Detox 101: How to Detoxify Your Everyday Life

    Recently, I have been investigating toxins in common household cleaners, cosmetics, and body care products. My sister was diagnosed with Lyme Disease this summer, and one of the most effective treatments involves a complete lifestyle detoxification. To do so, you have to start paying very close attention to what you’re buying, making sure to read labels carefully. You have to know what ingredients may be toxic to your system.
   Until my sister started worrying about detoxification, I hadn’t thought much about how dangerous the products I include in my everyday routine really are. Did you know that shampoo brands such as Garnier Fructis, Herbal Essences, and Head & Shoulders contain about 25 ingredients, most of which are impossible to pronounce, and 30% of which are considered dangerous to human health by the Environmental Working Group? If you start to really look at what you’re putting onto, into, and near your body, it can be pretty scary. There are many questionable substances being put into the products we use on a daily basis.
   Luckily, however, there are alternatives out there that work just as well as conventional brands, and will still keep you healthy, clean, and safe. Below is a list of the most dangerous chemicals you will find in many products you probably use every day. Each list is followed by the brands I recommend, which contain few, if any of the toxic ingredients below. Take a read and see what you think.

Multivitamins/Supplements:
As a vegetarian or vegan, you probably really only need to worry about the following nutrients: Iron, Magnesium, Selenium, Calcium, Vitamin D, Zinc, and Vitamin B12

Recommended Brands: Alive, Deva Vegan, Sundown

Ingredients to Avoid in Your Shampoo:
Alcohol when listed as one of the first four ingredients
Ammonium lauryl sulfate
Diethanolamine (DEA)
Dimethicone
Formaldehyde
Lanolin
Mineral oil
Parabens (methylparaben, propylparaben, for example)
Petroleum
Polyethelyne glycol (also called PEG/polyethelyne, or polyoxyethelyne)
Propylene glycol
Sodium chloride
Sodium laureth sulfate
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
Synthetic colors (often listed as FD&C or D&C followed by a color and a number)
Synthetic fragrance or parfum
Triethanolamine (TEA)
Recommended brands: Andelou, The Honest Company, Avalon Organics, Aubrey Organics
Dangerous Toothpaste Ingredients:
Glycerin
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
Sorbitol
Aspartame
Fluoride
Triclosan
Blue #1,2
Hydrated Silica
Alcohol
Flavorings
Propylene Glycol
DEA
Sodium Fluoride

Recommended brands: Face Naturals, just the goods, Miessence, Tom’s of Maine*
*not all kinds—read ingredients carefully!

DIY Mouthwash:
1 cup water, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 3 drops peppermint essential oils. Mix all ingredients in a glass jar and shake well. Swish in mouth, then spit out. Store on bathroom counter.

Ingredients to Avoid in Laundry Detergent:
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)/sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
1,4-dioxane
NPE (nonylphenol ethoxylate)
Phosphates
Sodium dodecyl sulfate
Sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, sodium salt
Sodium salt sulfuric acid
Monododecyl ester sodium salt sulfuric acid
A13-00356
Akyposal SDS
Aquarex ME
Aquarex methyl
Myreth,” “oleth,” “laureth,” “ceteareth,” any other “eth”
“PEG”
“Polyethylene,”
“polyethylene glycol,”
“polyoxyethylene”
“Oxynol”
Linear alkyl sodium sulfonates (LAS), a.k.a. anionic surfactants
Petroleum distillates (a.k.a. naphthas), which have been linked to cancer
Phenols, which can cause toxicity throughout the entire body
Optical brighteners
Sodium hypochlorite (bleach)
EDTA (ethylene-diamino-tetra-acetate)
Artificial fragrances

Recommended brands: Ecover, Seventh Generation, Dr. Bonner, Planet 2x Ultra, Green Sheild Organic

DIY Laundry Detergent:
1 bar of soap (recommend Kirk’s Castile, Dr. Bronners, Fels Naptha or Zote)
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda

Use a grater to shave the bar of soap into small flakes. Mix well with borax and washing soda until you achieve an even, fine mixture. Store in labeled, air-tight container. This recipe makes approximately 32 ounces of detergent; use one to two tablespoons per load depending on size.

