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MNB had a story the other day about the rise in young people who are interested in ethical consumption, looking to use their dollars in a way that they hope will help reduce pesticide usage, limit deforestation, and make sure farmers aren't left with a pittance on payday. These aren’t the hippies of old, but rather acquisitive and aspirational people making what they believe to be ethical choices.

We were actually a little surprised by what seemed like cynicism – or at least healthy skepticism - in some of the emails we received after the piece ran.

MNB user Bob Stoeckle wrote:

As the parent of a daughter attending college (and as a former attendee), I think it is easier to pay for the coffee where the wage paid was higher than average ... with SOMEONE ELSE'S MONEY. That includes Mom & Dads', loans (likely subsidized) by tax payers, grants and other scholarship funding. Interesting ... looks like an indoctrination of some sort?!?! ...but then again I remember the feeling of empowerment from tie-dyed t-shirts and bell-bottoms.

And another MNB user wrote:

It’s wonderful to see the 20 and under crowd spending their parent’s money so well.

We also have a college student, and to the extent that we give him money (he’s actually required to work for his spending money, which ought to be a requirement for every college student) we figure he’s going to spend it regardless. If he wants to make ethical consumption choices rather than unethical ones, doesn’t that actually mean that he’s learned something?

MNB user Gretchen Murdock wrote:

Speaking as one from the 60s who carried signs and could sing most of the lyrics to “Hair”, I am delighted to see college kids taking a social stand.

There have been too many years that I feared this type of idealism may have died, or was at the very least MIA. Reality sets in all too soon. And we all have to juggle our social consciousness with our need to put food on the table.

This may just give me the impetus to dust off my own soapbox!

We never put ours away.

In fact, we’re standing on it right now, and do five mornings a week.

Go figure.

We got a number of responses from the MNB community regarding yesterday’s story and commentary about Trader Joe’s.

MNB user Gunther M. Brinkman wrote:

This is a tough one - we love Trader Joe's, but find that we only go once a month or so.

Yes, carrying unique items and differentiating through product selection and limited assortment is great, but sometimes you just need a bottle of Hellman's mayonnaise. Someone has to fill that basic pantry shopping list, and they have to do it at very low prices.

Maybe Wal-Mart can serve that need and everyone else can play a Trader Joe's game, but I think that would cause consumer revolt. I think the reason Trader Joe's is so noteworthy and so successful is exactly because it nailed a niche and, in geographies where they compete, they completely occupy it.

There is limited capacity in any market for oddball retailers (how many Sharper Image and Brookstone stores can one city support?), and by copying Trader Joe's a supermarket would just marginalize both themselves and Trader Joe's.

We agree that a glut of stores with a Trader Joe’s approach to food retailing would be as bad as the glut of mainstream, uninspiring stores that currently makes up the marketplace. We’re just surprised that nobody else – with the exception of Stew Leonard’s – is playing a game anything like that being played by Trader Joe’s. You’d think somebody else would give it a shot from a different direction.

MNB user Mary F. Scott sees Trader Joe’s appeal in these terms:

Trader Joe's is one of the few stores who really understands how important it is to the consumer to move through the checkstand QUICKLY! Other grocery outlets talk about it, but Trader Joe's DOES something about it. A lot of people shop there because they can get in and out with great groceries at a great price in a few minutes -- literally!

Responding to yesterday’s story about the hot market for breast milk, one MNB user had a thought:

Perhaps mothers should be "certified producers", stopping short of some type of ear tag???

Why stop short? How about an RFID tag for every mother and child?

Tell you one thing. We’d rather deal with a mad cow than a mad mother any day.

MNB user Scott Burrill had an idea for people concerned about benzene in soft drinks:

Let them drink water!

MNB user Justine Raphael had a somewhat more studied response:

As a midwife and childbirth educator, I have worked with women on both sides of breast milk donation. The donors are usually moms with an abundant milk supply looking to share a little of this "liquid gold"—no one I have known of was looking for any sort of remuneration. They often have trouble finding a mild bank to accept their milk—the Denver milk bank is actually the only one set up for national collections, with a very simple and elegant system of overnight pickups.

The recipients are usually desperate to get the best "food" for their baby, often a preemie or a child with health issues. Some doctors will write a prescription for the milk based on family allergies, etc (milk allergy is among the most common in babies--and most formula is cow's milk based--or soy, another potent allergen). Some insurance companies will pay for the milk, which is very expensive even when coming from the milk banks due to the necessary processing (about $3 per oz, plus shipping).

Do I think the milk should be regulated? Yes, as I think that would ensure a safe and consistent supply to the babies that need it. This is not a vanity item--mothers who can't breastfeed their babies are in great need. It is unusual that a woman cannot breastfeed, but there are some instances. I would hate to see the babies in need denied because there are others who are buying the milk (maybe because they think nursing is difficult or that it restricts a woman's freedom) on a "black market", diverting that milk from the national supply.

On a related note, my daughter has been the regular recipient of donated blood over the last two years and I can only say that the regulations governing the blood supply help to make me more comfortable with this awful medical need. I know that nothing in this situation is a "sure thing" but I do know that each unit of blood is screened for known pathogens--which is not happening with the "black market" milk. I know many of her blood donors, yet how can I know everything to which they have been exposed? The scrutiny is welcome.

In our regular diatribe yesterday against wines with screw tops, we wrote the following:

We keep arguing that for us, the sound of a cork being removed from a wine bottle is one of the great sounds on the planet – it evokes more than just a beverage, but rather suggests romance and magic. It heightens the experience rather than diminishing it or making it common.

We recognize that not everyone feels this way. However, we think that allowing wine to be opened like a bottle of soda only helps to eliminate one of its differential advantages. It makes the category less special rather than more so.

Here’s a metaphor that will probably get us in trouble…

The difference between a bottle of wine with a screw top and a bottle of wine with a cork is the difference between sex and love.

MNB user Al Imbimbo wrote:

Your point is right on. However, as we walk the path of life there is a place for both sex and love. To my surprise I have tasted some very good white wines with a screw top, which leads me to believe there is a place for wine with a screw top as well as wine with a cork. The key being, smart people are able to differentiate and use the screw top where appropriate!

Keep in mind the screw top like sex is for immediate satisfaction; love, like the cork, is made to last the duration under the correct circumstances.

MNB user Joe Fagan wrote:

Now there is a marketing thought ”Romance wine, it’s the cork.”

MNB user Mark Monroe had an interesting take:

If the difference between screwtop and corked bottles is sex and love, it is no surprise that screwtops are gaining market share in this country.

MNB user Karen Labenz wrote:

I'm with you on the cork vs. screw top cap issue. There's just something about the experience of opening the corked bottle that makes it special and a bit more engaging than opening other beverages. Don't give up!

And MNB user Tim Davis wrote:

Just wanted to let you know I totally agree with you on the cork situation. It just doesn't seem right to open a bottle of wine in the same manner as you can open a 40oz of malt liquor.

Y’know, a question just occurred to us.

When you get breast milk off the ‘black market,” does it come with a screw top or a cork?

Just curious.

KC's View: