What should an ethical eater buy? There are many variables to factor into your decisions, including your typical diet, kitchen, location, culture, and (of course) budget and access to resources. No two people would have the exact same list of problem items if we were to sit down and chat over tea. For example, I do not drink coffee but it’s on the list because most Americans do. Today’s post is your starting point– a brief guide to an everyday ethical kitchen. The list is basically vegetarian (fish exception), as I think meat should not be an everyday food for most people. Your frequent purchases would typically be the ones to shift towards sustainability first, because their impact is likely higher than the impact of rare purchases. I’d recommend making changes one at a time. Pick one new item per week or month and work on adopting it.
Note: The list is sorted by category, not by importance.
General Buying Practices
1. The item with less packaging: minimize trash and energy use
2. Seconds (or, the bruised apples): help keep food out of the waste stream
3. Generic brands: don’t support bad advertising practices
4. Fewer processed foods: guess why!
5. Open-pollinated (heirloom) varieties: support biodiversity and seed soveringty
Specific Product Recommendations
6. Pasture-raised organic eggs (can’t get ’em? Try Organic Valley): healthier for you and the chickens
7. Sustainably caught fish (see Blue Ocean Institute and Monteray Bay Aquarium): because you want your grandchildren to taste fish too
8. Organic potatoes, preferally regionally produced: conventional potatoes are heavy pesticide users
9. Bird-friendly rice (Lundberg is one national brand that does a fair amount of conservation.): umm, birds?
10. Integrated Pest Management apples (East Coast– try EcoApples), or organic apples (everywhere west of the Mississippi): again, conventional apples are heavily doused in pesticides to create those perfect skins
11. Organic soy for as many soy items as possible: non-GMO and fewer petrochemicals
12. Organic celery: conventional celery also has high levels of presticides
13. Organic dark green leafies like kale and spinach: see celery
14. Organic dairy, especially for butter (I like Organic Valley again, as they are a coop and NOT industrial organic.): many pollutants bioaccumulate in fat aka as they are passed through the cow, they are present in higher conentrations
15. Fair trade and organic chocolate: pay your farmers fairly and reduce chemical exposure
16. Fair trade & organic coffee (shade grown or Rain Forest Alliance certified is even better): ditto the chocolate, but also try to embrace protecting the ecosystem and wildlife
Regional & Local
17. Regionally produced grains and beans: support the development of regional food systems and food security
18. Local honey: support pollinators!
19. Local berries, preferably organically produced: berries just don’t travel well, and ripe fruit is healthier/yummier. Also, berries often have large amounts of agrichemicals used, including methyl iodide.
20. Organic cotton socks & underwear: because it is an agricultural product, and cotton is a heavy user of agrichemicals