Bad Ingredients in Lotion:
Parabens
Synthetic colors (FD&C or D&C)
Fragrance
Phthalates
Triclosan
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
Formaldehyde
Toluene
Propylene glycol
Petrochemicals
Diazolidinyl Urea
Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate
DEA – diethanolamides
MEA – monoethanolamides
TEA – triethanolamides
MIPA – monoisopropanolamides
PEG or ethoxylated alkyloamides
Aluminum
Alcohol
Sodium borate decahydrate,
Sodium tetraborate decahydrate,
Sodium biborate,
Sodium pyroborate
Triethanolamine
Benzoyl Peroxide
DMDM Hydantoin

Recommended brands: Dr. Bonner, Badger, Be Green Bath and Body, Face Naturals

Avoid these Ingredients in Deodorant:
Aluminum
Parabens
Propylene glycol
Phthalates
Triclosan
Talc
Silica
Steareth

Recommended brands: Crystal, Lafes, Penny Lane Organics, Face Naturals

   As you can see, there are many ingredients that should be avoided in commonly used beauty and cleaning products. If you want to improve your health, as well as protect the environment, pay attention to what you buy. Next time you go to the store, take a good long look at the ingredients labels, and choose wisely. There are many more “eco-friendly” options out there, so do your research and pick whatever you like best. My recommendations are just a small selection. Check out http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ to find out how safe your favorite brand is. And remember, if you can’t find a good brand in stores, try making it yourself—DIY is fun!
   I hope you found this little article helpful! Be safe, and enjoy! :)

Give It Up For Good Success 2014

giufg

‘Twas the Night Before the Give It Up For Good Sale

‘Twas the night before The Give It Up For Good Sale, when all through the field house
not a creature was stirring, not even a toy mouse.
All college jackets were hung on wire racks with care,
in hopes that the shoppers soon would be there.

The electronics were nestled all snug in their bins,
the cosmetics table filled with shampoos and hairpins.
And the volunteers in their ‘kerchiefs, and I in my cap,
had finally settled our brains for a long summer’s nap.

When so early in the morning there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Alas, it was merely the clock, loudly blaring, time to get up!
So I arose from my slumber, but only for the promise of a full coffee cup.

I pedaled across campus, sun shining on the morning dew-covered grass,
shedding light on the campus’s beauty as I passed,
when, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
at least one-hundred shoppers lined up, anxious as opening time drew near.

There were little old ladies and kids all lively and awake,
I knew in a moment running feet would make the ground shake.
When the time came at last, more rapid than eagles, the shoppers they came,
and they whistled and shouted and called out to others by name:

“Sally, grab that fan!
John, you go get the rug, I’ll stay here!
What Suzie? It’s sold already?!
No, Tommy, you can’t have that toy gun!
Hey, give that back Jill, it’s mine!
Let’s get out of this madhouse Bob, we’ve got to wait in line!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky
so quickly into checkout lanes the shoppers they flew,
with the carts full of toys, and other goods too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard beside me
the jangling necklaces and bracelets, as shoppers grabbed to see.
As I shifted my gaze and was turning back around,
I saw yet more people coming, racing to find the all deals to be found.
Some became so adorned in new stuff, covered head to toe,
with piles of used clothing, all packed in bags to go.
Bundles of toys kids flung on their backs,
and they looked just like peddlers stocking up their packs.

Shoppers’ eyes–how they twinkled! Their smiles, how merry!
Their cheeks were like roses, red with exertion from carrying all they could carry!
I saw a volunteer’s droll little mouth drawn up like a bow,
though we were all hoping our morning fatigue didn’t show.
There was neither grinding nor grating of teeth,
no matter what the feelings beneath.
It was all made better as each tough worker acquired a full belly,
when we laughed and ate free powdered doughnuts filled with jelly.

