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All hail Walmart, lord of sustainability

BY CHRIS STEINKE | APRIL 26, 2012 6:30 AM

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In this fast-paced Iowa City life of waking up hungover all the time, one's schedule can fill up quickly. Hitting the snooze button can take up to four hours, and then there's that whole eating thing, and before you know it, CVS is closed, and you have to go another day without soap.

That's why it's so hard not to support Walmart. Need a Mohawk? A ski mask? A Playskool basketball hoop? Eye surgery? Some cabbage? Go to Walmart, and you're out of there in 10 minutes.

Luckily for us, we don't need to feel guilty when buying our cabbage from Walmart instead of your family farmer, because chances are, Walmart already bought cabbage from that farmer and displayed it next to the kiwis. So, thanks to Walmart, organic living is now cheap and accessible for everyone.

Go ahead, hippies. Thank Walmart. It supports healthy living and keeping organic farmers in the fields. Thank it.

Walmart's even doing it better than Whole Foods. Corby Kummer of The Atlanticled a blind taste using various fresh produce, and Walmart came out on top. Many of the ingredients came from the same local growers, yet Walmart's were fresher — and, of course, far less costly. For the same shopping list, Krummer paid Whole Foods $175 and Walmart $126.

And no, Walmart didn't hold a rifle to the farmer's head, sign a contract, rape his women, and pass the savings onto you. The savings come from Walmart's superior logistics. Much of any price tag comes from transportation and inventory costs.

According to the jokers over at Washington State University, the cost of carrying inventory typically accounts for 20 to 25 percent of the final sale value. Whole Foods can't compete there.

And then you have to figure Whole Food's overhead is through the roof, considering it usually sets up shop in high-end hippie districts.

Walmart's aim is to restore the small, healthy, sustainable farms that got screwed over by the huge, poisonous, industrial ones that came about over the past few decades. And that's great.

But what I'm wondering is, why not apply that concept throughout the Supercenter? What, we have this huge manufacturing crisis in the United States? What if, instead of shipping everything from halfway around the world, the Iowa City Walmart partnered up with the woodsmiths in Amana to make simple wooden furniture en masse.

One of Walmart's sustainability goals is to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy. Here's an idea: How about you stop shipping everything from Singapore and have some Mennonites drop off your furniture? Horse-and-buggies have like, no C02 omissions.

But, but, but — isn't Walmart going to do the predatory pricing thing and drive out even more businesses? Only the stupid, out-of-date ones. Look, if you're an entrepreneur with any business sense, you're not going to open up a shop selling cheap socks. Walmart will beat you, because Walmart is better than you. Sorry to all the Mom 'n' Pop HD TV store owners out there, but that business is a dumb idea. Think of something better that Walmart can't do. Take a page out of Walmart's book and innovate, for Jobs' sake.

And if you happen to innovate and create something great, yet tangible, I'd suggest not wasting your resources on a storefront to sell it. Instead, I'd suggest expanding your manufacturing facilities and leave selling to your local Walmart and anyone dumb enough to compete with it.

Walmart has the Local Supplier program. Try that. There's an extensive questionnaire, probably to feed data to its new Packaging Scorecard. If you don't know what the Packaging Scorecard is about, it rewards cheap and innovative products that have positive effects on the environment and local communities.

Thank Walmart, hippies. Thank it good. While you've been dropping acid at coffee shops or whatever, Walmart's been making moves. And when that corporate behemoth makes a move, the Earth shakes. It's shaking so hard right now it's waking everyone up and making those of us in Iowa City realize that, once again, we're really, really hungover.


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