of administering placebos. From a utilitarian perspective, at least… 😉

  2. Group membership? I mean, if you saw a bumpersticker that said “WARNING: In case of Rapture, car will be unmanned!”, would you say “that’s one of my people”?

    How about if you saw one that said “after the rapture, can I have your car?”

    The person is signalling that they’re a member… and, when you see the sticker, you’re presumably either feeling like you’re in the tent or outside of it.

    (The other day, Maribou and I saw a bumpersticker that said “Be Happy! Your Mom Chose Life!” and I made a joke about heroin. (I suppose I should have made a joke about how your mom also chose Cheerios and Froot Loops and pancakes and aaaaaallllllllll of the bacon and eggs but I wasn’t at the top of my game.) The point being: I knew I wasn’t a member.)

    • True confession: I have an “I Love Someone With [Ridiculously Rare] Syndrome” magnet ribbon on both cars.

      I am one of those people!!!!

        • Yes, I totally do. I worry that it depletes energy in actually helping people, and I do see it as signaling. I do, however, do a lot of fundraising for the syndrome, and donate to causes, so I don’t think it’s depleting too much out of me. And the signaling isn’t really an in-group/out-group thing, since of course no one else who sees it is likely to have ever heard of the syndrome. I think it’s a bit of defensiveness on my part – saying that, although some people might think otherwise, he is totally lovable.

          • Oh, I wasn’t trying to poke you when I asked you that! I was more wondering if your experience with being one of those people provided any insight into moral badges.

            I mean, I have only seen one bumper sticker (since I put a peace sign on my ’82 Subaru hatchback) that made me want to put it on my car:

            “I Have Opinions”

            I ended up not getting it. But if I started thinking about what I would be signalling if I had a bumpersticker, I pretty much would have to start from there and work my way out. If you have a ribbon on your car, you know *EXACTLY* what you’re saying (or not saying) by doing that.

  3. I don’t really diagree about the idea of moral badges and signalling but those ideas can be taken to far. What matters more is what people actually believe and how that affects their behavior. Bumper stickers seem like classic signalling so at best they are good for a laugh. It never ceases to amaze me how americans seem to love to make their cars rolling billboards, ego boasters, memorials to the dead and symbols of their favorite hobbies. Green products seem to sell well so i think its a bit more then signalling. whether it does any good is doubtfull though. Its better, in general, for the enviroment if all the crap we buy is truly “greener.” Although just buying less crap would be even better, there isn’t any money in that.

    • A car that gets 50mph is good in its own right. A well-performing low-flow something-or-other can save money on the water bill. Beyond that, I think it’s mostly signalling and the marketing of virtue. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

      • Well, if it reduces your altruism elsewhere, there might be something wrong with it.

      • Well the Prius is good in its own right except when i leads people to purposly waste gas out of anger some liberal commie is saving gas.

        • I think the former outweighs the latter, and I think the latter is something people talk about but don’t actually do. Who wants to spend money just to make a point against some liberal commie?

          Oh yeah, me and the Ford Leaf… that’s just asking for it, though. And I behave real good when they put the number on there.

          • trust me, they do. we zipcar, so we do a lot of driving in little itsy bitsy cars. Many pickups want to race. It’s hilarious when they race right into a cop-trap.

        • Well the Prius is good in its own right except when i leads people to purposly waste gas out of anger some liberal commie is saving gas.

          So, a month or two ago, The Wife was in an otherwise minor car accident, which resulted in her 10 year old Jetta being ruled a Total Loss. There was much discussion about what to get as a replacement, with me pushing hard for affordability and her pushing hard for certain creature comforts of hers. As it turned out, the Prius c struck a nice balance, as something that had a good but not great base price, great options, and (obviously) fantastic gas mileage that had the effect of rendering the good but not great base price pretty close to great. Basically, it was the most economical option that met all of her demands.

          It also turns out to be kind of fun to drive, but that’s another issue entirely.