All those people scurrying, swiping each item off the shelf,
I had to laugh, in spite of myself.
And in a blink of the eye the sale was coming to an end
It seemed shoppers must be running out of money to spend.

Soon the field house was filled only with stragglers,
And we were praying they wouldn’t be hagglers.
As the clock struck noon, they picked up the pace,
and all around the field house they raced and raced.

Last items grabbed, Vickie gave a loud shout,
And the sale was over, all shoppers shooed out.
Finally, I heard her exclaim, ‘ere she closed the big doors,

“Congratulations to all on another successful sale. I’ll see you Tuesday to sweep the floors!”

–Heather Ipsen

Thank you to everyone who helped with the 11th Annual GIUFG Sale! We raised almost $22,000 for United Way of Adams County and diverted 28.5 tons of waste from the land fill. Now that’s Great Green Work!

Recyclemania 2014

RM2014

IT’S RECYCLE TIME!

Who? You and Gettysburg College

What? Recyclemania!! (an 8-week long recycling competition against 600 other schools across the nation)

When? February 2nd - March 29th

Where? Gettysburg College, everywhere on campus

Why? So Gettysburg can beat Dickinson and other schools and be the reigning RECYCLING CHAMPIONS! (Also so we can help save the environment of course)

How? Recycle EVERYTHING in our single-stream recycling bins!!! Any and ALL paper, plastic, glass, and metal MUST BE RECYCLED. You should hardly throw anything in the trash for the next 8 weeks!

Reminder:

At Gettysburg College, there are truly only three things you should not recycle:

  1. Wood
  2. Styrofoam
  3. Clothing/footwear (however, these items can be donated!)

EVERYTHING ELSE can go into our single-stream system**. When in doubt, simply RECYCLE IT! We are allowed up to 5% non-recyclable material campus-wide each time our trash/recycling is picked up. Don’t worry about stains, grease, or other food residue. It’s ok to recycle unwashed, unsorted stuff at Gettysburg College!

** Please place batteries, plastic bags, and electronic waste in their separate designated recycling receptacles.

For more specific recycling info, visit: http://www.gettysburg.edu/about/sustainability/initiatives/recycling/index.dot

Sustainability at Gettysburg is very important to us! We take pride in our initiatives, and you should too! For more information on sustainability on campus and how you can get involved, check out the following pages!

Sustainability at Gettysburg Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/GBCSustainability?ref=hl

Sustainability Calendar: https://www.google.com/calendar/embed?src=sustainability.gburgcollege%40gmail.com&ctz=America/New_York

Summer Sustainability and Fun!

As the end of summer approaches, I’m sure you are all taking advantage of every last minute of freedom while you can. I just wanted to give you a friendly reminder that you can have your summer fun while living sustainably too!

Here are a few guidelines for when you want to go on vacation:

  1. Unplug Everything! This includes microwaves, TVs, DVD players, any type of charger, printers, routers, computers, stereos, etc. These things draw power from your home if they are left plugged in, even if you aren’t using them. If you invest in a power strip, this could be even easier for you. With a power strip you can just hit the off switch on your way out the door to turn everything off at once and stop those power suckers!
  2. Turn it down! When you can’t unplug an appliance (like a fridge or the AC for example), turn it down or move it to a lower setting. You may even consider turning the AC off altogether if possible. Why cool an empty house? Those ghosts don’t need AC!
  3. Travel on wheels and rails. Trains, busses, and cars need less fuel and emit less carbon per person than commercial airplanes. They’re especially great if you’re afraid of heights too.
  4. Don’t go too far. Staying close to home will use less fuel and energy. There are bound to be some places near your house that you have never been. Explore your surroundings!
  5. Choose a Green hotel. Green hotels usually advertise the fact that they are sustainable very well. You can take comfort in the fact that they are helping you care for the environment while you’re away from home.
  6. Try to find Green dining. When you eat out, eat well! Green restaurants tend to have locally grown produce, locally raised meat and fish, and perhaps locally made alcohol. Yum!
  7. Rent a Green car. If you need to rent a car, try to find a hybrid or electric one. These vehicles lower the environmental impact of traveling and save you money on gas. What a deal, right?
  8. Ride a bike or walk. You can use your own energy to transport yourself to and from tourist sites. It makes the sites go by slower too. This means more time for pictures and discovery!

