Category Archives: Conscious Consumerism

The Future of Fair Trade


Check out this video from the GO Youtube Channel, which shares ideas from young social entrepreneurs on the coming challenges and opportunities of fair trade. The footage seen is from this spring’s Social Business Panel sponsored by Fordham’s Students for Fair Trade.

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New Sustainable Business Course Available for Fall 2011


It’s about time! Starting next fall, Fordham will offer a new introductory course for FCRH and GSB in sustainable business practices.

The course will fill a much needed gap, covering environmentally sustainable business strategies and the potential for profit creation in underserved communities.

Students enrolled in this course can look forward to topics such as:

 

– Environmental, ethical, and scientific foundations of sustainable business.

– Case studies and guest speakers from companies embracing sustainable business practices and green technologies, including big names such as GE and Vodafone.

– Opportunities for social entrepreneurship.

– Inclusive markets and doing business for profit, social benefit, and sustainability in the 21st Century.

 

The course will be Wednesdays 11:30am – 2:30pm. To sign up, look for these course numbers:

– FCRH: 16670 ECON 3430 R01

– GSB: MGBU3430 R01

 

For more information, FCRH students can contact:

Dr. Mary Burke at mburke@fordham.edu or Dr. Daryl McLeod at mcleod@fordham.edu

 

GSB students can contact:

Dr. Michael Pirson at pirson@fordham.edu or Dr. Frank Werner at fwerner@fordham.edu

Social Business Panel This Wednesday


Meet successful social entrepreneurs and activists at the Social Business Panel this Wednesday the 9th at 4:00 in O’Keefe Commons, sponsored by Fordham’s Students for Fair Trade. You’ll hear from groups like Mayan Hands, SCHEFO, Raise India, Palestinian Fair Trade Alliance, Of Rags NY, and more. They’ll be discussing the current challenges and opportunities for social businesses, as well as which trends to look out for in terms of technology and micro lending. The panel discussion will be followed by a networking session in which students can meet the entrepreneurs and purchase some of their unique products. Come join the discussion and learn how to follow in the footsteps of some of New York’s most successful social entrepreneurs!

‘The Coke Machine’ Reveals Tainted Drinks and Disrupted Ecosystems


Comment on this post to be entered in a drawing for a free copy of  The Coke Machine!

By Michelle Hardy

Claims that Coke fattens children and fuels diabetes are minor offenses in light of the grander deceit this global enterprise runs on. Beneath a facade of environmental activism, Coca Cola causes water shortages, pollution, and disease in developing nations. In the name of social responsibility, they push calories into schools and produce tainted drinks. Hypocrisy is only the tip of the iceberg. Step inside Michael Blanding’s The Coke Machine.

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THE PURITY ILLUSION

In the glow of blue Dasani machines, Coca Cola boasts an image of utmost purity despite repeated instances of contamination. Realistically, Dasani often contains more chemicals than conventional tap water.

Dasani in the UK was just one of Coca Cola’s many slippery operations. Blanding explains how their “ultrafiltration” method created carcinogenic bromate in water bottles as a byproduct of the ozonation process. Their half million recalled bottles contained twice the amount of bromate allowed by Britain’s Food Standards Agency. What’s more, Coke was caught using water from the Thames River for “purified” water bottles. Blanding explains this was just as revolting as if New Yorkers found their Dasani originated in the Hudson.

Using bottled water over tap is a controversy in itself. Blanding details the growing body of research suggesting bottled water is less safe than tap water in most developed countries. While tap water is strictly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, bottled water is overseen with “low priority” by the Food and Drug Administration. Consider this evidence knowing that the average American drinks 144 bottles of water per year while only 20% of Americans recycle bottles, and you have a rather convincing ecological incentive for ditching bottled water altogether.

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SCHOOL SODA SUCKERS

Selling soda in schools was prohibited until the National Soft Drink Association sued the federal government in 1980. Afterward, the USDA could only restrict soda sales during lunch times. Coke formed “pouring rights” contracts, in which schools exclusively served coke products at all vending machines, games, and events while actively pushing student purchases, all in return for school funding.

This commercial advertising on public property (along with its caloric consequences) sparked nationwide protests by the late 90’s, yet by that point, most schools were financially incapable of terminating Coca Cola contracts. Meanwhile, the company funded numerous studies denying soda contributed to obesity.

By 2005, after years of protests in school districts and state legislatures, Coke discontinued daytime soda sales in most elementary and middle schools and stocked high school vending machines only half way with soda. Sports drinks and waters began filling more machine slots as well. Still, Blanding claims such actions made little nutritional progress. A 2008 study found there was little difference in soda intake in high schools where soda was banned and where it wasn’t.

