In my last post, I was presenting one of the significant problems of consumerism: purchasing products that come at the mistreatment of laborers, animals, or the environment. One of the greatest challenges for us is that there is so much distance between our purchase of a product and how it was produced. There seems to be no way to know how every product was made and if someone was mistreated in its production.This does bring me to an important side point. When tackling any complex issue like this, there is no silver bullet that will solve all our problems with one change. Must problems are that way. Just think of some of the movies that have tried to tackle some of our most complex contemporary issues: Syriana (our dependence on oil), Traffic (drugs), and Crash (racism). These movies show us the complexity of each of these problems. There’s no one solution to solve any of these problems. To solve any of these problems requires change on a multitude of levels. That’s why after watching these movies, we often feel despairing that the problem will ever be solved. We might as well give up. That is exactly how we can feel when we realize how complex issues of justice in the manufacturing and food industries are.
Yet, real change is possible as more and more people make the small changes that they are capable of. Instead of feeling we need to change everything, and know how everything we buy was produced, I think its wiser to make smaller changes then consider what further steps we can take.
What steps can we take to consume more wisely? The first step is education. One website I have looked at is called the Responsible Shopper. It grades companies in all different kinds of fields on issues of justice in its production process. Here’s a link to that site: http://www.greenamericatoday.org/programs/responsibleshopper/learn_hub.cfm.
A solution being posed by one part of society is to buy more products locally. This can bridge the gap between what we buy and knowing how it was produced. This approach allows you to ask people directly and supports jobs in your community. This works particularly well with the food industry. In Columbia, we have a lot of great resources. The Farmer’s Market serves all kinds of vegetables, fruits, breads, meats raised by local farmers. You can ask them direct questions as well, whether they used pesticides or fertilizers, whether they feed their cows grass or corn, or whether they are free-range. They are open Monday and Wednesday afternoons and Saturday morning. Here is its website: http://www.columbiafarmersmarket.org/. Several grocers serve only local or organic foods or have sections of it (Root Cellar, Clover’s, and Hy-Vee). You can also buy directly from Sho-Me Farms and buy beef and chicken. Patchwork Farms is a local pork and bacon producer. And, there are a tremendous amount of restaurants that serve local meat and products at least in part of its menu. Here is a partial list:
Addison’s, Booches, Sophia’s, Broadway Diner, Hoss’, Les Bourgious, Wine Cellar & Bistro, Forge & Vine, Uprise Bakery, Murry’s, Sake, Tony’s Pizza, Perche Creek Cafe (Midway Exit off I-70), Bangkok Gardens, Sycamore, Lucy’s Corner Cafe, Subshop, Cafe Berlin, Cherry Hill Grocery and Cafe, Super Suppers, and Broadway Brewery.
Chipotle is also known for buying its products from smaller farms, though not always local.
What a great list of restaurants! It’s pretty easy to support local farmers in Columbia.
If you want to take a step in lessening your waste, Columbia has a great recycling program. Also, consider making your own compost bin. Or, if you want to reduce pollutants in your household cleaning items that you use, make your own cleaning products…http://www.care2.com/greenliving/make-your-own-non-toxic-cleaning-kit.html.
Again, don’t feel like you need to do everything. Just consider the step that you are most passionate about. The goal is to become a more conscientious consumer and a more faithful steward in the world.