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Blog Post

Burritos and Bottled Water

Jul. 16, 2008

by Slow Food USA intern Sara Hoffman

Two items recently caught my eye and seem connected–big companies making efforts to make their practices sustainable. But are they going far enough?

1. The fast-food chain Chipotle’s recent decision to use more locally sourced food from small and midsize farmers has garnered a lot of media attention recently. In fact, Slow Food USA’s Communications Manager Kate Evanishyn was interviewed for an article on this subject by the Associated Press.

As Kate pointed out, it is the reality of America’s food system that when a fast food chain decides to source even a little of its food locally, the change can affect thousands of people. Chipotle’s “Food with Integrity” mission statement bears a lot of similarities to many of the changes that Slow Food wishes to see in the American food system; the hallmarks of Food With Integrity are “unprocessed, seasonal, family-farmed, sustainable, nutritious, naturally raised, added hormone free, organic, and artisanal” foods.

If the company’s commitment to these principles expands beyond sourcing 25% of one produce item locally when in season, it could be a wonderful marker of change in the food industry. Hopefully Chipotle’s slow adoption of seasonal and local principles, which also happen often to be economical, will be adapted by more of the food industry and not compromised by their poor payment of tomato workers, a situation we have covered here before.

2. The worrying trend of the bottled water industry’s efforts to appear green. Bottled water is one of the least justifiable beverage purchases at it has awful environmental and social ramifications and some of the best tap water in the world is located in the United States. Despite often sullying natural water deposits and then flying product thousands of miles in plastic containers that fill-up landfills, companies like Fiji have been remodeling themselves as “green” operations. Fiji claims to be “carbon negative” due to reduced emissions, renewable energy, and carbon offsets, but why go through all that if you could just stick a filter on your tap water and drink it in your own home? There is currently no verification process to stop companies from profligately using the label green.

Tom Philpott of Grist had a perfect response to Chipotle’s recent decision that could be applied to any large company hoping to green their practices: "As long as Chipotle was committed to paying a fair price to farmers — and not merely using them them for marketing leverage — I thought the company could play a constructive role in a nationwide transition to a truly sustainable ag."

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