These days, the grocery store can feel like it has a split personality: organic, and everything else. For shoppers balancing health and environmental concerns with a limited budget, navigating the two is difficult, especially in the produce aisle, where small organic lemons ($1.50/ea) sit next to their conventionally-grown counterparts ($0.69/ea). Harsh price differences are one reason many skip the organics, but social pressure can be an unexpected factor, too. “At my local grocery, I sometimes catch organic eyes gazing into my grocery cart and scowling,” says Sue Frause. “So I’ll often toss in really bad foods just to get them even more riled up.”
Frause and many others are increasingly exasperated with the superiority complex they perceive from some green lifestyle adherents, and researchers are taking note. NBC recently ran a story asking if healthy dieting is unintentionally turning us into snobs. ”There’s a line of research showing that when people can pat themselves on the back for their moral behavior, they can become self-righteous,” says psychological sciences professor Kendall Eskine, who led a study that revealed the jerk-like tendencies of organic eaters. Eskine surmises that when people engage in something they think is morally good, they feel entitled to be judgmental of others. ”We found that the organic people judged much harder compared to the control or comfort food groups,” says Eskine.
Social pressure cuts two ways. It can drive positive change, or it can stall it. We live in a time when eating organic foods usually requires extra time or money; hopefully, this will change for the better. For now, the best we can do is be mindful and consider the challenges everyone faces to acquire healthy food. Rather than judging food habits and forming antagonistic or exclusive mindsets, we should be asking the most important question: how do we create a system where affordable, healthy choices are readily available to everyone?
Chappell Ellison is a designer, writer and design writer. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York where she serves as a contributor for The Etsy Blog and design columnist for GOOD.