If you received a beribboned box filled with chocolate dipped strawberries, would your first reaction be “delicious” or “destructive”?
Ten or maybe even five years ago, I would have said, “Wow, they look delicious”, as I grabbed one and bit into it. Now, well, it’s complicated.
The Mystery Box Arrives
Last Thursday, as my spouse slowed the car at the end of the steep L-shaped driveway we share with our neighbors, I looked out the passenger side window and spotted a box on the block wall.
“Look, the UPS guy left a package at the end of the driveway again.”
Sighing, my spouse replied, “That’s two in a row, I’m gonna have to call UPS and complain. I’ll get the box when I bring down the trash cans.”
The Mystery Box Contents are Revealed
Later, I was sitting in the living room reading Search Engine Optimization for Dummies when I heard my spouse laugh in the kitchen and then say, “You’re not going to like this.”
Curious, I asked, “I’m not going to like what?”
I looked up as my spouse walked into the living room carrying a small box with a dozen large chocolate dipped strawberries in one hand and the shipping container in the other.
The first words out of my mouth were, “You’ve got to be kidding me, all that paper and plastic for 12 strawberries. Who sent them?”
The enclosed card indicated the strawberries were a thank you gift from business associates of my spouse.
Treehugger versus Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
In the old days, I would likely have thought the strawberries looked tasty and perhaps wondered how much they cost.
What a difference a few years makes. The strawberries did look delicious but conflicting thoughts and questions flew around my mind. I was fascinated and repelled at the same time. I put down my book, grabbed the proffered boxes, and went in search of my iPhone.
I examined each bit of packaging, searched the company’s website for information, and snapped photos with my phone. Below is what I observed and learned about the seemingly simple gift of chocolate dipped strawberries.
- The cardboard shipping container was large compared to the gift box. Apparently the plastic covered foam inserts and additional cardboard inside were to keep the strawberries cool and prevent the gift box from rattling around.
- The gift box came with a paper card, promotional flyer, and nutrition facts. I idly wondered what materials were used in the white satin ribbon wrapped around the box.
- Inside the gift box, under another piece of plastic wrapped foam, a dozen oversized chocolate covered strawberries lay nestled in individual compartments of a non-recyclable plastic tray, each on a plastic-backed paper doily. Little plastic feet under the tray on one side tilted the strawberries at an attractive display angle, aided by more foam padding. Everything was bit sticky.
- The nutrition insert informed me each strawberry was approximately 170 calories (about the same as a small candy bar).
- I read the list of ingredients to my spouse, “strawberries, sugar, partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils, cocoa (processed with potassium carbonate), mono and diglyceride and soya lecithin emulsifiers, salt, milk, natural and artificial flavor, pure vanilla, vanillin (an artificial flavor), semisweet chocolate (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, dextrose), almonds”.
- By checking the company website, I learned the strawberries were shipped from San Diego, CA which is about 400 or so miles from our house. Thank goodness they weren’t shipped thousands of miles across the country.
- Where the giant strawberries were grown or how far they had traveled before reaching the manufacturer remains a mystery.
- By looking on the company website, I estimated my spouse’s box of 12 strawberries cost in the neighborhood of $2.50 to $4.00 each.
We decided we were honor-bound to eat the exorbitantly expensive chocolate dipped calorie laden strawberries so their sizable carbon footprint wouldn’t be completely wasted.
I selected a milk chocolate covered strawberry from the gift box and my spouse a dark chocolate version. Upon biting into the strawberry, the chocolate instantly cracked and started to fall off so I leaned over the sink to eat it. The strawberry had an unpleasant sour chemical undertone and the chocolate was so-so. It was a disappointing sticky experience certainly not worth the calories. My spouse felt the same.
After eating a few more, we consigned the remaining strawberries to the backyard composter.
Think before You Gift
When I consider the resources, energy, and water used and waste generated to grow, process, and transport 12 chocolate dipped strawberries, that didn’t even taste good, it makes me cringe.
I’m not against giving and receiving gifts, even frivolous or decadent ones. But I believe gifts like the chocolate dipped strawberries my spouse received are incongruent with the world we live in today.
We need to rethink gift giving. Homemade cookies shipped in a simple box or chocolate dipped strawberries grown and given locally are a step in the right direction.
The next time you’re considering giving a gift, pause, consider the recipient and our planet, and then decide.