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02.06.08

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Silicon Veggie - Elisa Camahort

Silicon Veggie

Going Mainstream

By Elisa Camahort


RECENTLY one of my blog readers left a comment that meat was starting to, out of the blue, "sicken" her. She wondered if I felt that way, and also wrote that she was considering it might be time for her to go veggie. I replied that the idea of meat sickened me more than the actual smell or flavor or texture.

It started me thinking about what it would take for veg*nism to go mainstream. You could say it's already a mainstream concept, given the number of cookbooks and restaurants that abound, and given that just about any restaurant can accommodate a veg*n these days. But I mean a mainstream lifestyle choice, as in one made on a daily basis by more than 5 percent of the population.

I think the answer is the same as the answer to what will help green products, for example, go mass-market: the options must be as functional and affordable as nongreen products or nonveg food.

The definition of "functional" varies by product, but assume it means "tasty" for food, "attractive" for fashion and "effective" for cleaners and other household or personal care products.

A small percentage of us will always choose green or veg simply because it matches our ethical beliefs. We'll even accept paying incrementally more money for incrementally lower "function," if we have to. A small percentage of us would rather give something up rather than choose between something that violates our beliefs or something that just doesn't measure up qualitywise. (Yes, I'm thinking rather crankily about vegan cheese and how nasty it is.) But that will always be a small percentage of us.

That's why I'm glad Wal-Mart is focusing on sustainability and organic, why I'm happy to buy organic products at Safeway, why I'm glad to see Merit Vegetarian pay attention to décor as well as menu. It's also why I was recently disappointed when an online purveyor of gorgeous and affordable vegan handbags had the crappiest customer service I've experienced in a while.

Like anybody else, I want the fact that a product or service meets my personal ethical requirements to be the bonus, the cherry on the sundae. I don't want it to be the reason I have to put up with below-par quality or service.

No nasty vegan cheese, or sticky hemp brownies or deodorant that doesn't actually deodorize for me. Gimme the good stuff. That's how you'll go mainstream.


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