This Sh*t Isn’t Easy

Throughout the writing of these blog posts it seems that all I have found is restriction after restriction as to what we as consumers can buy. It seems that every company violates human rights or is cruel to animals, and therefore we have to seek out companies that are harder to find, and usually cost a considerable amount more.

 

I don’t write this to be discouraging to my cause, I’m just saying trust me I know how challenging it is to buy fair-trade, especially as a college student.  I definitely put forth an effort to buy it when I can, but I in no way would I say I only buy fair-trade.  Sometimes this is because of a lack of funds, but a lot of times its just because of laziness. It is just easier to buy products that are all in one place and cheaper. This, my friends is the plague that keeps America purchasing the products it does. Convenience.

 

I found some good articles online that help us to find the easiest way to buy fair trade. This article has 10 tips that will help consumers to buy fair-trade. It has tips such as looking for the fair-trade label and try to find the items where you normally shop.

 

http://greenwoman.typepad.com/biggreenpurse/2009/07/top-ten-ways-to-support-fair-trade.html

 

Really the best way to buy fair trade items is to do it when you can in accordance with your budget. There is a ton of information online that will guide you to making responsible decisions, and every little bit helps. So start by maybe changing out one item on your grocery list with a fair-trade substitute.  Any kind of effort could go a long way to making difference.Image

Home Grown

What is the easiest way to make sure the food you purchase hasn’t hurt anyone or anything? Know where your food comes from.  Buying local is a recent movement that consumers are initiating.  Seems crazy considering everything we bought was locally grown or raised.  Imagine if you had to live off what was grown and raised around where you lived.  In today’s society, this is a challenging idea, but if we learn about how we could make an effort to move towards buying locally it could make strides to improving our town’s economy and overall health.

 So, Why Buy Local? Most produce in the US is picked 4 to 7 days before being placed on supermarket shelves, and is shipped for an average of 1500 miles before being sold. And this is when taking into account only US grown products! Those distances are substantially longer when we take into consideration produce imported from Mexico, Asia, Canada, South America, and other places.

 ImageThere are many ways to find local products, or even grow your own.  One great way to grow produce no matter where you live is to participate in community gardening.  It involves using a single plot of land gardened by a group of people. It is a great to grow food for yourself and also instills a sense of community with others who grow in the garden. In Boone, North Carolina there is one Leola Street that is just starting its preparations for the growing season this month. You can visit http://acga.localharvest.org/ to find a registered community garden in your area, or go to http://communitygarden.org/learn/starting-a-community-garden.php to learn how to start your own community garden.

 Another way people get local products is visiting farmer’s markets. They have individual vendors—mostly farmers—who set up booths, tables or stands, outdoors or indoors, to sell produce, meat products, fruits and sometimes prepared foods and beverages. They are usually scheduled for once or twice a week in a consistent spot with temporary booths.  In Boone there is one on Wednesday at Horn In the West. You can visit www.localharvest.org to find your closest market.Image

 A lot of grocery stores often have sections reserved for their locally grown products. Keep an eye out for all opportunities to buy from your local area, you won’t regret it.

Home Grown

What is the easiest way to make sure the food you purchase hasn’t hurt anyone or anything? Know where your food comes from.  Buying local is a recent movement that consumers are initiating.  Seems crazy considering everything we bought was locally grown or raised.  Imagine if you had to live off what was grown and raised around where you lived.  In today’s society, this is a challenging idea, but if we learn about how we could make an effort to move towards buying locally it could make strides to improving our town’s economy and overall health.

 So, Why Buy Local? Most produce in the US is picked 4 to 7 days before being placed on supermarket shelves, and is shipped for an average of 1500 miles before being sold. And this is when taking into account only US grown products! Those distances are substantially longer when we take into consideration produce imported from Mexico, Asia, Canada, South America, and other places.

 ImageThere are many ways to find local products, or even grow your own.  One great way to grow produce no matter where you live is to participate in community gardening.  It involves using a single plot of land gardened by a group of people. It is a great to grow food for yourself and also instills a sense of community with others who grow in the garden. In Boone, North Carolina there is one Leola Street that is just starting its preparations for the growing season this month. You can visit http://acga.localharvest.org/ to find a registered community garden in your area, or go to http://communitygarden.org/learn/starting-a-community-garden.php to learn how to start your own community garden.

