The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Flexitarianism, Hybrid Owners, Inflated Google+ Numbers

By Corey Conley

Good: Flexitarianism

Meat is Murder sometimes flexitarian vegetarian

I have a confession. I’m the worst vegetarian in the world. While shopping or dining out, I’m the perfect veggie-muncher, assiduously avoiding anything that once moved under its own power. But leave me alone with a free catered lunch or a good, old-fashioned southern potluck, I’ll probably grab a strip or two of chicken… and hey, there’s not that much beef in grandma’s homemade lasagna, right? Although it’s not my first choice, if I’m facing starvation or a dinner consisting solely of seven types of potato salad, I’ll do what I have to.

I recently shed my shame when I found out I’m part of the rapid expansion of “flexitarianism.” While the concept has been around for a long time, the number of people sneaking meat into their veggie diet is expanding dramatically. At least one study showed 44 percent of Americans 18 to 29 choosing to go meatless at least one night a week, and the demand has spurred an uptick in development of meat substitutes and alternatives from food companies. Market analysts at risk assessment firm CME group predict a 12.2% drop in American meat consumption from 2012 – 2017.

Why is this good? It depends on who you ask. Environmentalists will likely praise the reduction of carbon emissions and resource drain associated with meat production, Flexitarians enjoy lower food costs and better health, vegetarians will get more meat-free options at the store as more people demand meatless meals, and even meat-eaters should enjoy a lower price on their favorite cuts as demand for meat goes down.

Bad: The Prodigal Hybrid Owner

Hybrid logo

According to 2011 data, only 35% of hybrid owners who bought a car that year bought another hybrid. Although it’s difficult to parse why 65% of hybrid owners turned up their noses at buying a second hybrid, likely a cocktail of factors are to blame.

The rise of the rest may be the big one. The past couple of years have seen an explosion of compacts that outperform, out-feature, and out-fun hybrids, all the while getting around 40 mpg on the highway. Mix in the $5,000 – $7,000 hybrid price premium, and it’s easy to see why some hybrid owners are returning to the dino-burning flock.

To give an extreme example, Hyundai’s 2012 Accent starts at $12,545 and is one of the many cars that rates a combined 34 mpg on the EPA’s highway testing cycle. While the Prius C, Toyota’s new subcompact hybrid, handily bests that with a combined 50 mpg rating, it starts at an eyebrow-raising $18,950. Even with gas at $4.00 a gallon, that $6,400 difference is going to take you an awful lot of miles to recoup. According to my napkin math, that’s some 80,000 miles before you make your money back – and those miles are spent in a car that’s one of the slowest in its class.

And, of course, it’s an open question whether families need two hybrids. Most hybrid owners keep one for their daily commute, but paying more for an extra-efficient grocery getter doesn’t make financial sense.

Ugly: Google inflated Google+ membership

Google + Plus logo

A couple months ago Google CEO Larry Page proudly announced that Google+, Google’s social network, had registered 90 million users, and 60 percent of those users are engaged daily, and 80% use it at least once a week.

This must have been quite the shocker for Facebook, the social titan that ‘only’ sees about 50% daily use.

But Mark Zuckerberg & Co. probably aren’t worried because Google’s announcement isn’t quite what it seemed. The company rolled in any activity by a user logged into their Google account, be it checking Gmail, using Google Docs, or finding your house on Google Maps and counted that as activity on their social networking site. In short, it counted an awful lot of non-Google+ things as Google+ activity.

Google isn’t telling how many of those 90 million users explicitly signed up for Google+, and how many just wanted to use Gmail or other Google products. After their much publicized and fretted-over privacy policy change, the company now makes it pretty much mandatory to sign up for Google+ to use any of their services.

Normally, one expects this kind of corporate fudgery from a company’s marketing and sales lackeys. But this isn’t just any company, and that wasn’t just any sales flack making the questionable claims. Google makes part of its money from collecting information about you, and using that to market to you; so to have its CEO engaging in any form of public deception, however benign… well, that’s ugly.

For a company with the unofficial motto of “Don’t be evil,” this smells an awful lot like “Not Good.”

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