Shades of Green – Looking at the Food System with a Critical Eye

September 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Agriculture, Blog, Front Page, Marketing, Organic, Sustainable Living

Know where your food comes from. Photo: Joe Hennager

Know where your food comes from. Photo: Joe Hennager

Interest in environmentally friendly food products and food production practices is growing. The food and beverage industry has responded to this interest and has created environmentally friendly marketing schemes.

However, as companies “green” their products or extol sustainable business practices, eaters need to be equipped with the tools to decipher the new marketing trends. This extends to nutrition and health claims on food products. According to attorney Michell Simon, “Nutrition advocates who buy into the myth of industry-created solutions do so at their own peril. Praising companies for “doing the right thing” only encourages more food industry-PR (or ‘nutriwashing’).”

Use the following checklist to determine the “shade of green” of a food or beverage product. The more s, the greater contribution the food product makes to a sustainable food system.

The Good Food Checklist

The producer or farmer who grew the food is known.
The location where the food originated is known.
The food traveled the least distance possible.
The food is fresh, whole, seasonal, and grown without harming soil, water quality, or air quality.
The food was raised humanely without synthetic hormones or antibiotics.
The process to produce the food conserves genetic biodiversity and ecological integrity.
The food company has made a commitment to sustainability, social responsibility, and environmental best practices.
The farm workers, processors, or food service workers earned a fair wage, worked in safe conditions, and were not exploited in the making of this food.
The nutritional value of the food is maintained and it is free of artificial ingredients.
There were no or low environmental impacts as a result of processing and transporting the food.
The food packaging is minimal, made from renewable resources, and is recyclable.
The label on the food product directs you to find more information. Product labeling is transparent.
The name and any claims of the food product are specific, meaningful, and legal.
The food product has a legitimate and reputable third-party seal or certification.
The local, national, and global implications of this food product are known.

For more information:

  • Hargroves, K. and M. Smith (Eds.) 2005. The Natural Advantage of Nations: Business Opportunities, Innovation and Governance in the 21st Century. ISBN 1-84407-121-9, 525 pages. Earthscan/James&James. (See the online companion at www.thenaturaladvantage.info).
  • Hemmelgarn M.  Digging up Dirt:  Finding Food Truth with the Food Sleuth.  July 2008.
  • TerraChoice Environmental Marketing Inc.  The Six Sins of Greenwashing.  A Study of Environmental Claims in North American Consumer Markets.  November 2007.

Angie Tagtow
Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

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