Here are some tips for spending time at home this summer:

  1. Use fans instead of air conditioning units. Fans draw less power and can circulate the air just as well as an AC unit. They are especially great for the nighttime when the air is naturally cooler.
  2. Use your Dishwasher and laundry machines at night. When they run these machines generate a lot of heat that you don’t want in your house during the summertime heat. It will make your AC have to work harder to cool the air. Besides, who wouldn’t want to do midnight chores?
  3. Use public transit or carpool to travel to work. This will lower your carbon footprint and therefore the amount of CO2 in the air. Thus, there will also be less heat trapped in the air and a lower temperature will result. Yay for not sweating in the sun!
  4. Buy local produce and other food products. There are tons of farmer’s markets in the summertime. Take advantage of them! Buying local gives you healthier food, supports your community’s economy, and lowers CO2 emissions. How can you go wrong with that? And don’t forget to bring your reusable bags to carry all that great food!
  5. Line-dry your laundry. There’s plenty of heat and sunshine in the summer. This is a form of free energy. Use it! Put your clothes on a line to save money and energy.  Play it old school—it really works!
  6. Use the microwave as much as possible. Ovens and stovetops use more energy than microwaves. Did you know that you can cook almost anything in the microwave? The other day I cooked corn on the cob! There are loads of recipes online. Try it out!
  7. Avoid bottled water! This is one of the toughest ones. It’s very tempting to just buy a bottle every time, but plastic is very bad for the environment. Try to bring a reusable bottle with you everywhere instead. You’ll be helping both the environment and your wallet!

As you can see, there are so many things you can do to live sustainably during the summer, no matter where you go. They’re not even too difficult! There are more to add to this list, but this is a great way to get started.

Enjoy the last few weeks of your summer and remember:

Do Great Work, Do Green Work!

Breaking News: President Obama Makes ‘The Speech’ At Last!

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tuesday afternoon, Mr. President Obama made a speech (long overdue if you ask me) on global climate change at Georgetown University. Hopefully you all were attentively listening and have already formulated your own opinions on what he said… but I figured I would summarize it and share my views as well.

He began by speaking about Americans traveling in space, a classic display of U.S. strength and ability in the field of science; a clever way to pat us on the back and drive home his main message: we can and need to take action. He went on to list some valid facts about global warming, as well as some of our country’s recent achievements in terms of combatting it. Apparently, the U.S. has lowered our CO2 emissions by more than any other country in the world since 2006. I suppose that is pretty impressive, but unfortunately, global CO2 emissions are still on the rise.

He outlined his plan, not forgetting to note our past successes in environmental policies such as the Clean Air Act of 1970. He called for several conditions to help cut carbon emissions including limits on power plant emissions, setting higher efficiency standards for buildings, appliances, and all vehicles, and developing strategies to deal with methane gas release. He also boldly stated his desire to double renewable energy sources, charging the DOI to provide support for creation of enough renewables to power 6 million homes on public land. Good idea Obama! How does he plan on doing this? I’m not really sure either…

The most interesting point for many listeners was likely Obama’s statement on the Keystone XL Pipeline. He said he will not approve it unless it is actually proven that its installation will not worsen carbon pollution. How that will be measured was never mentioned, but I suppose it is a step in the right direction… or maybe not, since it will only further delay the decision on whether or not we will have easier access to this oil or not. But that is an entire different debate and/or blog entry.

A portion of his speech was also (predictably) dedicated to that constant, frustrating barrier known as the economy. Historically, people seem to believe we must choose to help the economy or the environment. Because some Americans tend to be a bit greedy, the automatic response is to support the economy first. It’s just the way we have been taught as Great American Consumers. Yet Obama pointed out that environmental issues used to be bipartisan issues, and past initiatives that successfully made it through congress have improved both the economy AND the environment. Obama said, “See, Congress? It IS possible! Who would’ve thought? So just pass something already!!”