          In any event, since getting that car, the amount of aggressive driving we encounter has increased about 10-fold. Sunday, for example, we were stopped at a red light in the right lane about a half-mile from our house (so we hadn’t been on the road long enough to be accused of shitty driving). The instant the light turned green, the SUV behind us slammed on the gas and passed us on the shoulder. It is suddenly an extremely frequent occurrence that another car will not allow The Wife to change lanes or merge. Etc., etc.

          This sort of thing was a rare occurrence with the Jetta.

          And no, The Wife does not have any bumper stickers on her car. In fact, she’s as apolitical as they come, and if you put a gun to her head, she’d probably tell you that she leans Republican, though she’s not exactly a Tea Partier. It’s gotten to the point where we’re semi-seriously considering an investment in a Mitt Romney for Pres. bumper sticker in the hopes that will result in her getting run off the road less frequently.

          • I used to live down the street from a Prius that had a “W” sticker on it. I always had a special fondness.

          • I’ve driven a Prius rental car. I liked it. We have a road trip back east coming up and i would love to get another one. It was fine to drive and the milage was of course great. I can sadly believe driving a Prius makes one a target for….ummmm…strong signaling behavior of an aggresive nature.

          • The other day, I saw a car with both a Tea Party “Don’t Tread on Me” sticker and one of those “Coexist” bumper stickers with all the religious symbols.

            I still can’t figure out quite what that means.

            And next week’s Stupid Tuesday Question is all about bumper stickers.

          • … no way an SUV should be able to pass a prius. why not simply outgun the sob?
            drive a small car, but drive at least well enough to discourage stupidity.

          • Greg, believe it or not, I have actually considered mentioning those horrid abominations, whether as part of the bumper sticker question or separately.

          • … hadn’t realized power mode was a “new thing”.
            Prius does drive like a tub if you have it in ecomode on the highway (a stupid thing to do).

        • except when that subsequently gets the schmuck arrested for speeding.

          Goading people is good! Teaches valuable life lesson!
          (Willy Wonka school of teaching, not to be used at home!)

      • buying a toto toilet doesn’t signal much of anything if nobody knows it’s a toto toilet.

  4. What about the people who do profoundly immoral things (or simply impolite things) while proudly displaying signals?

  5. I buy simple green. it’s the only product I can safely use to clean the coffee roaster. anything else is likely to turn unpleasant in the high heat of the roaster…
    I don’t advertise this fact, and would avoid a store if possible.
    Not very good at signaling, I admit.

  6. I used to preferentially buy so-called “green” products, essentially on the belief that they were genuinely better for the environment. However, I also noted that they worked less well in a lot of circumstances, and the actual benefits to the environment were slim. And then I noticed that Cascade dish detergent is phosphate-free, which (to my understanding) is the only real benefit of “green” detergents. (For the life of me, I cannot understand why they don’t display that information more prominently on their packaging. You really have to look for it.)

    All of this leads to the conclusion that greener products are generally more about marketing than anything else. But I still buy them on a semi-regular basis. (Less since Seventh Generation started using that godforsaken animated Lorax to tout them.) Because I know I’m probably just succumbing to marketing aimed at well-intentioned but under-informed people like me, then yes… it probably does make me a schmuck.

    • I didn’t mean a schmuck in the sense of “sucker,” but schmuck in the sense of “less moral.”

      I buy Seventh Generation diapers because, unlike any other green product, they actually work better than the eco-unfriendly version. They used not to advertise, which I also liked. The Lorax thing pissed me off. And Method cleaning products work fine, and their scents are nicer and don’t give me migraines.

      I have wondered the same thing about Cascade.

      • simple green works like a charm on a lot of things. you should see it with coffee shmutz.

        Oxalic Acid is a great cleaner of stainless steel. They don’t market it as green ,but it is.

      • Ah. In that sense, I really don’t think so.

        I buy green products for the same kind of blandly altruistic sentimentality that informs my liberal-ish tendencies in general. I understand the products to be better for the environment, and the additional cost is not prohibitive for me so I buy them. But I don’t believe it inhibits other do-gooder impulses I have. And, when I perceive a distinct lack of efficacy from the green products (eg bleach), I buy the standard product without guilt.

  7. This is fascinating to me. My purely anecdotal comment is based on this:

    <i<"These results suggest that exposure to organic foods may lead people to affirm their moral identities, which attenuates their desire to be altruistic."

