When I learned that PepsiCo is planting an organic, employee-run garden at its world headquarters in Purchase, N.Y., I felt happy, then mad.
The happiness was because a giant corporation like PepsiCo is engaging in grassroots environmentalism. Who doesn’t feel optimistic reading that 225 of this behemoth’s employees are teaming up to plant and care for 58 plots of organic herbs and vegetables, fertilizing with coffee grinds from their cafeteria and donating unused eats to a local food bank. This is all good news.
But the cynic in me keeps flashing the words “green washing.” This is the same company that lists high-fructose corn syrup as the second ingredient on its most popular drink, with caffeine and artificial color close behind. A beverage that is, in part, responsible for our country’s growing obesity and diabetes epidemics, which promise to become global problems because soft-drink manufacturers push their products in developing countries. And don’t get me started on aspartame.
Breaking out my rusty college philosophy, it seems this organic garden is ultimately harmful. It goes something like this: If consumers get wind of the garden—and PepsiCo is planning more of them— many will feel better about PepsiCo and its products, which will result in more purchases. And the benefits the employees receive from tending small, organic gardens do not outweigh the harm the company’s colas inflict globally. So although it’s almost painful for me to say an organic garden is bad, in this case, I must.