Tag Archives: Ethical-Shopping

Steps Toward Change: Meals (Less Bad, More Good)

Last time I wrote here I asked about help doing a food audit. Thank you so much to the folks who were willing to take some time and give me some input on my current food choices. I was surprised by the lack of response, especially considering I know a lot of people that seem passionate about this issue, but that’s a topic for another post.

As I said initially when I started this discussion, I’m very open to making changes in the way my family eats. I’m also much more interested in getting some straight forward tips and suggestions from those who have extensive knowledge and wisdom in this topic, rather then trying to sift through all the information myself (seems we are hesitant to speak with authority, we’d rather direct others to the book we read, a topic for another time again).

My goal is over the next several months, maybe year, to make changes in my families eating and purchasing habits toward a more ethical end. But, I need your help. The first step I’d like to take is to consider the meals that we make with some frequency and sort them into “bad” and “good” categories in consideration of ethics. I know this will be a little hard to do, but I think it’s worth a shot.

Here is how I’d like to try and do this. You’ll need to come to the blog if your reading in email or rss. In the comments section I’ll list meals that our family eats with some frequency (I’ll list just the basic title, not complete recipe). I’ll list one meal per comment and then you can reply to specific comments/meals with your comments about that meal. I’m looking for feedback about how good or bad meals are on a spectrum, so give it a 1-5 star rating if you’d like. Keep in mind I’m much more interested in how my food choices impact the lives of people, not so much the health benefits to my immediate family.

Additionally, if you’d like to add meal suggestions, recipes, etc in separate comments that would be super helpful. I’m looking for your most ethical meal ideas that are also low budget (and not overly complicated to prepare ideally). My initial goal is to start having more of the Good meals we make and less of the Bad meals. Slowly, I’ll add other people’s recipe suggestions as well. That’s my plan anyways.

I know this might all seem rather lazy on my part to not simply read the books and watch the movies myself, but sometimes this is the way that I best process things, relying on the wisdom of the community around me, and I think there are others who do similarly. Looking forward to your responses.

Where I do My Grocery Shopping

This is actually a repost of something I wrote last year, but I figured it fit appropriately on a Monday (CRM). This has changed a little since we live in a community and I don’t actually do much of the shopping, but I think it’s still pertinent to most people. I’ll probably elaborate on CSA’s and other things more at some point soon. From February of 2006:

When it comes to most of my purchasing, price is a major factor. In the same way that I wouldn’t go pick the most expensive designer jeans and assume they are the best, ethically and quality, I don’t go for the most expensive groceries and consider it ethical. Currently, we (my wife and I) do our main shopping at ALDI. I’ve tried as much as possible to find out more about the ethics of ALDI’s and compare it to other grocer’s but never with much luck. I did recently find out that ALDI’s is owned by the same company that owns Trader Joe’s from whom there is a little more information. I also occasionally shop at Kroger. Kroger as a company has done some fairly unethical stuff in the past, as far as worker right’s in their stores, and for about 6 months we joined in a boycott of their stores. From what I know the strike and boycott was a victory and some good agreements where made. ALDI’s is Extremely reasonably priced, but the savings are mostly in how they run the store, not in short changing their workers and producers (From what I can tell).
If you shop at a place like Kroger or other major retail chain you’ll also encounter having to choose what brand products to buy. It’ll take you a little while to read through, but I’d highly recommend reading the notes at ResponsibleShopper.org about FOOD brands. The goal is not for you to read all the bad stuff and lament ever eating again, but rather for you to become more aware and educated about some of the situations stores have been in. Like I suggested in a Fair Trade article I wrote, I would suggest picking one product (coffee, chocolate, tea) and choosing to buy it ONLY Fair Trade.
In addition, I personally know I want to shop at the local Farmer’s Market more. Nashville has a year-round Farmer’s market that carries plenty of produce, and I would recommend anyone I know to shop there first. Also, if you could become part of a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) I would encourage you doing that. We were part of a local CSA in the fall and plan to continue come spring time. Basically each week we would get a bin of food. Always a dozen eggs and a whole chicken, and then an assortment of fruits and vegetables. We had to learn how to cook new items and discovered many different peppers and squashes. I would HIGHLY recommend you get involved in a CSA if you can find one.
Last but not least, for you radical few out there, I would recommend you find a local Food Not Bombs group, hang out, and learn a little bit about the art of dumpster diving.