    We have a ‘friend’ who is a super-green, vegan, stay-at-home mom, etc. She also happens to be the most judgemental person I know. It’s impossible to get through an evening with her without being made to feel inadequate. I have known other people in the past that are also very ‘green’ and have felt judged in a similar way. Your post seems to indicate you find the linkage to be slim at best..but maybe there’s actually something to it.

    • I was saying that the authors appear to assume that there is linkage of necessity between altruism and softer moral judgments. That is, they seem to assume that by being (say) vegan, one “uses up” one’s altruism and then makes harsher moral judgments. This implies that if one were really altruistic, one would not make harsh moral judgments. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case.

      Believe me, I am daily surrounded by environmentally correct folk. I have no dispute that they can be smug. I am just wondering (and I honestly have competing intuitions) about what the implications are for more useful moral actions.

    • Out of curiosity, does your friend come from a family with a lefty background?

      I’ve known some people that, temperamentally, I would swear are natural born conservatives. Yet they do the things that tend to be associated with conservatism all in service of liberal causes. They seem disproportionately to be Red Diaper Babies.

      • No – the whole family are Lefties. Most of her judgement is along the lines of nutrition (we all eat teribly according to her) and child rearing (she always seems to have advice for everyone). My personal opinion is that because she is a stay-at-home mom and views that work as her vocation, she feels like a professional among amateurs when she gets together with other parents and can’t help but flex her muscles.

  8. I am going to write something about this on my own, but I have to say I find this whole concept puzzling.

    Several of the things you mention are things that I do or might well buy: organic food, locally grown, high mileage car, etc. Hell, when we built the house we paid for extra-energy efficient everything. All of these choices are selfish: we eat organic whole foods for our own long-term health, we eat local meat and produce when we can because it tastes better than something bred to be “flavorless but travels well in boxes,” and efficient cars and houses cost less when we look at the amount of time we plan to use them. If I expensed most of my gas (as I did with an employer a million years ago), I wouldn’t really care that much about my mileage.

    That these kinds of purchases are or might be considered moral feels… wrong, somehow. That people might somehow feel the need to punish people for making these kinds of purchases (a al Mark’s wife) feels even more wrong, if not downright weird.

    • Things can be moral and good for ourselves. In a really good world everything that was moral would also be in our own selfish interest allthough it isn’t that way. Should moral stuff only be arduous or unpleasent?

      • No, I think you misunderstand. I’m having a hard time putting all of this into words, even as I’m trying to write a post on it. So excuse me as I stumble around with this.

        What I’m trying to get at is this: I find it odd – and troubling – that the questions of what is and isn’t moral are being answered by the choices of which consumer goods you purchase in the marketplace. For me the interesting (and unnerving) part isn’t which product or brand we choose to use as definitionally moral or immoral, it’s that we are using products and brands at all.

        It seems a kind of triumph of consumerism that does not bode well for a society.

        • I said recently on Twitter that the biggest success of marketing/branding was not getting us to use certain products, but getting us to identify with them. Apple has a particular reputation for this, but they’re hardly alone.

          And, as a Thinkpad Evangelist, I am not immune.

        • Okay i see that. I agree consumerism has completly truimphed. Having our product consumption be totally tied to ego and self-image is a wet dream for ad people, marketers and business and deadening to lots of other stuff i’m having trouble spelling out.

          Less is more.

          • At some point everything relates to our self-image. That leaves term without much power since it applies to everything. If you have a series of Less is More t-shirts you wear all the time so everybody knows how little you have then that may be more about image. Very few people know if you don’t spend your time buying stuff.

          • Quite so, Greg. It’s really hard to separate it all.

            When we last bought a car, a part of me desperately wanted to get something used and a little worn. I had to drill down before I realized that the reason I wanted this had nothing to do with practicality and a lot more to do with the fact that I like being the kind of guy that drives old cars. I hadn’t realized how much pride I took in the fact that my wife and I had cars that had nearly 30 years between them.

            Though it doesn’t quite fit the advertising dynamic, “unpretentious” is nonetheless an ad word.

