3p Contributor: Lesley Lammers

Lesley Lammers is a freelance journalist focused on the intersection between the environment, food, justice, health and social entrepreneurship. Lammers has written for the New York Times, the Green Chamber of Commerce, Good Life Report, Common Ground Magazine, and EDFish. You can follow her at: @LesleyLammers

Recent Articles

Farmer Direct Brings Fair Trade Close to Home

| Thursday February 10th, 2011 | 2 Comments

When it comes to the subject of fair trade, folks might conjure up images of products like chocolate from Ghana, coffee from Guatemala, quinoa from Bolivia or tea from India.  Farmer Direct Cooperative (FDC) is trying to bring that kind of association of fair trade to North America, promoting what they call ‘domestic’ fair trade.  FDC is made up of 70 farmers in Western Canada that cover over 120,000 acres of farmland, specializing in organic grains, pulses, and oilseeds including lentils, peas, oats, wheat, mustard, flax and more.

In this press statement, one FDC farmer-owner, Keith Neu, explains the need for domestic fair trade standards as follows, “Most of society is unaware that farm workers in many states and provinces are not protected under Federal, State or Provincial Labour laws. Since farm workers have no recourse under law they are often exploited. Therefore, organic consumers are now demanding organic foods that are fairly traded.  We are proud to be able to offer certified organic, fairly traded food to these families.”

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Organic Learning Farm Gives Indonesian Street Kids Chance at Brighter Future

| Wednesday February 2nd, 2011 | 1 Comment

While statistics on street children are difficult to verify, according to this UNICEF report, there are an estimated 230,000 in Indonesia alone.  This is mostly the result of lack of free public education for children, so families living below the poverty line cannot afford to send their kids to school and have little choice but for them to end up on the street, taking on dangerous and unhealthful work to survive or help support the family.  Street children live and work under unthinkable conditions, suffering from high rates of malnutrition, sexual abuse, physical violence and disease, not to mention the detriment to their emotional and social development. 

This is where the Learning Farm steps in.  With funding from a private donor, Learning Farm was founded in 2005 by World Education, a private voluntary organization that aims to provide training and technical assistance to the educationally disadvantaged.  Groups of 50 boys at a time work and live on a 6,000 square meter farm for a five month program. The goal is to give children the tools and confidence needed to take on future jobs, agricultural and non-agricultural, that will allow them to lead healthy, economically self-sufficient lives and become productive members of their community.

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Walmart’s Healthy Food Plan Raises Healthy Skepticism

| Tuesday January 25th, 2011 | 0 Comments

Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton

As mentioned by Leslie Back last week,  Walmart announced a five year plan aimed at reducing the price of healthier foods and providing a wider selection of healthy produce and packaged food items.  A recap of the major goals are as follows:

  • Collaborate with food processors to decrease salt by 10 percent, sugar by 25 percent and 100 percent of industrially made trans fats in a multitude of their packaged food items by 2015
  • Decrease the cost of healthier food options
  • Create their own front-of-package label criteria for healthy food choice identification
  • Build new stores in food desert communities where there is little to no access to healthy and inexpensive food alternatives
  • Expand charitable donations to aid nutrition programs

Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign has teamed up with Walmart on this project, and the First Lady’s crusade against childhood obesity is said to be the company’s main source of inspiration for these new initiatives.

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Eden Foods Switches Tomato Products to Amber Glass Jars to Address BPA Exposure

| Wednesday January 19th, 2011 | 0 Comments

Eden Foods recently announced that new amber glass jars will be used for all of the company’s organic tomatoes and tomato sauces.  The slight coloration of the glass helps to keep flavor and nutrients from light damage or photo-oxidation.  They claim that theirs will be the only tomatoes in the U.S. to be packaged in such jars and explain the main impetus for switching over to amber glass jars is “the avoidance of bisphenol-A (BPA) in high acid food cans, and failure of the can manufacturers to make BPA free cans for tomatoes…Amber glass is difficult to get and more costly, but it best protects food. Amber glass is also free of the endocrine disrupter chemical bisphenol-A (BPA).”  This statement comes in addition to Eden Foods’ beans, grain combinations and chilies having already been canned in BPA-free lining cans since 1999. 