Corporate Responsibility Monday: Going Ethically Bananas

Corporate Responsibility Mondays
Corporate Responsibility Mondays continues with a look into the fruit industry, and my personal favorite, Bananas. For those new to the Corporate Responsibility Mondays, my goal is basically to highlight a company in the industry that is being corporately responsible. My co-blogger, Josh, will be highlighting a company with a poor and sketchy history. This week we will be talking about bananas. My hope is that each of these posts causes you to seriously consider your purchasing choices. I’ll be honest this will be the toughest one for me, because I love bananas, but if there is an option, I feel pretty compelled to take it.

Today will be a brief lesson in corporate identity stuck into the middle of our banana conversation. The logo above is one you might recognize if you’ve ever looked for ethical coffee or tea. The first thing we need to clear up is that the logo above is for a Trademarked corporation, it is not the exclusive label for fair trade items. This means it is not like the FDA approval system were all fair trade items must be certified by it. The logo above is for a company whose business is to visit it’s (paid) membership producers and make sure that they meet the criteria of their Fair Trade Certified logo. So, it’s a good organization and a good business, but it is not the exclusive fair trade certifying group. All of the other companies I’ve highlighted in these posts are Fair Trade, though I don’t believe any are members of this organization. It’s unfortunate that this company was able to Trademark the words “Fair Trade”, because without the lesson your learning now, you might feel limited to exclusively items with this logo.

Now that we have that clarification out of the way, let me acknowledge that Fair Trade Certified really does mean that you are getting a fairly traded product.

Fair Trade principles include:

* Fair prices: Democratically organized farmer groups receive a guaranteed minimum floor price and an additional premium for certified organic products. Farmer organizations are also eligible for pre-harvest credit.

* Fair labor conditions: Workers on Fair Trade farms enjoy freedom of association, safe working conditions, and living wages. Forced child labor is strictly prohibited.

* Direct trade: Importers purchase from Fair Trade producer groups as directly as possible, eliminating unnecessary middlemen and empowering farmers to strengthen their organizations and become competitive players in the global economy.

* Democratic and transparent organizations: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers decide democratically how to use their Fair Trade revenues.

* Community development: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers invest Fair Trade premiums in social and business development projects like scholarship programs, quality improvement trainings, and organic certification.

* Environmental sustainability: The Fair Trade certification system strictly prohibits the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), promotes integrated farm management systems that improve soil fertility, and limits the use of harmful agrochemicals in favor of environmentally sustainable farming methods that protect farmers’ health and preserve valuable ecosystems for future generations.

They are the big boys on the Fair Trade block, but they seem to have done an ethical job of it thus far. You can search pretty far and wide and there isn’t any critique that I could find about their standards. The only thing I would say is that being a big organization and having the brand identity so established, you need to keep an eye on them if they lower their standards or start pocketing too much of the profit. For now though, they are about the only way in the USA to get ethical bananas.

The website will tell you were you in your state you can purchase Fair Trade bananas, but one place they leave out is Wild Oats. It’s the only place in Nashville that I can purchase fair trade bananas and that might be true for a lot of folks reading this from around the country. The fair trade bananas in my neighborhood cost .99 cents a pound which is double what I’d pay at the big grocer in town. So, maybe bananas become more of an occasional treat then an every day occurrence. Usually you buy a small bunch at a time and so the price difference won’t be that significant. There aren’t many other options out there right now, but as you and I and all your friends start buying things more ethically, business will see the need to comply and soon the whole fruit section will be full of fair trade options.


Don’t forget to check out Josh’s post this week on a less ethical banana choice.