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20CENT Mood: Don't challenge me
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20CENT Mood: Don't challenge me

Let’s make a bet

Today is the first day of February and it marks the start of yet another challenge. You will already know the famous Tournée Minérale inviting you to stay away from alcohol for a month. In the same spirit (pun intended), some of you may have followed or will follow similar initiatives like Dry January or Dry July

But have you heard of the challenge Février sans supermarché (February without supermarket) that asks you to not visit supermarkets for a month? Or maybe you have heard of the Jours sans viande (Days without meat)? There are many challenges during the year and it seems that new ones are invented regularly. 

First of all, let’s be clear. To make people more conscious and encourage them to adopt an ethical and healthy consumption is noble and necessary. However, you won’t see me follow one of those challenges. In my opinion, there are too many disturbing elements in those campaigns. 


Balance and moderation 

All right, I don’t deny the data or science. Too much alcohol is bad for health, alcohol and driving is a big “no no”, in certain cases it’s a catalyst in domestic arguments and can kill relationships, and of course alcohol is not a requirement to have a great party or celebration. In the same idea: too much fat isn’t good for your cholesterol; too much salt causes hypertension, etc. All of this is true. However, if you have a balanced diet, eat with moderation and regularly exercise, I don’t see why from time to time you shouldn’t reward yourself with some guilty pleasures. 


Is a bet the solution? 

Now here is something I wonder. Is it sufficient to just challenge yourself to stop something for a determined period? The way I see it with this Tournée Minérale is that on the 1st of March you get to go back to your old habits and drink without moderation. Recently I read a study that after three to four weeks, one does abandon or forget his new year’s resolutions. In the case of these challenges, since a determined amount of time is clearly stated, you get to abandon your ‘new life style’ from one day to another. I deduct that after the Tournée Minérale, it’s allowed to have tons of drinks (I even know some participating people who at the end of the challenge claim they have some catching up to do…). 


The usual criminals

Finally, there is this Février sans Supermarché, which really bugs me. It’s always easy to point fingers in the direction of those big mean retailers whose purpose is only “to make money while squeezing small local producers, killing small family businesses and polluting the environment”. Well let’s stop for a minute and see some facts and numbers. 

First of all, you should look at the numbers confirmed by the Belgian Federation of Retailers Comeos. The majority of meat sold in supermarkets is coming from local producers (90%), and the same story goes for milk (84%), eggs (76%), or vegetables 64%). Also the majority of pears and apples on our shelves are coming from our beloved Belgian farmers. 

But let’s look further. Since a couple of years, those mean retailers offer in their supermarkets a lot more local products. Some even dedicate special areas and shelves just for local producers. To take the example of Carrefour, the project surrounding local products has created 50 million euro turnover in a couple of years. This turnover is a ‘created’ turnover, not one displaced from other channels. And of course other retailers such as Delhaize or Colruyt have followed the trends.

But still, let’s go further. In terms of ecological footprint, they may be big retailers and sometimes slow to move, but major efforts have been made. To give you a few examples of concrete measures: waste of unused fruits and vegetables is scrutinised, fridges and coolers have walls to reduce energy needs, plastic use is going down, etc. Retailers still have more efforts to do, but we can’t neglect the progress they made. 

Last but not least, let’s not forget that supermarkets generate employment directly and indirectly in their neighbourhood. So a boycott as preached by that new Février sans supermarché challenge is not what those workers need. 

Finally, let’s ask ourselves the question: isn’t the consumer the responsible? Consumers always seek the latest promo or the good deal; they always require the same fruits and vegetables all year without thinking of seasons. And who provides these needs? Supermarkets. Maybe if retailers are guilty of something, it is actually guilty of listening to their clients. 

So if you ask me, we are not always pointing the finger in the right direction, and this Février Sans Supermarché is a great example of what not to do. 


Not for me

To sum it all up, I understand the substance and I do believe more ethical, healthy and sustainable consumption is necessary. However, I believe efforts should be made everyday and not just for fashion or when the marketing spotlights are on. 



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