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One of the ongoing discussions we’ve been having here on MNB is the balance between parental and societal responsibility when it comes to nutrition issues and the obesity crisis. I’m sort of on the fence on this one, a little conflicted; while I think that ultimately we as parents have to establish the rules and set the example for our children, I do think there is a need for greater transparency in terms of the products the food industry sells to children and greater responsibility in terms of how these products are marketed. (I’ve always sort of felt that many of the people who create and sell these products are parents, too, and that maybe they shouldn’t stop being parents when they arrive at the office.)

MNB user Lee Ann Lehner has some thoughts on this subject:

While I agree with you that teaching children (at home and at school) will give them more ability to make the right choices, we as adults can have the knowledge, but don’t always make the healthiest choices. Children move toward being able to assume more and more responsibilities and choices for themselves as they grow, however, it is up to us as adults, to give them those opportunities as they are able to assume them responsibly – to protect them (safety), yet teach them accountability for their choices. With their health, adults can make more appropriate choices for them until they are young adults.

In providing healthy lunches at schools, we as adults are assuming the responsibility that we were given to provide our kids with healthy foods because we know and understand how important it is for them to eat the right balance of foods. As parents, we can elect to give them more treats when they’re at home; they don’t need fried foods and sundaes at school. If we look at it similarly to other school and home adult responsibilities, we balance their education in the schools with learning certain subjects to enrich their ability to function and earn a living, emotional lessons and guidance to respect others, etc and physical ed opportunities to assist in developing a healthy individual physically (heart, lungs, etc). Healthy lunches would follow that same pattern – to provide what children need. On the home front, parents have a huge responsibility to provide the same learning abilities, physical exercise, emotional examples and guidance/support and healthy eating (along with FUN treats). The children suffer when their parents are unable or unwilling to assume these responsibilities; the schools, however, should not be unable or unwilling to assume those responsibilities. Maybe as parents, we could spend a little more $$ for school lunches and if it’s too much $$ for us to spend, we have the option to send them to school with a home-made lunch. I survived drinking milk at lunch for school and I’m certain kids now-a-days can survive without pop and juice at school.

Another MNB user addressed the discussion using as an example McDonald’s new large-sized “Hugo” drink, which is super-sized without calling it that:

Is anyone else sick of the political correctness of not marketing towards children or adults in an effort to fight obesity? For instance this HUGO commercial is geared towards someone like me, who doesn't care that they drink a 48 oz. soda. In fact I'm looking for the best deal on a big drink. That is why QT sucks me into their stores, they offer big fountain drinks during the summer for 69 or 89 cents. If all the promotions and advertisements are geared towards the thin and fit, companies are abandoning their other customers. Why should thin people get all the breaks and special savings?

As far as General Mills, Kellogg's and others not advertising towards kids, I think our priorities are out of whack. Since when is a child between 3-10 years old going into a grocery store with their own money and buying a box of cereal. I say advertise away to the kids, it is the parents’ responsibility to watch what their children eat. Just because Trix had the best commercials when I was kid and I begged my mom to get it- doesn't mean I won. In the end she would buy what was best for me. When are we going to stop blaming food companies, the fashion industry, the music industry and the movie industry for the way our children look and act. We are trying to place the blame on everyone except who is ultimately responsible- PARENTS. As a parent I take full responsibility for what my child eats, drinks, wears, listens to and watches. There is no one else to blame.

MNB user Mike Overschmidt wrote:

One other thought I’d add to the story about McD's selling a new larger drink is that most fast feeders, including most McDonald's locations offer free refills anyway. While i only drink diet, I typically order a medium but refill it at least once, usually on the way out the door. I can't argue that this won't encourage some people, particularly at the drive thru to consume more calories but if someone is eating in, chances are this won't really change their behavior. Frankly I think this is in response to many c-stores that sell their "super big chug" drinks for 89 to 99 cents.

On the subject of Wal-Mart’s apparel chief “resigning” after a year in which the company’s attempt at “cheap chic” didn’t quite work out, one MNB user wrote:

Since when do people “resign” due to poor sales performance?

Regarding the possible acquisition of Sainsbury by Delta Two, the Qatari royal family's investment vehicle, for a reported $21 billion (US), Mike Griswold concurred with MNB’s analysis:

With few Sainsbury family members active in the company, this will be a dollars (pounds) and cents discussion. With their sense of history and tradition, I feel for the British when/if this goes through.

We’ll all have to maintain a stuff upper lip.