Ok, so he didn’t really say that, but it’s what he truly meant. He pointed out that renewable energy sources will create new jobs (thus boosting the economy) because we need to build and install them. He also said we must continue to stay at the top of natural gas production because it is safe, cheap, lowers CO2 emissions, and creates jobs too. While I don’t think natural gas is the most ideal solution to lowering our emissions, he has a valid argument. If we use natural gas whilst in the meantime establishing better, cheaper renewable sources of energy, perhaps it’s ok for now. Evidently, the environment and the economy can both be helped simultaneously. Too bad the current congress can’t seem to get that through their heads. It amazes me how people refuse to take action when the evidence that things will work out is right there in front of their eyes.

Aside from that, the president set goal years for these carbon solutions, namely 2020 for key CO2 sequestration projects and 2030 for a general 3 billion metric ton reduction in emissions. These goals may or may not be realistic because as Obama himself pointed out, plans of this magnitude take an enormous amount of effort and time to actually implement, let alone show any results.

This lead to his next main point: because these plans take time, we also should be taking preventative measures against the current adverse effects of climate change we are facing. Obama said he plans to provide aid to projects that will help combat natural disasters and other extreme weather events. He also mentioned that all levels of government should provide necessary protective tools and he is willing to support research on new technology to help us adapt to climate change. This is a good thing because even if we could switch to renewables quickly, we’ve got to deal with the consequences of our past actions now. It’s time to get creative and use that American brain power for something good.

The other important point he made was that this is an international issue. Obama noted that he had already worked with China’s President Xi to lessen hydrofluorocarbon emissions collaboratively. He brought up the key idea that developed nations should not be blamed for it, but they are emitting large amounts of CO2. He claims it is our duty to prevent them from making the same mistakes we did in industrializing our nation. He wants to invest in “cleaner” companies rather than coal-burning factories both domestically and abroad. Obama even went so far as to suggest global free trade in environmental goods and services, including clean energy technology. Sounds good to me!

President Obama concluded his speech with more persuasive rhetoric. He said we have a “moral obligation” and we must act “on behalf of our kids”. He made himself sound almost like John Muir, setting up this romantic view of the Earth, with “the laughter of children, a quiet sunset, all the hopes and dreams of posterity”. And then he adds, that this is all “at stake” if we don’t take action NOW. Oh, the drama!

In all seriousness, Mr. President’s speech was very important. He finally came right out and said what the nation needs to hear: climate change is real and our nation needs to do something about it whether we as citizens or congress want to or not. Thank you Obama! Though some of his points were vague, not totally convincing, and/or extremely overdramatic (see above example), his head is obviously in the right place. He did what any good speaker would, drawing in the audience with romantic visions of Mighty America, pointing out our ‘magnificent’ achievements, while still providing valid facts and ideas. Though I am not as enthusiastic as Al Gore (who called the speech the “best by any president ever”), I thought it was very well-written. The plan looks great on paper and sounds nice spoken aloud; the question now is, will anything actually happen? As Obama said, congress lacks faith. Without support from them, getting anything done will be quite a challenge. As I said, the president has his head in the right place, but it remains to be seen whether we can actually make these drastic changes as a country. I sure hope we can for the sake of the people, and most importantly the planet we live on.

In the meantime, let’s all take advantage of what environmentally friendly and sustainable living practices we can. We will be trendsetters for those silly people who refuse to believe the facts. So as always Gettysburgians: Do Great Work, Do Green Work!

“Plastic World”

In honor of Zero Plastic Week (which was at the beginning of the month), I decided to write this blog. Enjoy!

“Plastic World”

Plastic World. It sounds like a great place, right? Perhaps it’s the name of an amusement park or some sort of cool new mall? Think again: we’re talking about Planet Earth here. That’s right; our world is being taken over by plastic before our very eyes!