If schools downplay soda by offering sports drinks, juices, water, etc., is a Coke monopoly really so bad? Consider the amount of calories these products still contain, as well as the amount of cans and bottles they squander by the millions, and it seems schools should have the choice to offer less harmful products. Just think – water and juice in reusable containers, perhaps from local sources, even. By criticizing how Coke diminishes such choices, Blanding is spot on.

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DELUGES OF DISRESPECT

Global Coca Cola factories themselves are not exactly known for ecological delicacy. In India, discharged water from Coke operations destroyed ample farmland in Nandlal and created barren fields. Villagers in Mehdiganj began protesting by the thousands over a Coke plant that depleted local water levels and over 90 wells. Coke was recently fined 47 million dollars in damages for depleting groundwater and dumping toxic waste between 1999 and 2004 outside their plant in the Kerala, India.

Speaking of toxic material, in 2003, Delhi’s Center for Science and Environment found that Indian Coke contained DDT pesticide residues thirty-seven times higher than European standards. As Blanding shows, Coke’s commitments to “sustainability” and environmental stewardship are spoken ironically atop remnants of long-term ecological disrespect.

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“TEACHING THE WORLD TO SING” THE TRUTH

Food politics expert Marion Nestle (another favorite author of mine), commends Blanding by exposing such hypocrisy, saying, “His investigations reveal the costs – in ethics, health, public resources, and sometimes even human life – of Coca Cola’s relentless pressure to expand sales of its products.”

These stories of water and sugar gone wrong are only a drop in the can; as Nestle alludes and Blanding reveals, Coke has blatantly disregarded workers’ rights and allegedly instigated murderous disputes with unions in Latin America. Their historical ties to dangerous organizations and unhealthy, even toxic substances are horribly fascinating. Blanding’s book reveals just how much harm a warm and fuzzy brand image can conceal. It is a helpful window into food industry politics, and it is a much needed wakeup call.

 

Improving Fair Trade


Check out these reader comments Justin Scott made on a previously posted GO Blog piece about improvements needed in the fair trade coffee system. The GO Blog is always looking for commentary by Fordham readers, so be sure to send in your thoughts on anything you see posted and get a dialogue going!

“I thoroughly enjoyed reading that post. I understand fair trade has its flaws and I know there are many ways for it to improve that are not being implemented. It does have a long way to go.

 

I think fair trade does need to learn to be recognized rather as a floor price, not a market price for coffee. I think coffee producers should get a minimum price for their efforts, if only to ensure they are not exploited by cost-cutting corporates. But there needs to be a system in place that recognizes higher quality producers, so that they are rewarded for their extra time and effort as they should be. In instances like As Green As it Gets’ it is definitely not fair to expect the producers to become fair trade certified and thus accept a lower wage.

 

I think is is important to understand that there are farmers that may treat the fair trade price as a gift and not work harder. They will continue to produce poor (low-quality) coffee, and still receive that basic price. But eventually, they will lose out, because they will be recognized as the poor quality version, and the producer who is producing high-quality beans will win. It will take time, but I think fair trade at least limits the number of producers that are exploited due to their desperate situation.

 

The most important aspect of fair trade is that it gives the movement, towards ethical consumption, a name. This lets people become advocates of ethical consumption, something to talk about, something to support, something to stand up and shout for. This gives the movement power, and direction, and a standard to live by, talk about, and defend. This is the benefit of fair trade above all else.

 

In a consumer driven economy, giving consumers something to talk about, and support, is what will give the movement momentum, what will make the change permanent. Fair Trade will not be permanent, because eventually the day will come where “fair trade”, the label, will no longer be required. Consumers will automatically know that their products will be made fairly, ethically and respectably. Because any company not doing so, will be boycotted by society and will not survive.”

 

Check out my blog or follow me on twitter @justinvitallink

GO! Read: Great Books on Ethical Eating


By Michelle Hardy

            Looking to eat more organic, local, sustainable, or nutritious foods from responsible producers? Want an inside look at how persuasive tactics of food corporations shape our lifestyles? Check out these recommended titles from some of my favorite authors:

(Especially recommended for GO! Adirondacks participants!)

In Defense of Foods By Michael Pollan 

If you’re wondering why there’s endless fuss every year over what constitutes “healthy food,” Pollan’s book reveals the politics, pleasures, and neuroses behind American eating habits. With extreme clarity and wit, he offers a highly realistic guide to embracing the diet humans were naturally born to follow: eating food. That means cutting out mysterious quick-fix health bars, fat-free 100-calorie cupcakes, and shrink-wrapped sandwiches drenched in partially hydrogenated soybean oil. You’ll learn how our anti-fat movement made America the fattest country on earth, how we turned meals into races, and how our scrutiny over nutrients spawned artificial concoctions that are anything but food. Pollan offers the simplest advice available on how to achieve a more natural, healthy, and enjoyable diet.