            That being said, not all consumer preferences are created equal. I think that there is a social benefit to people angling for a more humble self-image. The same can be said for cars that get good mileage as well as open-source software. And if we’re so naturally inclined to identify with our choices, there are worse ways to go.

        • I don’t think it’s totally out of line to think that some products might be more moral than others. All things equal, I’d rather shop at a store that, say, treated its workers well.

          Of course, to think that’s the beginning and end of our moral lives is completely insane. But does any non-sociopath think that?

          • It’s absolutely not always out of line. It’s going to breed some degree of resentment if you proclaim it loudly, though.

    • There’s no excuse for what Mark describes, for sure. It’s not weird to me, though. More like, it’s a puerile response to the perceived sanctimony of some of those who loudly make environmentally-friendly consumer choices. Most people I know who have hybrids aren’t sanctimonious about it, but most people who are sanctimonious about their choice in automobile vehicles drive hybrids (having displaced “I buy American” years ago).

      • “most people who are sanctimonious about their choice in automobile vehicles drive hybrids”
        Maybe that is your experiance but i really don’t think you should extrapolate to far. Every talked to a Harley owner, how about owners of other brands of motorcycle and don’t get either them started on scooters or Can-am’s. Then there are truck owners. My Admin Assit’s husband has a liscense plate that says Intimdator and another that says Terminator.

        • You have people that have Calvin urinating on Ford logos, and people that have Calvin urinating on Chevy logos. Like Apple people or Thinkpad people, they’re saying they have better tastes or are smarter buyers. When hybrid people get sanctimonious, they’re talking about something different: that they’re better people. Or, at least, that they’re making their decisions on what’s best for the world.

          It’s a different level.

          The same applies to people who talk about buying American as, not a wise consumer choice, but the right thing to do. (I don’t hear nearly as much of that since the bailouts, but it was a bigger deal when I was growing up.)

          Some open-source people are like this. Some will just talk about how Android or Linux are better than the alternative, but some go a step further and turn it into something ideological. I have to be careful not to do this, myself.

          • Funny you should mention how Linux users are better then Windoze users. Now that is really different that other things.

            I don’t really see the distinciton you are making in the real world. Snotty is snotty whether is Prius, Ford, Harley, chunky peanut butter or pepsi.

          • I see a pretty significant distinctio between my consumer decisions being criticized as foolish or unwise and being criticized as selfish or unpatriotic. The latter entails moral distinctions.

            A hybrid evangelist can be making either argument. If they’re talking about mileage or other practical implications, then it’s in the first category. If they’re talking about saving the planet, then it’s the latter. Sometimes people will confuse the former for the latter or just assume the latter outright, but I know people who have asserted the former.

            I’m actually a Windows guy, but also Android. I have to be careful on the the Android front because sanctimony can be really tempting.

          • In fairness, I should add that it’s been a while since someone who has talked favorably of his Prius compared to those SUV people who are ruining the planet. These days it’s more the “I don’t own a car” people.

          • fnord,
            not since they realized they outsourced the “buy american” ad campaign. then they let it die an easy death.

    • “…we eat organic whole foods for our own long-term health…”

      Are we sure organic food contributes to that?

      • It would depend on what organic means for each food. In plenty of cases its just a word on a label that doesn’t mean anything. In some cases there are better foods then others. Natural peanut butter is better then regular pb for example.

        • We tend not to put a premium on packaged “organic” food, as the label means little. But when buying produce, for example, we do buy from markets that use a certain threshold with the way the plants are raised. (If I went onto a Safeway and saw “organic” on a tomato, I would assume it was really like the other, cheaper tomato.)

        • Ditto on the peanut butter. I can’t eat the regular stuff anymore. That’s taste, though, I don’t know about nutrition.

          We’ve actually signed on to a fruit and veggie co-op thing and the wife went for the “organic” option. A part of me wants to roll my eyes, but it’s still coming out cheaper than buying the bucket individually from Safeway, so I can’t complain.