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“Invasivore” Diet Making Headway as Next Locavore Movement

| Wednesday January 12th, 2011 | 2 Comments

Kudzu is an invasive weed for the vegetarian set

In a recent New York Times article “A Diet for an Invaded Planet,” James Gorman postulates whether folks who eat invasive species – or as he aptly names them, “invasivores” – will be the next leading food diet trend that aims at being easy on the planet. 

So why are environmentally-conscious foodies concerned about invasive species?  Well, the name speaks for itself.  Invasive species are plants, pathogens or animals that disruptively take over habitats in ways that decrease native biodiversity. Since these (usually) non-native species colonize native habitats, they can have a negative impact on the local ecosystem. 

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Sustainability Named One of ‘Jargoniest Jargon’ Words of 2010 by Ad Age

| Wednesday January 5th, 2011 | 17 Comments

Advertising Age named sustainability one of the “jargoniest jargon” words of 2010 that they “wish you would stop saying,” right up there with monetize, choiceful, and the new normal, among others.  They explain their decision by describing sustainability as “a good concept gone bad by mis- and overuse. It’s come to be a squishy, feel-good catchall for doing the right thing. Used properly, it describes practices through which the global economy can grow without creating a fatal drain on resources. It’s not synonymous with ‘green.’ Is organic agriculture sustainable, for example, if more of the world would starve through its universal application?”

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The Economist Speculates on the Future of Vertical Farming

| Monday December 27th, 2010 | 5 Comments

A recent Economist article asks the question of vertical farming, “Does it really stack up?”  In theory, it’s a win-win-win concept for the environment, feeding growing urban populations locally, and increasing space for agriculture without more land use.  But the reality is that vertical farming is costly energy-wise due to the need for artificial lighting and insufficient space for renewable energy installations on skyscrapers.  While many designs exist, no large scale vertical farm has been built yet.  However, Will Allen’s Growing Power did receive approval this year from the Milwaukee city planning commission to build a five story greenhouse, perhaps marking a step toward the fruition of the first vertical farm. 

A major argument for this concept is that not only will these vertical landscapes curb greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating the need for crop transport, but food spoiling – which comes along with the business-as-usual of hauling food over long distances — will cease to be a problem, as the food is both at the source and right at the hands of the consumer.  Most designs propose that plants be grown hydroponically, cancelling out soil erosion issues and significantly decreasing water usage in comparison with conventional farming techniques.  The standardized interior environment also allows for a year-round growing season. 

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Sunflower Farmers Market to Expand in California

| Monday December 20th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Sunflower Farmers Market was launched in 2002 with the slogan “Serious Food…Silly Prices!” having grown from one to 32 stores within six years and now covering six southwest markets in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Texas and New Mexico.  The successful chain’s current plan is to expand into California at the beginning of 2011, the first site to be in Roseville outside of Sacramento in April followed by another site in San Jose. 

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Fishy Farm Creates Polyculture System for Home Use

| Friday December 10th, 2010 | 0 Comments

ban-startup-friday

Fishy Farm out of Hillsboro, Oregon has created both an indoor and outdoor aquaponic-horticulture-vermiculture system that can grow food and raise fish all within the comfort of your humble abode or backyard.  While non profits like Growing Power and businesses like Sweet Water Organics have brought aquaponics into the limelight on a larger, more industrial scale, Fishy Farm appears to be one of the first to take this technology straight into the hands of the consumer. 

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EDF & McDonald’s Celebrate 20 Year Partnership

| Saturday December 4th, 2010 | 0 Comments

20 years ago McDonald’s Corp. and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) created a partnership unique for a corporation and an environmental organization at the time.  As Gwen Ruta, Vice President of EDF’s Corporate Partnerships Program explained in a recent Huffington Post article, “The alliance was very risky. Both sides stood to lose big if results failed to materialize. It was a bold step in an era where businesses and environmentalists were more apt to meet in a courtroom than in a corporate boardroom.” 

