It’s Greenpeace’s 40th anniversary year, and I’m resolved to try and capture more of the stories that we tell around our organisational campfires. Anne Dingwall just dropped by my desk, and I mentioned I’d seen this video of the insane queue in Moscow when McDonald’s opened their first store there in 1990.
Anne and I were part of the advance team that was setting up operations in Moscow for Greenpeace’s first office there — a big step away from our North American/Northern European base. She reminded me that she went over that day to the big event at the behest of our US toxics campaign. McDonalds had agreed to stop using styrofoam clam shells in their operations in the US (which in those days was made with climate-killing CFCs), and our researchers there wanted to know if they were applying a double standard in Moscow. Could she drop by their garbage bin and pick up a couple clam shells and send them back for analysis?
So off goes Anne to the scene of capitalism’s most dramatic beachhead on the communist shores.
But there were no clamshells in the garbage.
Plenty of clamshells being handed out, but none in the garbage. This might have mystified a less experienced Moscow hand, but Anne had been there long enough to know what was happening. This was a city where pencils were used down to the tiniest stubs, tea bags were recycled over and over again, plastic bags cherished for decades, and a shadow economy in refilling “disposable” bic lighters was thriving. She knew why there would be no clamshells in the garbage: every single one would be taken home as a souvenir.
And when she saw the line she’d have to stand in to *buy* one, she decided to Telex back to the US that they’d just have to wait some time for this bit of sampling.