Pacific Lutheran University

Bananas


Consumer Choices, Global Effects:
The Example of the Banana                                                                    
 
            In a wealthy consumer society like ours, goods are so inexpensive and plentiful that their true costs—in environmental and social terms—are too often overlooked.   It has been estimated that the average American consumes more than 120 pounds of resources daily.1 Consider, for example, something as common as a banana.     Bananas are one of the most popular fruits in the U.S.—we consume 6.4 billion pounds annually.  They are tasty, cheap, and plentiful.  Chances are, you will buy or eat a banana at least once this week.  Have you ever wondered why bananas, being a tropical fruit, are always so readily available and relatively inexpensive?  You might be surprised to know what it takes to get that delicious, cheap, yellow commodity into your hands—the price paid by the environment and by the people that depend on the banana industry simply to survive.   From the workers picking bananas in the field; to the pesticides in the water table of a tropical, developing nation; to the trade inequities between exporting and importing nations—the act of purchasing a banana has environmental, social and economic implications that extend far beyond the reach of the local supermarket.

1Ryan, John and Alan Durning. Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things. Seattle: Northwest Environmental Watch, 1997 p. 4