When it comes to environmental resources, waste is worse than use. And nothing demonstrates waste more clearly and more arrogantly than Home Depot. On a Sunday afternoon browsing the garden department I asked an orange-aproned clerk about the many carts filled willy-nilly with plants. “Oh, those are the ones we’re going to throw away.”
“Throw away!” I fairly shouted. “Why? I’ll take them.”
“Sorry,” he said, “It’s the vendor’s policy. We don’t have anything to do with it. I agree it’s kind of a waste.”
Kind of a waste? It’s a huge waste. There were six large carts filled to the brim with plants, some needing a little water, but most perfectly good except for being a little smooshed. And those were just the ones in the back. Up front there were even more.
I wandered around the garden department and spotted a young man in a polo shirt, with the words “Hines” unloading plants off a large cart. I approached him and asked him why it was his company’s policy just to throw perfectly good plants away. He said, “Oh, it’s not so much our policy as Home Depot’s policy. My supervisor is around here somewhere ask him about it. If it were me, I’d let you have them all. Most of them are just fine but they’re last week’s stock and we have to turn over new stock every week. We throw out about 15 cart loads a day. It’s a waste.”
That’s 15 cart loads of plants a day that could be beautifying the greater Albuquerque area. When I confront the other Hines employee about the wasted plants he replies, “Lots of people get upset with us about this and I’ve tried talking to the general garden manager at the Renaissance location and he says throw them away.” And then he adds the real kicker; the real outrage. “They say, ‘we’re in retail’ if we can’t sell it, throw it away. We’re not a charity.”
“Well, what about reducing them to say a dollar or fifty cents?” I ask. “I guarantee that these carts would be empty in half an hour. In fact, people would be carrying them out by the cart load.”
“Yeah, well then who would buy them at full price?” he retorts, getting a little testy. Perhaps in an attempt to divert attention from his role in the waste he pointed out an even bigger waste. “Hey, don’t think it’s just the plants. They throw away all kinds of stuff here. Washers, dryers, water heaters…lots of water heaters. Things will little tiny dings. It’s not just plants.”
It seems that Home Deport must adhere to what can only be described as a spiteful corporate policy: “We’d rather throw it away than sell it to you really cheap.” And then there’s the environmental aspect: water wasted growing the plants, potting soil, plastic pots, fuel to transport the plants from California, sometimes in refrigerated trucks.
Home Depot likes to blow its “Corporate Responsibility” horn. Indeed, it’s corporate website touts as one of its core values, “Doing the right thing: We exercise good judgment by "doing the right thing" instead of just "doing things right." We strive to understand the impact of our decisions, and we accept responsibility for our actions.” Well, it seems to me that “Doing the right thing” would be to give away or sell plants at greatly reduced prices. You know, building customer good-will instead of hostility at the company’s arrogant wastefulness. Because it wasn’t just me outraged at the waste, other customers were listening to my discussion with the Hines employee and shaking their heads in disgust.
And just how does throwing away merchandise in Albuquerque’s landfill fit in with one of Home Depot’s self-espoused “Environmental Principles?”
“We will conserve natural resources by using energy and water wisely and seek further opportunities to improve the resource efficiency of our stores.”
Home Depot, another example of corporate hypocrisy.