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The Omnivore’s Dilemma By Michael Pollan

Pollan’s first book began with one simple question: where does our food come from? His results showed that most of the shelves in our grocery stores are filled with anything but food, and many of these mystery products are anything but ethical. By revealing the moral and environmental ramifications of our societal eating patterns, such as planting crops or raising animals in giant monocultures, his research shows just how desperately we need to reform our approach to feeding the nation. Believing that eating is a human’s most profound interaction with nature, Pollan reveals the dissonance that industrial eating creates within this vital ecological relationship.

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Food Inc.

Film directed by Robert Kenner, Book edited by Karl Weber

After you’ve watched the haunting Food Inc. documentary (which was nominated for a 2009 Academy Award), check out the book as well for an elaboration on the film. Director Robert Kenner’s investigation of factory farms, agribusiness, GMO’s, and deceptive food marketers was sparked by reads like The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Fast Food Nation. His work unveils the shocking corporate secrets threaded throughout our notorious American diet. You’ll learn why our meat has to be flooded with antibiotics, hormones, and ammonia. You’ll learn why corporations can sue small farmers just for planting a certain seed variety. You’ll learn why almost every ingredient label you see includes high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated soybean oil.  The Food Inc. creators ultimately find that, despite our abundance and variety of food products, the vast majority of them are made with the same three ingredients and the same hazardous production methods. 

*The documentary and book are not to be confused with Peter Pringle’s book – also called Food Inc. and also a great read, so I’ve heard.

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Starbucked By Taylor Clarke 

Starbucked is a striking account of the psychology used by marketers of a colossal coffee empire. With his vibrantly sarcastic wit, Clarke reveals how Starbuck’s advocacy of the coffeehouse movement is not only creating a new species of 187 degree-double-soy-latte drinkers; it is drastically transforming American branding tactics and culture as we speak. You’ll travel through a bit of history on the 2nd most traded global commodity, as well as get an insiders look at the love, greed, and sheer eccentricity governing the world of coffee distributors and marketers of today.

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Food Politics By Marion Nestle

Why do USDA officials and scientists alike condone eating massive and frequentportions of red meat, dairy, sugar, and alcohol? Step into the world of corporate food lobbyists – the people prohibiting our government from ever recommending we eat “less” of risky foods. Instead, corporations and special interest groups coerce the USDA, Congress, and research teams into endorsing their “eat more” philosophy for foods that should never have become daily staples. And as food producers continue to rapidly grow and dominate in their markets, this massive expansion inevitably extends into Americans’ stomachs and health risks. Nestle is a leading expert and advocate of unbiased food research and reformed food safety standards, and her work offers jarring insights for anyone studying societal nutrition.

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Clean Plates By Jared Koch

You can dine ethically on any occasion with this wonderful guide to New York City restaurants. Clean Plates is a compilation of recommended spots to eat, all of which are considered to be green, organic, natural, local, or responsible. The reviews range from high-class green dining to ethical fast food. There’s also a concise guide in the front on how to easily achieve a more natural, healthy diet. This book is great to have on hand while roaming through Manhattan, and it makes an easy gift for anyone who loves eating out.

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Also look for:

Food Rules – Michael Pollan

The Botany of Desire – Michael Pollan

Food Inc. – Peter Pringle

Fast Food Nation – Eric Schlosser

King Corn –  Aaron Woolf (documentary on American corn production)

Black Gold – Nick and Marc Francis (documentary on global coffee trade)

Why We Can’t Afford to Eat Cheap Food


By Michelle Hardy

While colleges are traditional breeding grounds for democratic involvement, many Fordham students still abstain from the chance to vote three times a day, every day, with their meal choices. In the artificial vs. natural food battle, many campus dwellers think twice before going organic due to lack of convenience and low budgets.

Most students have heard by now that organic products promote healthy bodies and a healthy environment, but these ideas don’t always translate from brain to wallet. With rising tuition costs, a stingy job market, and exorbitant New York City dining prices, Fordham students have a lot on their plates. It is surely daunting, then, to sign on to an emerging consumer battle while struggling just to afford consumption in the first place.

