An (organic) apple a day, helps keep social ills at bay

By Guest Columnist Jul 20, 2007

vcorral for RaceWire: “Going green” has become the iPod of environmental activism these days. Even Apple, the maker of the iPod, has a disclaimer saying: “all of Apple’s U.S. retail stores…take back unwanted iPods for environmentally friendly disposal free of charge.” Without a doubt, the last two years have seen no shortage of Green talk. At the same time, the availability and sales of local, organic, sustainable, and fair trade products is higher than ever before. But unlike the Green speak over at Apple that I suppose is tainted in trend, the talk around organic foods is quite promising. Often wrapped in recycled and biodegradable material and propped up next to a flax-shake mix, many of these products do a lot more than “biodegrade” your bank account. People have begun to realize that such products may hold the power to decreasing our energy consumption and our exposure to toxic chemicals, and even promote social, environmental, and economic justice. That organic peach is keeping farmers, pickers, and the water free from pesticides. Because of this, some see that extra dollar per pound, and not their vote, as a more significant political expression. Today, many Americans have plenty of choices at their local supermarket, so that a young woman in Ohio can ensure that farmers in developing countries are paid fairer wages and are allowed to organize by purchasing coffee that is certified “Fair Trade” or “Rainforest Alliance”. Though I’m not sure just how fair Fair Trade is, there is hope of greater reform the more we consumers hold those progressive labels accountable. Further, our food choices tie us not only to the world, but to our local community. At a time when obesity and diabetes are at epidemic levels among people of color and the poor, it is imperative that we build a local and sustainable food system that ensures access to healthy food, and creates much needed jobs and training. Community gardens and farms are steadily reemerging as citizens notice the lack of fresh, healthy food available in the inner city. However, most of these small operations depend on community support and private funding, because public policy that could help them thrive is largely absent. Meanwhile, people of color and the poor often pay the price for our excess, waste, and lack of information. Landfills, refineries, and waste management facilities are most likely to be built in poor neighborhoods, but luckily the power you have to promote social and environmental justice doesn’t end in the produce section, it’s in every aisle. You can find environmentally friendly products, from shampoo and toothbrushes, to toilet paper and detergent, and although this may sound a bit Amish of me, you can even make your own. So go ahead, let your inner hippy out, fork out that extra money and buy and make organic goods, at least then, if you couldn’t care less about the ’08 presidential campaign, you can always tell people you voted already. vcorral, is a senior UC Berkeley majoring in Political Science and an intern at The Applied Research Center.