Category: Ethical Goods Series



Eating animals is wrong, vegans say. But so is eating slave-made chocolate, or wearing sweatshop clothing. Guess which one vegans of the Global North care about?

Not that one issue is more important than another, but it is more than frustrating when I see vegans (mostly vegans of the global north) say “this is cruelty-free” about products made from human suffering. Vegan chocolate cake made with trafficked child labor? Mmm, delicious

I wish vegans would demand fair trade/ethical goods, protest the prison-industrial-complex, or fight against food deserts as much as they put effort into getting vegan Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

What prompted me to write this was a series of exchanges I saw on Twitter, where white vegans from western nations were admonishing people of color for eating animals as part of their cultural identity. Continue reading


Green America: Guide to Ending SweatshopsToday’s post comes from Green America, a U.S.-based non-profit dedicated to creating a socially just and environmentally sustainable society. I wanted to highlight the list they’ve compiled on the sweatshop labor that makes the shoes you most likely wear:

Footwear can be one of the trickiest parts of building a
sweatshop-free wardrobe. Hundreds of shoe companies have shifted their operations overseas in recent years, and many have little or no oversight for their supply chains.

We used two of Green America’s online tools (ResponsibleShopper.org and GreenPages.org)
to build this list of “leaders and laggards” in the athletic-shoe industry. Click the links on the company names [t]o learn more about the conventional companies at Responsible Shopper, or to find the green
businesses’ listings in the Green Pages.

See the list at Green America: Sweatshops: Sneakers, Leaders and Laggards (Summer 2008).


A chard leaf surrounded by text,

A chard leaf with the caption, “Local and Organic Chard Can Be Delivered using a Smartphone or Tablet…But was it made possible through gentrification, farm-worker exploitation, or racial injustice?”

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper, a senior research analyst/strategist for Critical Diversity Solutions (CDS) and intersectional food justice theorist, writes about the gap between tech innovation, venture capital funding, foodie culture, and labor/human rights:

Most people who are into mainstream ‘foodie’ culture care more about their food being ‘local’, ‘fresh’, and ‘organic’ than if the food came to them through the abuse and exploitation of farm workers and other marginalized human workers in the food system.

Many foodies actually think organic and sustainable mean the treatment of human beings and non-human animals is ‘humane,’ which is false. What would be great to have from Blue Apron is a statement that acknowledges the need to be more critical about horrible treatment of human workers.

So far, such statements are no where on their site, however, once
again, it could very well be that investors do not want to appear to be ‘too political’ and prefer to be ‘post-racial’ and ‘post-class’. Yes,
their focus is not farm-workers or other food industry worker rights.

However, the silence around this is quite compelling because the fact is, foodie-tech start-ups could not exist without the human laborers in the food system.

However, I’m still always fascinated by the fact that millions of dollars can be poured into foodie-tech apps by venture
capitalists when food justice activists working in/for the poor and
communities of color, with hardly any resources, struggle like hell to create food security and/or sovereignty for themselves.

Read her full post over at her website, The Sistah Vegan Project.

7/30 UPDATE: Check out her update here, where Dr. Harper announces her theme for next year’s food justice conference.


Felled trees evoking the fate of the earth's rainforests as they are cut to make room for palm plantations

Palm oil tends to be in everything these days. Back before exploiting it was this profitable, palm oil used to be demonized as being unhealthy, filled with the “bad fats” people should avoid. Times have changed now that palm oil can be produced cheaply through bulldozing Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests.

Read more on why you should avoid palm oil: Say No To Palm Oil | Whats The Issue.


Black "Eat Your Ethics" tote bag from Food Empowerment Project

Black “Eat Your Ethics” tote bag from Food Empowerment Project

Water privatization, overgrazing, pesticides, food security. These are clearly issues of sustainability with regards to our food systems. Yet, the term “sustainability” doesn’t quite adequately address related issues of labor rights, food access, and environmental racism that are also part of the path that our food takes to get to our plate.

This is where food justice comes in. Food justice is a holistic, equitable, and intersectional approach to food systems and a welcome alternative to the growing food movement that led by some of the most privileged individuals around.

There are many great organizations working on food justice issues. I’m particularly impressed with Food Empowerment Project and had been meaning to write about the organization for a while. Founded by activist lauren Ornelas in 2006, F.E.P. seeks to promote a more just and sustainable world by informing consumers of the impact their food choices have on other people, animals, and the environment. One of my earliest exposures to F.E.P.’s work came when I was first seeking ethical alternatives to conventional slave-made chocolate.

F.E.P. is perhaps best known for its Chocolate List, a resource that many chocolate-lovers have come to rely on for ethical sources for chocolate. I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know lauren and even help represent F.E.P. at community outreach events. She is what I wish I could be, and F.E.P. the organization I wish I had founded. F.E.P.’s approach to food justice addresses all the issues that are impacted by our current food systems: animals, the environment, human labor and slavery, and our food choices. Not only does F.E.P. take an intersectional approach to food justice, but the information material is very accessible and informative.

Check out the F.E.P. website FoodIsPower.org

 


TerraCycle Zero Waste boxes allows you to collect waste and recycle it into new products.

TerraCycle Zero Waste boxes allows you to collect waste and recycle it into new products.

Mainstream conversations about “living green” or being sustainable usually revolve around reducing our footprint on the environment. (The idea that humans need to minimize our presence, as though we’re some kind of disease, separate from our environment, is another blog post for another day). I find it problematic because that way of thinking is inherently antithetical to sustainability: reducing the devastating impact of our current consumption simply means accepting the status quo and prolonging the inevitable. True sustainability means transforming our footprint so that it is not a burden to our environment. Continue reading

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