Boycotting irresponsible food companies can be intimidating to college students in that going organic usually requires a larger grocery budget. And considering the notorious pizza-snarfing, beer-chugging college students of the world, it’s easy to guess why budgets for nutritious food are often the first to be squeezed by this generation. Buying organics or whole foods may be doubly hard for young consumers affected by the ailing economy. 

In fact, since 2008 colleges across the country have seen significant increases in the number of students resorting to bread lines and food pantries, according to New York Times columnist Laura Fitzpatrick. A food bank near the University of Washington, for example, witnessed a 25% increase in student visits during 2008, and participants in the food assistance program at the Community College of Denver doubled during this year. Many other US academic communities experienced similar trends since the onset of the recession.

Still, food industry corruption is not an issue students can simply choose to fight or choose to ignore based on monetary means. Each person is inherently part of the battle in that they vote on the matter with their dollars three times a day. While it is harder for some, every student is still responsible for consuming as wisely as possible within their own means.

                                    
                     Artist Justin Perricone’s interpretation of Hot Pocket ingredients                                        (from Boing Boing)… Does this look like your college diet?
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Eating ethically and nutritionally during a recession will take a few sacrifices – as does any cause worth fighting for – but there are ways of doing so realistically. This could mean buying less $1.50 bottled water or $4.00 lattes to save money. It could mean becoming a keen coupon shopper. It could mean buying in bulk. It could mean cooking meals with a group several times a week instead of excess spending on single meals or restaurant outings.   

Students can also inspire structural change to make responsible foods more accessible on campus. What would it take to demand grass-fed beef, antibiotic-free chicken, or bread without partially hydrogenated soybean oil? If students join together in a campaign to make widespread healthy choices and demand a wider variety of ethically produced or organic products, they just might convince their food providers that these items will attract greater profits. Indulging in packaged or highly-processed foods, though, will only perpetuate the dominance of these items on campus.

Every student can make room on their plate for the battle against unethical food processors. Fordham students can start by grabbing the attention of Sodexo, but there are much bigger fish to fry in terms of food corporations that have coerced scientists, government agencies, and Congress for decades.

A national food market dominated by products that support healthy bodies, a healthy environment, and a healthy economy is extremely attainable, if only students start voting for the right side as educated eaters. And until now, the democratic process has never tasted quite so good.

So which side are your dollars going to? To make it the right one, here are suggestions for those looking to dine responsibly:

Eating Ethically on a Tight Grocery Budget:

–       Eat less meat. Meat is usually on the pricier end of food purchases, and when eating out, adding meat to a meal is usually a $2.00 or more charge. And unless your meat has an organic sticker, it was probably antibiotic-treated and hormone-infused in a factory farm. Beef is also the largest fossil-fuel depleting food industry we have. I’m no vegetarian, but meat lobbyists saying we need 2-3 servings every day are just plain wrong. 

–       Cut down on luxury items. You’d be surprised how much larger your budget is when you buy less desserts, cocktails, bottles of water, or Starbucks concoctions every week. This doesn’t mean eliminating your treats. Speaking as the biggest latte-lover I know: moderation is key.

–       Avoid Fancy Health Foods. Most protein bars, fiber-fortified products, and fat-free items are often just new versions of overly-processed mystery foods. They aren’t necessarily healthy, and they’re also very expensive. Instead of an Odawalla bar, why not bring an orange as a snack?

–       Cook more meals with a group. Cooking at least one or two times a week is a good way to control your budget, especially if you buy in bulk for group meals. This leaves more dollars to put toward organics. Cooking with friends is also a surefire bonding experience and a good way to unwind.

–       Buy in bulk. Getting large boxes of pasta, rice, beans, etc. and making meals from these a couple times a week will surely lower food expenses. These simplified meals aren’t nearly as monotonous as what you might already be eating, considering any processed foods you buy rely mainly on manipulated corn and soy ingredients. Simplifying your meals can often be refreshing and healthier. Also, buying whole fruits and vegetables are much cheaper than buying prepared salads or fruit cups. 

Becoming a Food Activist on Campus:

–       Choose healthy foods in the cafeteria. Your choices can signify a higher demand for these items, and you can encourage your friends to do the same.

–       Talk to Sodexo. If more Fordham students start voicing concerns about meal options and ingredients, you might see some changes:

Brian Poteat, General Manager: poteat@fordham.edu

Michael DeMartino, Executive Chef: demartino@fordham.edu

Bill Haag, Purchasing Manager: haag@fordham.edu

–       Ask to Join the Student Culinary Council. You’ll have more access to and influence on choices made in the cafeteria:

http://www.fordham.edu/campus_resources/campus_facilities/hospitality_services/rose_hill/student_culinary_cou_73404.asp

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