Ms. DeLana told me that cosmetics companies were the first to really understand the power of good packaging. Fossil and Swatch in the early '80s were quick to follow, with cool watch cases that were designed to be commodities themselves. Since then, many others have figured out that packaging is a key part of a marketing amd branding strategy. Lately, some experts pointed out, even fresh produce is benefiting. Without packaging, Tropicana oranges might have just as well been grown in my neighbor's backyard.
I hadn't ever really thought about it.
I needed to restock on cereal and yogurt, so I returned to the supermarket this time with the intention of buying.
I discovered EcoPac a brand offering cereal in bags, with this advertisement: "Save 66 percent of the packaging." I was ready to load up my basket, but then I studied my choices more closely: "Heritage O's," "Millet's Rice," and "Meson Sunrise" all of which looked quite wan and lifeless through the clear plastic. Only a few inches away: "Banana Gone Nuts," "Maple Pecan Crisp," and "Cocoa Bumpers," in traditional cardboard garb, with brightly colored drawings meant to suggest bursts of flavor. They did.
So I checked prices: EcoPac bags are $6.99 for 32 ounces, a better value for your money, but then again a large investment considering I'd never tried them. In the end, I walked away with a box of "Maple Pecan Crisp," chastened by my lack of willpower.
I also picked up three containers of serving-size fruit-flavored yogurt (the larger containers didn't come in fruit flavors), some asparagus (unbagged), four bananas (unbagged) and a carton of orange juice.
Halfway home, I realized a can of frozen orange juice would have been less packaging, less space in my fridge, more for my dollar. It was the first of a string of lapses.
I left my new, ecologically chic, blue-tinted, refillable 14-ounce water bottle from EMS on my desk as I headed out to lunch.
At the deli, I compounded my mistake by ordering chili, which came over the counter in a double cardboard bowl. But for the cold stare of the cashier, I may have considered handing one of the bowls back.