You might be thinking, “Yeah… so what? What’s so bad about plastic? I drink out of it all the time.” Or better yet, if you are a model citizen you may be thinking, “I recycle all my plastics, so there’s nothing to worry about.” Well, unfortunately most people don’t (or can’t) recycle all the plastics they use. Practically all the products we use on a daily basis contain some sort plastic. Your cup at Servo or the Bullet Hole is plastic, as are the chip bags you buy there. Your toothbrush, your hairbrush, your shampoo bottle, your single-use water bottle: all plastic. That fleece you’re wearing? It probably contains a certain percentage of plastic too. Plastic seems highly convenient and relatively harmless, but when it comes to disposal of the huge volume of this material we use as a country:

Evil Plastic

Now you’re probably asking yourself, “Alright fine, there’s a lot of plastic in stuff… so what?” I’m so glad you asked!

Have you ever thought about all the islands that exist out in the ocean? Did you ever think it would be great to visit one? I know I have! But there is one island out there that shouldn’t even exist, let alone be visited. It is a manmade wonder horror, floating smack in the middle of the habitat of millions of important ocean creatures. It has been dubbed the“Plastic Vortex” or the“Great Pacific Garbage Patch” and is located on the north side of the Hawaiian Islands. Have you heard of it? GreenPeace refers to it as more of a “trash smoothie”. Too bad this smoothie is not your typical summer treat. It consists of masses of ground up trash, chemicals, and plastics that contaminate the water and litter coastal land areas. It is constantly stirred by the North Pacific Gyre. Yuck!

Trash smoothie...mmm...

Trash smoothie…mmm…

This mass isn’t just gross, it is also dangerous. Ocean creatures mistake the small plastic pieces as food, forcing chemicals into the food chain. From there, biological magnification takes over, and toxins within the plastics accumulate in the tissues of marine organisms. It could eventually reach humans as well, especially those that have a particular love for seafood. In addition, the plastic bits will take up space in the sea creatures’ stomachs, making them “full” so that they can’t eat any food with necessary nutrients for life. As a result, fish may become malformed or starve to death.

This poor little guy ate something nasty for dinner.

This poor little guy ate something nasty for dinner.

All this damage is caused by something so common and completely avoidable. We all need to start being more aware of what we are throwing out and where it might be going. So next time you sip from a plastic single-use Gettysburg College water bottle, think about where it might end up if you don’t recycle it. Good thing recycle bins are conveniently located all over campus!

As a final note, here are some easy ways you can reduce your plastic use and help save those poor little fishies (provided by the GreenPeace website):

  • Whenever you can, buy food in bulk quantities: this allows you to reuse containers you already own and purchase less packaging overall (like with yogurts, chips, or other individually-wrapped snacks)
  • Keep a small reusable bag in your backpack, purse or personal vehicle for use at the grocery store—try not to use produce bags either! You can just wash the veggies when you get home.
  • Buy from produce delivery companies or farmers’ markets
  • Ask for no straw with your beverage and bring your own take-out containers
  • Buy a reusable water bottle, travel mug and travel utensils
  • Replace plastic or cling wrap by putting unfinished meals, cut fruit, etc. into glass bottles instead
  • Reuse containers you get for free: Don’t throw away jam and sauce jars or butter and yogurt tubs. They make great Tupperware!
  • If you pack a lunch, put snacks in reusable containers instead of plastic baggies

*This blog was adapted from http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/Blog/go-plastic-free-for-our-oceans/blog/45506/ , a blog post by Sarah King, an Oceans campaign coordinator on June 8, 2013 on the GreenPeace website. It was in response to “Zero Plastic Week”, an effort by those who signed up to use no plastic for an entire week. Feel free to try it!

ZeroPlastic

Food, Inc.—We’ve Got the Power!

Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few days ago, I decided I should finally watch Food, Inc. to see what they had to say about our food system in America. I wasn’t sure if it was such a good idea, especially since I heard it made some people quickly lose their appetite, but I believe it is really important to take the opportunities we get to educate ourselves on things we have the right to know. The food industry keeps way too much hidden from us. So, as a curious and mildly concerned citizen, I figured it was worth the time to take a look behind the scenes and see what the producers of Food, Inc. had to say about it.

