7 Simple Ways To Be a More Sustainable Shopper

7 Simple Ways To Be a More Sustainable Shopper

Making sustainable choices in the grocery store is harder than it sounds–but it shouldn’t have to be. We all know how daunting it can be to stand in front of the egg or dairy section, wondering what all those labels really mean. When you’re pressed for time and thinking about dinner, it can be hard to make your shopping habits align with your food principles. But fear not! We’ve compiled a list of simple, easy-to-remember tips to make you a more sustainable shopper.

Transparency woes: North Carolina Governor says no to Ag-Gag bill, only to be overridden

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory recently vetoed a bill designed to discourage undercover investigations of factory farms, despite the fact that the bill passed with strong support from both houses of the state legislature. But shortly after McCrory’s decision, the North Carolina legislature overrode the veto.

Labeling Standards: The Fight for Food Transparency

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past few years, you’ve probably noticed the commotion being made over the GMO-labeling movement. Robyn O'Brien, a former financial analyst who covered the food industry, and current food-labeling advocate, recently wrote an article on TakePart arguing for increased transparency in the food system.

When it comes to the labeling movement, the US is behind the times. All of our key trading partners–over 60 countries around the world–require genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled. These labeling requirements allow citizens to be educated consumers, deciding for themselves what they wish to consume. As O'Brien writes, labeling practices can give us basic information about the way our food was produced, such as how a crop has been grown, what synthetic chemicals–including pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals– were allowed to be applied.

Interestingly, American food companies comply with these labeling standards overseas, in order to keep their markets in those countries. But those same companies do not comply with the labeling standards here. States such as Colorado, Oregon, and Vermont have considered legislation to make these labels mandatory, but many high-powered food corporations (such as Monsanto, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Kraft, and more) are fighting against legislation like this.

The pro-labeling movement is not about whether you are pro- or anti-GMO. Instead, the pro-labeling movement aims to increase transparency in our food system by requiring that genetically engineered ingredients be labeled as such.

To learn more, check out http://www.ema-online.org/. For a list of companies fighting labeling legislation, see http://www.takepart.com/photos/companies-against-gmo-labeling.

Beyond Playing With Dirt: Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

I distinctly remember the first time I planted a seed. While the dirt was a whole lot of fun to play with, I also started to realize the importance of caring for our Earth. I know that’s probably a little to sappy for an elementary school student, right? But I did have a lot of fun in the dirt.

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Now that I am older, I recognize the positive and negative ways I can interact with the environment, and I work hard to choose the positive ways as often as I can. It’s also easy to slip up every so often when dealing with other daily responsibility. That’s why I have always loved Earth Day. Of course it’s a great universal excuse to play with dirt again, but Earth Day also brings people from across the globe together in order to actively pursue a greener world. This year, Wednesday, April 22, marks the 45th anniversary of the event with the theme, “It’s Our Turn to Lead.”

Some of the typical recommendations for celebrating Earth Day are great: plant a garden; attend an event near you; join an action campaign; reduce, reuse, recycle; or clean up your local beach or highway. I also think it’s exciting that we can make a difference with something as simple as what we choose to eat. Whether it’s just for Earth Day or all year, try taking on one or more of these Earth-saving food shifts:

1) Eat locally -

Eating food within 200 miles of where you live can significantly decrease the amount of fossil fuels used to get your food to you. Plus, farmers markets are a blast! Click here to find your local market.

2) Go organic -

While more expensive than conventional alternatives, organic food gives you quality you can’t beat. It’s inherently better for our environment because it does not create the gross chemical runoff prevalent in conventional farming.

3) Try out Meatless Mondays -

Meat comes from a resources-intensive industry, especially when it comes to factory farms, where the majority of our meat comes from. Reduce the impact by taking a day off. The great part is that you don’t have to stick to sad salads. Get creative with these recipes.

4) Use HowGood to shop more sustainably -

HowGood ratings help you find out which products are the least harmful to ourselves and our environment. Download our app or check out our online database to find out how sustainable your groceries are.

5) Make these fun and delicious cups o’ dirt -

Ingredients:
Late July Organic Dark Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
Zen Soy Almond Chocolate Pudding
Yummy Earth Organic Gummy Worms

Start by making the “dirt.” Process your cookies in a food process until they are find crumbs. Place a layer of the cookie “dirt” at the bottom of a clear plastic or glass cup. Then, place a nice thick layer of the pudding on top, followed by another layer of cookies. Top the cup off with a few worms and enjoy!
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For an extra treat: Place a can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight. When you’re ready, open the can and scoop off the top hardened layer. Place the cream you just got in a deep bowl, and save the remaining liquid in the can to use in smoothies. Use a hand mixer to whip the cream, adding just a bit of sweetener (2-3 tsp) and vanilla extract (½ tsp). Place a dollop of this whipped cream on top of your cup o’ dirt.

Have a happy Earth Day!

Taylor

What Does “Organic” Mean? And Do Other Labels Necessitate Organic Standards?

There’s been a lot of buzz recently surrounding the meaning of food labels. What does “organic” actually mean? And what does the label “natural” denote? 

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According to to USDA, when it comes to crops, “The… organic seal verifies that irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, and genetically modified organisms were not used.” When it comes to livestock, “The USDA organic seal verifies that producers met animal health and welfare standards, did not use antibiotics or growth hormones, used 100% organic feed, and provided animals with access to the outdoors.” Finally, when it comes to organic multi-ingredient foods, “the USDA organic seal verifies that the product has 95% or more certified organic content… (and) If the label claims that it was made with specified organic ingredients, you can be sure that those specific ingredients are certified organic.”

It turns out (and is a shock to many) that the label “natural” really doesn’t mean much of anything at all; there are practically no standards behind it, and there is no premarket verification, says Urvashi Rangan, PhD, executive director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety & Sustainability Center. Despite this, “poll after poll shows that people think the natural label means more than it does, and recent polling shows that about one-third of consumers think natural and organic mean the same thing, when they don’t.” Why are labels like this even allowed on packaging, if they’re so misleading? It comes as no surprise that it can be quite the challenge for consumers to determine who and what to trust when making their selections. In response to this, I invite you to take a closer look at what we are doing at HowGood and download our free app, as we demystify what’s really in your food and empower you to make informed purchasing decisions. Also, take a look for yourself at two like-minded alternative labels to organic, Certified Naturally Grown and Food Alliance, both of which have in-depth certification processes, setting them apart from meaningless marketing terms such as “natural.” The more you know, the better choices you can make.

Happy informed eating!

Until next time,

Jessica