Saturday, May 1, 2010

Operation Orange

Today I conducted a mini social experiment at my son's T-ball game. Last week I asked for your advice as Snack Mom. I wanted choices that were healthy, easy on the wallet, and environmentally conscious. Here's where I detailed my decisions, but then the game was rained out. Though I had feared we would miss yet another one today, 30 minutes before game time, Operation Orange went into effect.

Determined to go old-school for snacks, I cut up four oranges. This time they were organic from my last trip to Earthfare. They'll just HAVE to love these, I thought. Unfortunately I hate to admit that I wasn't that impressed with the organic vs conventional oranges. These were OK but a little on the bitter side. Since oranges aren't one of the "dirty dozen," I'll stick to conventional oranges in the future.

Regardless, my plan was to give them a choice between granola bars and oranges. I wanted at least one non-processed, not-in-its-own package snack. I put all the orange slices in one Tupperware (so as not to create more trash with Ziplocs) and headed to the field.

I arrived in time to see snack moms for two other teams doling out their choices. One had juice boxes and individually bagged cookies. The other had Kool-Aid sugar water in plastic bottles and individual Oreo packs. Now I love Oreos, but talk about a poor nutritional choice! They're like the worst offenders of all. And have you tasted those Kool-Aid drinks? Ick! Since there are no recycling bins around the field, most of them went into the trash dumpster (minus about five of those tops that were just thrown on the ground). This is what has become the expectation at sporting events? Oh boy.

During the game I contemplated if I've gone off the deep end on this one. So what if kids have cookies and sugar drinks every once in awhile? So what if none of the packaging of these foods ever gets recycled? Maybe I should just relax and accept it. But then I started doing the math of the numbers of sporting events my children will likely attend in their lifetime, and the volume of all that crap food in their bodies and crap packaging in our landfills made me angry. It started giving me a clear picture of why our children are facing shorter life expectancies than we are and why environmentally our choices simply aren't sustainable for the long-term. This IS a problem, and I can either feed into it or take a small stand.

I actually had butterflies in my stomach as the players emerged from their low-fiving the other team. What would the kids think? What would the parents say? I put on my most enthusiastic face and presented the options: granola bars, apple juice, and orange slices. A few of the boys gave me puzzled looks as they reached for the familiar. "You sure you don't want an orange? They're juicy and delicious!" "No, thanks" was the typical response.

Only one child had taken a meager slice, and I was starting to feel despondent. That's when I broke out my big selling point: the wacky smile. "Do you know how to REALLY eat an orange?" I asked a timid 5-year-old. "Like this" and I shoved the orange in my mouth and let the rind show while I grinned. He laughed and wanted to try it. Then another boy asked for an orange and then his little sister. One of the mothers commiserated with my choice and said, "My daughter hates that I won't bring cookies to her games. I think it's great." She knew I had stepped out of the norm and applauded me with her eyes.

Since I was on a roll, I asked for all the rinds back so that I could compost them and feed them to our worms. One boy thought I was teasing. Compost is probably not in his vocabulary. I decided that was a lesson for another day.

In all, the kids might have eaten one orange, but I'll call Operation Orange a success. Maybe next time I'll bring lemonade and my own cups and gather them all to recycle. I'm also going to stop buying juice boxes; between the wax coating, tiny straws, and fly-away wrappers, they're a trash nightmare. The shiny juice boxes are no better. It's hard to swim against the conventional current, but sometimes different is good.

What have you done lately that was "a little out there" but for the right reasons?

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