If you thought Supersize Me made you worry about food production methods, this movie makes it seem even worse. Food, Inc. exposes the malpractices of not one company, but many of our top food businesses, likely including some of those that made the very products you just ate for breakfast. It also explains how unsustainable our food industry in general is, especially in terms of their method of production, transportation, and selling of goods.

I had already seen King Corn earlier in the year, so some of the film’s content was not new news to me, but at the same time, actually seeing what goes on behind the food industry’s “closed doors” is always a shock to the system. Now after watching the documentary, I feel like there are such a vast number of topics I could discuss because there is so many things wrong with our current food system. However, I was hoping to keep this blog on the shorter side, so I’ll pick one topic (for now): the idea that We Have A Choice.

Food, Inc. continually returned to the negative relationship between industry, consumers, and the government. The real issue here is that everyone seems more concerned about money than anything else. The leaders in our nation are excessively greedy; it’s as simple as that. Big businesses in America want to make a profit, and they will do anything they feel necessary to succeed. This mindset results in all the negative aspects the film exposed us to: mistreatment of workers, contamination of food products, and environmentally harmful or careless production methods. To make matters worse, since government officials want votes (and big businesses can give them those votes), lawmakers are afraid to take action against them to protect consumers; hence the lack of support for Kevin’s Law as noted in the movie. Consequently, there has also been a severe increase in diabetes and obesity, as well as food-related illnesses and deaths. Unfortunately, the people in charge of our nation have clearly been blinded by power and money.

While the fact that our leaders are obsessed with power and money may seem depressing, and perhaps hopeless, we can actually take advantage of America’s messed-up economic system. As Food, Inc. pointed out, consumers have a lot more power than they realize. We actually determine what we will be buying in the near future. In other words, consumers control the market first. The way the documentary put it is that we “vote” every time we buy a product. The more you buy of those cheap, delicious candy bars, the more companies will have to produce them. But what if every kid who bought a sugary soda for $1.75 spent that money on a bag of organic carrots instead (not that this is realistic, but theoretically speaking…)? The answer is that more carrot-growing companies would likely make an appearance to meet this new demand. As I said before, the industry will go where the money is, no matter what they have to produce. If kids wanted carrots, businesses would pay farmers to grow them, package them up, and send them all over the country to fulfill those carrot cravings.

This is what we need to change with our "votes" at the grocery store. Buy more veggies!

This is what we need to change with our “votes” at the grocery store. Buy more local fruits and veggies!

Ok, so maybe organic carrots are an extreme example, but luckily this logic applies to literally any product. If everyone at Gettysburg College began buying solely organic food, businesses around here would have to start doing the same if they wanted to make any profit. It’s simple economics. All we have to do is start a new trend of buying local and/or organic. If we make it fashionable to buy food that was produced in an environmentally friendly and healthy way, we can help change the economy for the better.

Of course, economics doesn’t always work exactly the way we want it to. But at the same time, other movements such as the civil rights movement started the same way as this one. As The Story of Stuff Project points out, the missing link here is action. Each person has a role to play in making a change in our economy possible. The key is figuring out what you can do to help and actually doing it. Maybe you can’t afford to buy all organic products, but buy what you can, and perhaps do something else to benefit the movement. For example, you could grow your own organic garden at home, or contribute to the Painted Turtle Farm here on campus. In addition to working alone, The Story of Stuff Project reminds us that we need larger groups to take action too. Joining any collaborative efforts (there are tons online!) will make an even bigger difference.

So as you can see, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to change our economic system to make it sustainable. Evidently, we need to create a bigger movement toward a system that is less concerned about money and power and aims to make our planet and the people who live on it healthier.

I highly recommend watching Food, Inc., despite the fact that it may make you a bit queasy. It’s well worth the knowledge you will gain. You certainly have a right to know what you are putting in your body.

Well, after all that pep-talk, there’s only one thing to do. If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the farmer’s market to support those local farmers! What efforts will you make? Feel free to leave comments below! 

Do Great Work. Do Green Work.