As you may have noticed when cruising the aisles of your local store, the holiday season has officially started, with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day in rapid succession. More and more, the holidays are associated with shopping. In fact, just as Thanksgiving kicked off the holiday season, the day after Thanksgiving (known as Black Friday) kicked off the holiday shopping season. With all the purchasing and promoting going on, this seems like a great time to reflect on the impact we have as consumers (or you can just call me a Grinch, click on over to Amazon.com and shop-away!).
The original thanksgiving started as a post harvest celebration and expression of gratitude. It’s amazing to think that Squanto would not even recognize the "traditional foods" we now serve in honor of this holiday. NPR aired a report  recently outlining the genetic changes that the common wild turkey has undergone. Faster-growing, factory-farmed "broad breasted white" turkeys have become the norm. The average bird has risen in the last 20 years from 20 to 28 pounds, and is so top heavy that it is unable to breed or walk. Commercial production of these relatively tasteless birds has narrowed the gene pool and created a potentially unsustainable breed designed solely for efficient growth and "harvest". Likewise, the modern sweet corn has been bred for sweetness and harvestability rather than what many describe as true corn flavor.
What is the force driving the vanishing biodiversity in Turkeys and corn? It comes at least in part from consumers asking for extra white meat, and 5 for $1 ears of corn without thinking about the implications. As the old bazooka bubblegum joke goes:
Q: Hey do you know what a buccaneer is?
A: Yeah, too much to pay for corn!
Granted, life is full of trade-offs and isn’t always possible to make ideal consumer choices. The invisible hand  of the market reacts by meeting consumer signals whether they are good or bad for the long term welfare of our planet.
But as they say, the holidays are a time for reflection. Some thinking about the signals we are all sending can make a big difference. So consume away, but buy Fair Trade. Look at labels. Check for yourself where and how other products are made. Read the CSR report from your favorite brand. Visit your farmers market for locally grown non GMO produce. Maybe even offset the carbon from your airplane flight to visit mom and dad.
The firms that rely most heavily on holiday revenue are usually most sensitive to consumer trends. This holiday season, be a trendsetter!