Alicia's Food For Thought


Eating Animals
December 22, 2010, 8:20 PM
Filed under: Media Bites | Tags: , , , ,

Over winter break I thought I would take advantage of all the down time I have and catch up on some food books that have been collecting dust on my bookshelf.

I’m current reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

On September 16th I actually saw Jonathan Safran Foer when he spoke at NYU. He is a professor here in the Creative Writing Program.

I have not read any of his other books, but as of right now, the book seems very “Omnivore’s Dilemma”-esque with a mixture of The Jungle. It is a bit more narrative and family-oriented since he was inspired to do research about the meat industry with the birth of his son. I do like how he pokes fun at being an on again and off again vegetarian (aka a flexitarian). It definitely is a timely book since I decided to reintroduce meat into my diet once the year is up.

I also wonder why so many books are coming out about food? I guess it is a hot trend especially with the Food Safety Bill S150 and the Child Nutrition Bill thanks to the great work of Michelle Obama.

I’ll definitely give my full review on it once I finish the book so stay tuned!

What books are you reading over winter break?

Chow,

Alicia Kim



No Impact Man – Film Review

Hi readers,

After spending a lovely time in Union Square Park with Jamie yesterday, I watched No Impact Man, a 2009 documentary about Colin Beavan and his family going through a social experiment of having “no impact” on the earth (i.e. eating sustainably, producing no garbage, not spending any money on new clothes, no electricity, etc.). You follow their journey in answering the question, “Is it possible to enjoy a good life without wasting so much?” Usually I watch documentaries that revolve around food and the social/political/cultural implications food has on our lives, but this film really encompasses the whole gambit of consumption (electricity/energy, food, garbage, etc.) and how each individual person/family is affecting the environment.

I applaud Colin for wanting to actually live out the values he believes in and for recording his journey (I’m including his book No Impact Man to my list of books to buy). When I hang out with my friends, we sometimes talk about how we want to help the Earth and that we wish we could actually do something. We do our part in recycling… but that’s about it. It seems like the Earth’s (and consequently ours) problems seem to be looming overhead. We know that they are there, and we know they need to be addressed, but I feel like I have no tools to bring those problems down into my hands so that I become a part of the solution.

Here is the trailer to the documentary if you are interested:

Colin does a really good job at researching different techniques and ideas as to how these “no impact” phases are going to pan out over the year. As a writer, he is obviously well versed in finding resources to help him with his narrative and he writes in his blog in hopes to inspire and influence others to make their footprint smaller on the world. It is almost ironic how “No Impact Man” really does want to make an impact on the world but in a way that it doesn’t actually impact the world in a harmful way. I think his emphasis on research is really important because before we can do anything, we first need to know what we are talking about. In order for him to measure the changes his one family has on the waste of the world, he needs to know how many pounds of garbage they produce in a day, he needs to know how many joules go into making producing a hamburger patty versus a root vegetable, and he needs to know which vendors he can buy sustainable products from. His devotion of time and effort to finding out and figuring out how to live out his values speaks volumes to how much he cares about this issue.

My favorite person in the documentary was Colin’s wife, Michelle Conlin. She is a writer for Business Week and really brings humor and the difficult aspects of this experiment to the documentary. The dynamic between Colin and Michelle almost makes this documentary into a romantic comedy. Colin acts as the wide-eyed idealist that wants to change the world and that change can be easily implemented while Michelle has a realist’s perspective and questions how they are going to survive as a family living a “no impact” lifestyle aka not having a cup of coffee (because it is not locally grown) or ice cubes (because she doesn’t have a refrigerator let alone a freezer to have them). Michelle goes a long with most of the experiment but “breaks” the rules by “taking care of me” such as dying her hair at a salon, or grabbing an espresso shot in order to meet her story’s deadline. She makes the whole situation seem very human. Colin is almost too extreme and it almost takes away the feasibility of living a “no impact” lifestyle. I personally would not be able to have a box of compost and worms in my apartment (especially during the Summer months when they are not allowing themselves to use the AC)- but Michelle convinces me that you can work through the struggle and get to the other side of the changes.

In the documentary they reference this article, “The Year without Toilet Paper,” from The New York Times, and I think it was an eye-opening experience to see Colin go through the process of becoming this big story and having dozens of new networks, television shows, and radio shows contact him to talk about his family’s experiment. They talk about a lot of backlash and all the haterade that bloggers and writers had on Colin. Did Colin have motives behind this stunt? Yes. Did he want to see more books? Yes. Is he a self-promoter and self-proclaimer? Yes. But at the end of the day, are all those things bad? Did people start thinking about how much garbage they produce? Yes. Did people start talking about our consumption issues? Yes. Did people know what composting is? Yes. Do I think Colin had more of a positive influence than a negative one? Yes.

After watching this documentary, I am going to implement a completely plastic free/as waste-free as possible rule when it comes to buying food. Colin and Michelle spend a lot of time in the Union Square Green Market (which happens to be conveniently located in front of my residence hall) and explain to the vendors that they can not purchase individually wrapped goods or having things wrapped up in paper. Instead, they bring their own bags and cloth to wrap things in. I never realized how much waste goes to putting all our groceries in plastic bags, boxes and containers. I also wonder how much we are spending on each product on just the packaging alone.

Another cool thing about this documentary is how NYU is everywhere in this film. I see Carlyle, Kimmel, Bobst, Washington Square Park, and they live close to Rubin Hall. Colin even speaks at an NYU event and my friend Stephanie is in the scene! Even though I like the the topic of this film, it just made it even better to see my school and basically things I walk by everyday in this documentary. It made things very real, but at the same time very surreal, because this was all happening while I was a Freshman/Sophomore.

