After living here for many years, I have to say one of the things I admire most about the Swedes is their ability to take a cause seriously. I don't think I have met any Swede's lately who 'pooh-pooh' climate change, pollution, or the value of slow food. And not only do folks not insult it, they often make active steps in their lives to illustrate that they take these causes seriously.
Yay! You might be thinking. And I don't blame you.
But what ends up happening is a whole boat load of ethical dilemmas EVERY time you go to the supermarket.
Example #1 Bananas: My kids eat a lot of them. And I enjoy them as well. A Swede even made that supercontroversial Banana movie that you might have heard got them in trouble with Chiquita.
But every time I go to buy bananas I'm faced with a moral choice. I can buy the Ethical bananas which promise a fair wage to their employees. Or I can buy the organic banana, which promises fewer chemicals will be ingested by my kids. Or I can buy the regular old banana which promises it will be 1 dollar cheaper than the other two.
Example #2 My oatmeal: Every morning I have oatmeal for breakfast. I love it. But I switch my oatmeal a lot because I never know which one is the best to buy. Take the oatmeal I ate this morning. It is plain oatmeal. It has a symbol on it stating that it is a healthy choice (this is a green keyhole in Sweden). This particular oatmeal has been locally produced. I can read that this particular bag of oatmeal contributed 1.3 kg CO2 into our atmosphere. I can go online and track how my oatmeal was produced, where it came from, where it was processed etc.
I alternate this oatmeal with another brand which is organic. That brand promises me fewer pesticides – but is not as good for the environment when it comes to CO2.
Then there is the third sort – it is neither organic nor climate friendly, but it promises me extra fiber in my diet – which could be healthiest for me in the long run. It also tastes really good. It also has the keyhole to health sign.
Choice is nice, but confusing.
Example #3 Eggs: Stick with me here. This is the last one. I realize in the US you have a lot of eggs to choose from as well. Sweden is very big on happy chickens because it was the pet cause of literary hero Astrid Lindgren. In order to assess my eggs I need to check the stamp on the side of the eggs and match it with the code on the top of the box (this could be because I tend to shop at the bargain grocery store)
Code 1 means – free range indoor chickens, Code 2 means free range indoor with access to outdoors. Code 3 means outdoor free range chickens. There is also a letter E or F, one means Organic, the other is not. It is a time consuming process. I want to make sure I have happy chicken organic eggs.
Now I just read on Sweden.se (http://blogs.sweden.se/sustainability/2010/11/15/a-swedish-fashion-company-trying-to-show-it-all/) that a clothing store is trying to document all information so we can make better informed decisions about the clothes we buy. I think that is a great idea. I would love to see where my money is going and what my clothes are being sprayed with. But I am a little frightened of needing to make conscious decisions between child labour and known carcinogens.