 Another way people get local products is visiting farmer’s markets. They have individual vendors—mostly farmers—who set up booths, tables or stands, outdoors or indoors, to sell produce, meat products, fruits and sometimes prepared foods and beverages. They are usually scheduled for once or twice a week in a consistent spot with temporary booths.  In Boone there is one on Wednesday at Horn In the West. You can visit www.localharvest.org to find your closest market.Image

 A lot of grocery stores often have sections reserved for their locally grown products. Keep an eye out for all opportunities to buy from your local area, you won’t regret it.

Start Your Day the Right Way

You wake up on Monday morning, and it was a long weekend. You are little too tired and groggy, and certainly not ready to start your week with that spark of energy.  The answer for over half of adults in America is a morning cup of coffee.  It is more of then than not that you hear someone tell you “Don’t talk to me before I’ve had my coffee.  It has become a dependent for a lot of people in today’s society.

The other thing about coffee is that it is almost exclusively an imported item to the United States, with only Hawaii growing a significant amount of coffee beans.  And unfortunately this means that a lot of field workers that pick coffee beans are mistreated and/or severely underpaid for their labor. It is also a large contributor the child slavery epidemic.  I found a video called Child Labour-The Price of a Cup of Coffee that is a translated German Documentary that explains the child labor that is used in the coffee industry. It is prevalent in South America and on the Ivory Coast.

 So, how can we avoid supporting coffee farmers that contribute to bad labor conditions or child slavery?  In an article in thedailygreen there is a list of nationwide brands that offer fair-trade brands, including popular company Newman’s Own.  Another good place to reference is www.betterworldshopper.org.   They rank all the coffee companies with Equal Exchange at the top and Maxwell House at the bottom.

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In conclusion, next time you shop for that crucial start to your day, think about the people your purchases affect, and try to purchase from a company that is socially responsible.

Chipotle: Burritos with Integrity

Often when observing companies and their impact on our planet, we concentrate on the negative. For this post, I thought I’d focus on an example of great corporate social responsibility.  In the food industry, there are many companies that cut corners and try to serve the public the cheapest and easiest way they can. There is a restaurant that serves great food while being very socially responsible on the corporate level. That company is Chipotle, a Mexican Grill.

The first Chipotle was opened in 1993 in Colorado. By 2006 they had become a publicly trades organization. It is a chain that is known for its huge assembly line burritos and tasty tacos.

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                                       (Photo Courtesy of Chipotle.com)

So, What makes Chipotle a great company?

In 1999, the company instituted a policy called “Food With Integrity.” It is their commitment to finding the very best ingredients raised with respect for the animals, the environment, and the farmers. Their 3-pronged approach is a program that started over 10 years ago and they continue to find out ways to decrease their footprint. Let’s examine the 3 areas of “Food With Integrity.”

Animals:

Chipotle uses naturally raised animals. In 2001, they began to only use pork that came from pigs that are raised outside or in deeply bedded pens, are never given antibiotics and are fed a vegetarian diet.  60% of their beef and dairy comes from naturally raised cattle, and they vow not to rest until that number is 100%.  Their chicken comes from farms that do not use growth hormones and almost all of it is from farms where zero antibiotics are used. They also avoid farms that use food additives.

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CHeck Out the link to see a Video about a Chipotle Supplier! http://ruralsociologywageningen.files.wordpress.com/)

People:

They strive to purchase as much locally grown and raised food as possible, but they promise that every person that comes in contact with Chipotle will be treated with dignity and respect.  In order to ensure that it happens, they several policies in place designed to ensure that the products we use at Chipotle are grown, made, and shipped without exploiting people.

A big goal at Chipotle is to bridge the cultural and linguistic gaps between Chipotle employees. So there is a whole team dedicated to empowering, educating, and training employees to increase internal promotions, cultural sensitivity, and communication skills. They also provide continuing English language education to all employees who request it.

Environment:

Currently, 40% of the beans used by Chipotle are certified organic, and they ensure that those that aren’t are grown as sustainably as possible.

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Photo Courtesy Chipotle.com

In 2010, Chipotle plans to serve at least 50% of at least one produce item from local farms when it is seasonally available (more than 50% and more than one item any time we can). Those vegetables include romaine lettuce, red onions, green bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, and oregano.

In conclusion, Chipotle is a great restaurant with great food, and it also strives to be a positive contribution to society and our planet.  Find your local Chipotle and support a company that is doing great things!