The biggest take away I conclude from this documentary is Colin’s quote on the purpose of life: “Doing more good than harm in the world.” And really, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t that what we all strive to do? To leave the world in a better place than when we found it?

Thanks for reading and hope you have a tasty but a low impact meal today… actually make that everyday.

Alicia Kim
Food for Thought Resident Assistant
alicia.foodforthought@gmail.com



Honest Tea

Hi readers,

Even though I kind of have this thing against juice (reasons that will be explained in a different post), I do enjoy my Orange Mango with Mangosteen (MANGOSTEEN!) Honest Ade with my lunch every once in a while. So today in my Social Entrepreneurship class I was surprised when we talked about how Honest Tea is an example of a social responsible business!

According to their website, this is their Mission:

Honest Tea creates and promotes delicious, truly healthy, organic beverages. We strive to grow with the same honesty we use to craft our products, with sustainability and great taste for all.

ASPIRATIONS FOR CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (CSR)

We will never claim to be a perfect company, but we will address difficult issues and strive to be honest about our ability or inability to resolve them. We will strive to work with our suppliers to promote higher standards. We value diversity in the workplace and intend to become a visible presence in the communities where our products are sold. When presented with a purchasing decision between two financially comparable alternatives, we will attempt to choose the option that better addresses the needs of economically disadvantaged communities.

A commitment to social responsibility is central to Honest Tea’s identity and purpose. The company strives for authenticity, integrity and purity, in our products and in the way we do business. In addition to creating a healthy alternative beverage with a lot less sugar than most bottled drinks, Honest Tea seeks to create honest relationships with our employees, suppliers, customers and with the communities in which we do business.

Honest Tea is made with real tea leaves, unlike most brands which use powder or syrup.
Honest Tea is all-natural and uses organic ingredients.
Honest Tea is lightly sweetened, so it actually tastes like tea.
Honest Tea seeks to create healthy and honest relationships with its suppliers, customers and the environment.

I also love how they have a Kids Pouch version to respond to the child obesity epidemic I have talked about before in this post.

I really suggest you read about the story/history behind Honest Tea, and how they were able to become successful. Basically, this type of business model gets me really excited about the potential of how you can make a successful business without compromising quality and having social responsibility be integral to the brand of the product. But some news came out earlier this year that Coca-Cola bought 40% of Honest Tea. So is this business model not only successful but also sustainable and able to compete with the big companies? Or does it even matter if Honest Tea becomes a part of Coca-Cola in the grander scheme of things?

In a Triple Pundit article about the Honest Tea’s President and “TeaEO” Seth Goldman address at the 2009 Net Impact Conference.

During the keynote, (shared with business leaders from CSR Wire, Vermont Bread Company and Ben & Jerry’s,) Goldman shared a story about how during the 2008 election, people from Obama’s campaign called him to see where they could find some Honest Tea somewhere in the midwest.  Goldman said that, unfortunately, he only had one store that carried his product in the region.  Clearly, something needed to change.
Enter Coca Cola.  Earlier last year, the multinational corporation acquired a large stake in Honest Tea’s company share.  Many were put off by this partnership, including New York University, who had banned all Coca Cola-related drinks (including Honest Tea) to protest the company’s human rights record.  Goldman lamented NYU’s decision because Honest Tea has a clean record.
With the Coca Cola partnership, Goldman had to eliminate his independent distributors in favor of Coke’s.  He defended that decision on the grounds that now more people will have access to a healthy drink.
“We’re making a great product, but if people can’t get it, that’s a problem.  Now with Coca Cola as our distributor, we’re making the product more available and we’re able to reach people that we’ve never been able to get before,” Goldman said.
Plus, Honest Tea can now teach Coca Cola a thing or two about sustainablity.  For example, Honest Tea bottles now have 22% less plastic than before, and according to Goldman, Coca Cola now wants to learn more about making more light-weight bottles.  So, can it be true that Coca Cola is now taking Honest Tea’s lead in reducing plastic content in its bottles?

So did Seth sell-out to Coca-Cola? Or is he really using this as an opportunity to expand his brand? I guess that is the sacrifice you need to make. You can’t ignore the fact that there are really large companies that have global access that smaller companies aren’t able to have. I personally think that this is a smart move on Seth’s part to stay relevant and to gain momentum into his brand and product. I don’t know how successful he is going to be in influencing the brand of Coca-Cola later on (we will have to wait and see). But I do find it interesting that the Coca-Cola company found Honest Tea as a worthy investment, and maybe this is a shift that we are seeing. We consumers, are able to have an affect on what is put on the shelves of our grocery stores if we demand the right and “honest” products. In this day and age, it is really important to remember that all these products are a service to us, and our feedback to these companies is priceless because our buying habits tells them what we value in a product.

I also wonder how NYU students will respond to the fact that Honest Tea will not be allowed to be sold on campus, but Honest Tea has been… “honest” all along. Personally, as an NYU student, I think there are many other social issues we can address other than Coca-Cola. I mean, honestly, have you seen the food we sell on campus in general? I don’t think we should single out Coca-Cola as being the only human rights “enemy” when there are many companies that violate other human rights all around.

Just as a side note, here is a picture of my friends and me at Fashion Week during our freshmen year at NYU (2008). They were giving out free Honest Ade and asked if they could take a picture of us to put on their website:


*Please excuse how fat Alyssa and I look… we are the epitome of the Freshmen 15 here (I hate dining hall food!). Thank god we lost the weight during sophomore year.

Anyways, please leave me a comment if you know any other successful social responsible companies. These stories really give me hope that we can change our eating/consumer habits and that food can just just be something to sustain us individually, but food can become a way for us to make social changes.

Thanks for reading and hope you all have a fantastic Thanksgiving!

Alicia Kim
Food for Thought Resident Assistant
alicia.foodforthought@gmail.com