          • We haven’t actually done this yet (we’re on a few waiting lists, but we haven’t tried hard) but our area has a lot of CSAs (Community Supported Ag), where you buy a subscription from a local farm for the year. So if they sell 20 subscriptions, they’ll divide each week’s bounty (it’s always a variety of several kinds of fruits and veggies) into 20 boxes and deliver it to your house (or have you pick it up there). There is some risk/reward going on, of course, because the amount of produce you will get depends upon what kind of year you have in terms of weather. A lot of them also raise goats and chickens, so you sometimes get cheese and eggs as well.

            I love the thought of having a box of fresh vegetables delivered each week that makes me say, no what am I going to make with this?

          • We’ve considered doing a CSA, but haven’t found one we’ve loved yet.

            I don’t mean to bash the whole “organic” movement, but the lack of oversight combined with the lack of evidence that organic has either short- or long-term health effects leaves me unmoved. Generally speaking, when making purchases, I consider taste, health, and price. If the organic taste better and are affordable, I won’t object to buying them. Generally, though, I opt for local because of freshness and the fact that most often the plants are being grown in their natural habitat and climate and natural because I tend to feel better after eating foods in the more natural state, plus they usually taste better (so I’m fully on board natural peanut butter… mmm…).

          • In our previous location, there were plentiful CSAs to choose from. Sadly, we ended up with one we didn’t really like, and then felt guilty about leaving it. Plus, we tended to get inundated with more than we could possibly consume of one particular thing (lettuce was a big one). We either had to find others who wanted it, or let it go to waste.

            On the other hand, it did force me to learn how to cook unfamiliar vegetables. (It was my first time dealing with kohlrabi, for example.) And they threw in some wild greens, such as lamb’s quarters, which was nice. I’d probably do it again, were CSAs easy to find in my area, but I’d be more choosy about joining one the next time.

          • I heart our CSA. Not because they’re organic, but because they’re research professors retiring to farm. So they do honest to goodness research on apples (affiliated with Purdue), and they farm… honestly. As little interference as they can get away with (and half the time it’s just “toss some clay on the apples”).

            You do get good years and bad years — but those are more “wow, what a tomato crop!” or “holy, the basil tastes awesome this year” (with concurrent crop disappointments).

            It really keeps you in touch with the weather, and the seasons.

          • There are a ton of local farms, but it seems that most of them ship their goods elsewhere. My primary problem with the CSAs available here is that they have inconvenient pickup locations (none appear to do drop-at-door services) and that the listed offerings tend to be limited. If you assume, as I do, that what they list as offering is as optimistic as possible, than I’d likely be disappointed by what actually arrives. We do have farmers markets on weekends in the summer, with many of the same vendors represented, so I tend to hit those up. There is also a good grocery store near wife’s work that offers really fresh produce and high quality meat, which make up the vast majority of our diet at this point.

          • we walk our crates home about a half mile. and you can offer your garage as a site for dropoff (they won’t deliver to Everyone’s door, but in a city that’s not much of a problem)

          • None of the ones I’ve found in my area offer any drop-off service and only have pickup locations 20+ minutes from our house.

        • the best peanut butter has no ratshit in it.
          organic or no, there are serious health concerns with poor factory conditions and peanut butter.

          • My PB has three listed ingredients (though I understand there are a number of ingredients they can include but are not required to list). I actually would consider making my own peanut butter but we really don’t eat a ton of it. It is incredibly simple to do. And then you can get it super chunky!

            Generally speaking, I try to avoid foods that have ingredients I can’t pronounce and/or have no idea what they are. I’m not hard and fast about it and will indulge in crappy, entirely processed crap from time to time, but I generally try to go with the “Eat more food, eat less stuff” philosophy.

          • just so long as you aren’t buying “nitrite-free” hotdogs… (mildly dangerous, and still containing nitrites, just from celery not a chemical factory).

          • Based on a recent commercial I’ve seen by “the industry”, high-fructose corn syrup is attempting to rebrand itself as corn sugar.

            No word yet on if the ratshit industry is attempting to rebrand as mouse crap.

          • “organic food”

            Whenever I see this, a part of me screams “AS OPPOSED TO WHAT???”

            It’s like seeing “organic water”. Instead of me thinking “oh, that must be good”, I think “oh, that has amoebas in it”.

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