The Dark Side of Chocolate

This is a post that may be difficult to read for some of you.  I know it was tough for me to hear and really challenged how I live my life day-to-day.  This is a post about one of our favorite treats, chocolate, and the way it gets from the fields in Africa to grocery store shelves.  The method is one that is not pleasant to hear about, but I think that once you have heard what happens on the farms of cocoa fields, it will make you question your buying decisions.

Recently I viewed a documentary called “The Dark Side of Chocolate.”  It is a film directed by Miki Mistrati and U. Roberto Romano that follows a team of journalists as they investigate how human trafficking and child labor in the Ivory Coast fuels the worldwide chocolate industry. In 2001, the world discovered that there was a serious child slave trafficking industry booming in an area where most large chocolate companies (Hershey’s, Nestle, etc.) get their cocoa beans.

Eventually there was a compromise met that child labor on Ivory Coast Cocoa Farms would be ended by 2005.  This promise was not kept, and neither was the changed deadline of 2008 or 2010.  Through the investigation of the journalist in the film, we see that child labor is still used to pick them today. There are clips in the film of children working in the fields directly after the CEO of a major cocoa distributor is quoted saying there are no child slaves in Ivory Coast.  One quote says “a child can from Burkina-Faso be bought for 230 Euros, and that’s without haggling.”

I have personally made a pledge to only buy fair-trade chocolate from now on because it is not worth it to me to support child slavery just for chocolate.  When I told my mom about this documentary, she said “yeah, but chocolate is so good.”  This seems like a bad response, but really that’s what all of America is saying while the chocolate industry continues to make billions of dollars a year.

I encourage you to watch this documentary and become educated on the subject of cocoa trade.  Hopefully it can at least slow down the chocolate industry enough for it to take notice and truly end this modern-day slavery.

Be Aware and Act: Social Responsibility

Everything we do in our lives somehow affects someone else.  Each purchase decision you make impacts a long line from manufacturing to distribution.  Unfortunately, most of our society either isn’t aware of their impact, or doesn’t care enough to alter their day-to-day lives.  In this blog, I will be focusing on the idea that you can make a positive change for the world by just being a conscious consumer.  Throughout my time in college, I have been inundated with information regarding companies’ social responsibility or lack thereof.  Hopefully, by reading this blog, you will be made aware of the practices of certain companies, and maybe will change your purchasing habits to line-up with values of how humans should be treated.

Being aware of all companies’ worldwide social footprint can prove a daunting task, how can one possibly know how every company treats all of its affiliates and employees? To the rescue comes the book, Better World Shopper, and now website www.betterworldshopper.com.  This program has used over 5 years of extensive research evaluating the corporate social responsibility of 1000+ companies.  Better World Shopper ranks companies A-F regarding many facets of their social impact.  They rate them based on these 5 key factors:

HUMAN RIGHTS: sweatshops, 3rd world community exploitation, international health issues, divestment, child labor, code of conduct.

THE ENVIRONMENT: global warming, rainforest destruction, pollution, recycling, renewable energy, greenwashing, toxic waste, eco-innovations, illegal dumping, sustainable farming.
ANIMAL PROTECTION: factory farming, animal testing, humane treatment, wild animal habitat.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: family farms, local business support, volunteer efforts, sustainable growth, philanthropic donations, nonprofit alliances, establishing foundations.

SOCIAL JUSTICE : fair wages, fatalities, union busting efforts, health & safety records, discrimination based on: race, gender, age, ability, religion, sexuality, ethnicity.

So, to show how one can use this resource in a purchasing decision, lets say we are buying a staple in the fridge, beer.  Visit www.betterworldshopper.com and products are divided by categories.  It ranks numerous brewing companies, the highest being New Belgium Brewery out of Colorado.  It comes as no surprise that many of the large brands such as Busch and Budweiser are ranked pretty low, each receiving D’s.  If you want more information as to the reasoning behind each specific ranking, the author Dr. Ellis Jones recommends you purchase the book; however, even if you don’t do that the website creates a great jumping-off point for your own research into the subject.

As a citizen of this world, I believe it is our responsibility to know our purchasing power, and the effect each purchase has on society.  Over the rest of my posts I will be focusing on certain companies that have proven to be either good or bad corporate citizens.  Also, if I come across an interesting documentary tracking a companies social behavior I will make that known to all of you.

So now you KNOW, time to ACT!