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Walmart’s Progress on Sustainable Seafood Efforts

| Thursday November 25th, 2010 | 1 Comment

Five years ago, Walmart declared they would take on ambitious sustainability objectives: creating zero waste, being supplied by 100% renewable energy, and selling products that sustain people and the environment.  However, only four out of their 39 public sustainability goals deal directly with food.   Beth Keck, Senior Director of Sustainability at Walmart, admits in a recent guest post on Treehugger, “While grocery sales make up more than half our business, we haven’t focused enough of our sustainability efforts toward the food we sell.” 

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New Zealand Wine Becomes First to Wear Carbon Reduction Label

| Monday November 15th, 2010 | 0 Comments
Mobius Marlborough Carbon Reduction Label

The New Zealand Wine Company (NZWC) declared that starting in 2011, each bottle of Mobius Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc will wear the Carbon Reduction Label, the first label of its kind in the wine industry.  The wine can sport this label because it received certification by the UK’s Carbon Trust, which aims to put carbon labeling on products in all industries.  This certification is a landmark occasion for NZWC, the wine’s producer, who has been actively working to improve their sustainable management practices.

Quoted in a recent Guardian article, Craig Fowles, NZWC’s sustainability manager, commented on the announcement, “It’s a very important certification as it is a full-life cycle carbon approach. Recently the Carbon Trust in the UK announced that sales of products carrying its carbon reduction label will shortly top £2bn per annum.”

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Cornell Receives $80 Million Boost for Sustainability Research

| Tuesday November 9th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Cornell University announced October 28th that David R. Atkinson and wife Patricia Atkinson have donated $80 million to expand upon the already accomplished Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future (CCSF), now renamed the David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future (ACSF).   Through joint efforts between college departments, businesses, NGOs, foundations and other external partners, this generous gift is aimed at positioning Cornell as a world-class leader in sustainability research, outreach and academics.

Cornell University announced October 28th that David R. Atkinson and wife Patricia Atkinson have donated $80 million to expand upon the already accomplished Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future (CCSF), now renamed the David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future (ACSF).   Through joint efforts between college departments, businesses, NGOs, foundations and other external partners, this generous gift is aimed at positioning Cornell as a world-class leader in sustainability research, outreach and academics. 

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VeloVeggies Pedals Fresh Produce to Twin Cities Doorsteps

| Friday November 5th, 2010 | 0 Comments

ban-startup-friday

Add VeloVeggies of Minneapolis, Minnesota to the growing list of innovative bicycle-powered food businesses such as Freewheelin Farm in Santa Cruz, Metro Pedal Power in Boston and One Revolution in Burlington. Founder Randall Dietel came up with the idea for his zero-emissions business while, not surprisingly, riding his bike one summer day in Minnesota.  As he describes his vision, “I wanted to be able to deliver real, good food to people.  Plus, I get to ride my bike. And I love that.”

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Honest Tea Announces 100% Fair Trade Commitment by 2011

| Monday October 25th, 2010 | 1 Comment

With October being Fair Trade Month, it only seems fitting that Honest Tea, the titan of bottled organic tea, has announced its commitment to making its complete line of products Fair Trade Certified. The company’s transition to Fair Trade began in 2003, with the introduction of Peach Oo-la-long and over the past three years, the number of teas under certification has increased to 19. By the end of the 2011 first quarter, the entire 28 tea selection will become Fair Trade Certified.

In an Honest Tea press release, President and CEO of Fair Trade USA Paul Rice commented, “Honest Tea is once again raising the bar for the entire industry. Honest Tea has been a pioneer in social responsibility from the beginning, so this decision is a natural, authentic progression in the company’s history.  This expansion makes the statement that sustainability and empowerment in the developing world matter to Honest Tea, and that they care about the workers who harvest their tea and the future of their communities.”

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