And, there wee plenty of emails about the debate in Annapolis, Maryland, that could lead to the banning of plastic bag usage by retailers there.

MNB user Ed Martin wrote:

As we all become more aware of our carbon footprint, issues such as plastic bags become more top of mind. My wife and I decided to try the re-useable bags which our local Save Mart offers as a replacement for paper or plastic bags. I was skeptical about the viability, especially because I found that, while I don’t mind shopping for the groceries, I truly loathe bringing them in from the car at the end of the shopping trip.

The Save Mart program offer a relatively rugged canvas-type sack with a well designed flat bottom, reinforced by a sturdy flap that folds up for storage. The bag costs .99 and the store issues a .05 rebate each time the bag is used, I was amazed at the amount of product that these bags hold and how well items placed in the bag remain where they were placed. Another plus was the long handles made carrying the bags very easy. I have quickly found that four of these sacks hold the same amount of groceries that used to take up to 12 of the conventional plastic bags, which means fewer trips between the car and the kitchen when we get home.. The biggest issue we have found is remembering which car trunk we have kept the shopping bags. We have since decided that each of our cars will always have four bags in the trunk. The transition has been pretty painless, and it feels good to be doing something pro-active.

I think this last comment is the key. Not using plastic bags is something that people can do … and if they think they are making an contribution to environmental sustainability, a lot of people may be more willing to do it.

However, another MNB user wrote:

This ban makes no sense. The issue here is littering and not the product. The product performs better than any product out there, including alternative bags. The consumer wants these bags, which are 100 % recyclable, can also be reused for various applications, and made into a number of post consumer products. Paper can only be made into paper primarily. Canvas bags are clumsy, must be washed regularly if kept in contact with food, and are very expensive, and when worn out, they end up in landfills. Plus the fact you have to remember to bring them. If the consumer can do that, then they could also bring back the plastic bags to be recycled at the stores recycling centers. California recycling law seems to be making significant gains in consumer awareness.

Let’s look at some facts:

USA uses 20 million barrels of oil a day. Production of plastic bags and film only use .6 to .7 percent of a barrel. 94% of a barrel of oil goes toward making fuel oil, heating oil, gasoline, etc…. If we really want to make a dent in oil production, then go after the pie (fuel) that does not recycle, not the slice that does….Reusing or recycling of one ton of plastic bags saves the equivalent of 11 barrels or 462 gallons.

Paper bags take 40% more energy to manufacture than plastic bags. Paper generate 80% more waste than plastic bags. Paper generates 70% more air emissions than plastic bags. It takes 91% more energy to recycle paper bags than plastic, plus there are no major paper recyclers left in the USA. All paper, including recycled paper, to produce, would have to cut down virgin trees to become commercial again. It takes one tree to make 1,000 paper bags. Trees that are planted when one is cut down, are inferior to the tree that was taken out, thus diminishing the environmental effects in the life of that tree. Plastic bags consume less than 4% of the water it take to make a paper bag.

Most paper bags will end up in landfills. Paper bags take up 9.6 times more space than plastic. Plastic bags take up less than 5% of the U.S. Municipal waste stream. 2000 plastic bags weigh 30 lbs. where 2000 paper bags weigh 280 lbs. It takes 9 truckloads of paper bags to equal 1 truckload of plastic bags.

Paper bags cost 5-8 cents more than paper which will drive up the cost carried now by the grocery stores. They will be forced to pushed that increase cost back on consumers.

Recycling is the answer and educating the consumer on how to dispose of the plastic bags and film properly is the key. Why jump over the stream to look for water?

MNB user Doug Galli wrote:

The proponents of banning plastic bags in favor of paper are misguided. This argument has been played out years ago in an article in Garbage magazine which was an environmental magazine. The fact is that nothing is biodegradable in a sanitary landfill. They are designed so that they keep things from degrading and leaching into the environment. We would be better served by enforcing litter laws and through continued consumer education offer them choices. As a retailer I would not be opposed to offering a choice and then let the consumers decide. Plastic bags make up a minuscule percentage of waste in a landfill, we need to do a better job with paper which makes up the largest amount of waste.

All very persuasive. Except that Ed Martin’s comments above about using canvas bags seem more so.

There may be some consumer confusion, as MNB user Dave Wiles points out:

Correct me if I am wrong on this, but didn't the plastic bag come out to "save trees" and they could be recycled (being plastic) and would save the world as we know it.

Now they are causing global warming and may lead to the downfall of the free world?

Make up your mind here.

Think of it as an evolution in scientific thinking.

KC's View: