Tuesday, April 22, 2008

File this under...unintended Earth Day consequences

TPS regular and Kellogg grad student Thomas Johnson reports that, in honor of Earth Day, the Kellogg cafeteria did away with cardboard trays and straws for the day...

...blind of the substitution effects of possibly the former into more napkins, and definitely the latter into more bottled drinks. (Not to mention the loss on a high-margin item like fountain sodas.) Here's to saving the Earth...one grassroots policy at a time.

Any other good Earth Day observations?


Thomas said...

My email to Kellogg's student government (posted per Matt's request):

I wanted to bring to the KSA's attention an annoying "initiative" that Kafe Kellogg started this week. Maybe you've noticed it already: For Earth Week, they've stopped providing straws and trays, even to people who specifically ask for them. This is, to put it bluntly, almost incredibly stupid.

In fact, it's stupid in almost every department:
-Economics: The substitution effect will cause people to buy bottled drinks instead of fountain sodas. The packaging of an average bottled drink is almost certainly more damaging to the environment than a straw
-Operations: Kafe Kellogg, in contrast to every other dining facility in the world, puts lids and straws in a different place than the drinks. This is merely annoying during the rest of the year when you have to try not to spill a full cup while you're waiting in line, but during 'Earth Week' it means that you don't realize that there are no straws until you've filled the drink up and paid for it.
-Finance/Accounting: Fountain sodas have a huge margin. If people buy fewer fountain drinks, then in their effort to save the earth KK's management is losing money--an admittedly small cost which will nonetheless be passed on to students the next time they bid for their contract
-Marketing: I'm going out on a limb here, but I'm guessing the average Kellogg student would prefer to have straws rather than not. I think I remember from MKTG-430 that ignoring your customers makes them unhappy.
-Management and Organizations: In one psychology experiment, researchers were found that people who were prevented from completing tasks that were almost finished (e.g., not having any straws after you've filled the cup, waited in line, and paid for your drink) got very angry compared to those who hadn't started the task at all. Not having straws pisses people off!

I realize that KSA probably won't be have time to do anything until your next meeting, but I'm hoping that you guys can prevent this overzealous, counter-productive Earth Week effort from happening again next year.

Justin M Ross said...

"The packaging of an average bottled drink is almost certainly more damaging to the environment than a straw."

I agree with the overall point, but the time-horizon may be too short here. A bottled soda will never decompose, meaning that at some point in the future it will still be there to be recycled into its base element-oil. The large prevalence of these bottles will probably mean one day there will be dozens of strip mining operations pulling them from dumps for recycling.

Just a possibility, I agree with your e-mail still.