sticking to local on a consumer "diet"

Update 2/2017, for obvious reasons.  The links to the MSU chart had changed and of course the food industry is even more complicated than before!


Originally published 3/3/2011:

I had a thought the other day.  Remember Micheal Pollan's rule to avoid processed foods with more than 5 ingredients?  What if we tried to apply that to non-food purchases--substituting "brands" or subsidiaries" for ingredients?   This thought came about for two reasons.

1)  A chart like this, I read a few months ago, probably linked from Bittman's site:


I don't buy a ton of snack or convenience foods, but when I do I try to read labels and go for the smaller companies using the fewest/best ingredients.  Too bad:  most of those small companies have long ago been bought up by larger conglomerates.  Oops.

2)  Due to current events, there has been a lot of info out there on companies to support or boycott based on their political contributions.  I have mixed feeling on this--if an individual who owns a local business gives a few hundred dollars to a campaign fund, how much does that really affect things?  Are restaurants coordinating the donation of hundreds of pizzas and gallons of coffee to the cause really champions, or just taking advantage of good feelings and good press?  BUT, when a gigantic company donates millions of dollars to multiple PACs to affect election results, I might just take a peak at their corporate website and see what's up.

Since 2003, Koch companies have completed more than $32 billion in acquisitions and investments.  They own Georgia-Pacific, in itself a huge operation that proudly lists all the brands they manufacture.  I can sure try, but to avoid supporting a company this vast is nearly impossible.  They are in the packaging (paper), the delivery (oil), and the building projects (plywood and plaster).

What's a consumer to do?  Well, I can buy local. I can go right to the source and purchase goods and services from the folks producing them.  I can rely on the diligence of a small local shop that does the research for me and offers products that I can trust.  I can put my shovel where my mouth is, and grow as much of my own food as possible, and aim for getting the rest in ways that minimizes packaging, middle-men, and mainstream.  I can re-use,  recycle, and buy used. 

I'm not the hugest consumer anyway, but I know I have some habits I can improve upon. Can I make a difference? Maybe not in the huge scheme of things, but possibly in the lives of some real people.  And I'm tired of participating in a system that rewards the wrong people for the wrong behavior.

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1 comment:

  1. Great post. I love Philip Howard's graphical ways of sharing information. Prof. Howard needs to produce some graphics showing the power of many consumers changing behavior incrementally.

    BTW, love the new blog look, too. Everyone's freshening up for spring. Guess I'd better to get to work on on Henbogle blog as well as seed starting!


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