Category Archives: green

Silk is Non-Organic Soy

The Silk brand has grown to be pretty much synonymous with soy milk. If you ask for a cow milk alternative where I live, it’s pretty much guaranteed that’s what you’ll get. My husband prefers the taste of it too (I prefer a local store brand) so we buy it on a weekly basis.

With that in mind, I was quite upset when I found out that Silk has changed over their main product line to non-organic soy.

Back in 2002, Silk was purchased by Dean Foods, an agribusiness giant and the largest milk processor in the U.S. The company has been slowly introducing non-organic versions of many of their products, including their Horizon brand cow milk. Dean Foods say they are doing this to take advantage of a market that cannot afford their organic line.

I believe they’ve deliberately kept these changes as low profile as possible. With the Silk soy milk, they kept the exact same carton design. They subtly replaced the word Organic on the box with Natural and removed the Certified Organic logo. That is it- same colors, same wording, same everything! Sources say they didn’t alert manufacturers and even kept the same UPC code and price point. The change is near invisible!

We buy a box a week, and were only recently made aware when the Organic Consumers Association brought it to our attention. I don’t know how long it would have taken us to notice on our own. (I guess this serves as a reminder to re-check labels on occasion, even for brands we think we know and love.)

We shop almost exclusively at our local whole foods co-op, but neither they nor our closest regular grocery store are carrying the new organic line. I think if they had been, we might have noticed the juxtaposition as the box designs are quite different. But by introducing the new product with the old packaging, they’ve tried to maintain their market share. For people that don’t drink soy milk on a regular basis but may use it at their business, there’s no way they’ve noticed the difference, and many will not care. The higher price means they’re unlikely to switch since it would affect their profit
margins.

I emailed my concerns to Dean Foods via their new Silk web site, and received two responses, one obviously meant to be sent prior to making the changes in January of this year.

“Thank you for your recent e-mail to Silk. We appreciate your interest in our products.

We’re making some changes at Silk and want you to be in the loop. Since we were founded, we’ve been dedicated to bringing the benefits of soymilk to as many people as possible-which means offering more choices whenever possible. That’s why starting in January, we’ll be expanding our product line to include both organic and natural options in several of our popular flavors.

SILK ORGANIC
Our certified organic options will remain the same as they are today, but you’ll find them in stylish new packaging. Starting in January, look for Silk Organic Plain, Vanilla, and Unsweetened refrigerated half-gallons in their new cartons, clearly labeled as organic.

SILK NATURAL
In addition, our full line of refrigerated soymilks in all sizes will be available as natural products, made from soybeans that have not been genetically modified (non-GMO). You’ll recognize them in packages that look much like our existing line, clearly labeled as natural.

Both our organic and natural product lines offer the same delicious taste and wholesome nutrition you count on from Silk.

Why’d We Do It?
For you, for us and for the planet. At a time when all food costs are on the rise, this change allows us to keep our prices reasonable, so more people can afford to make Silk an everyday healthy choice. It’s also good for the planet: Broadening our offering allows us to source both natural and organic beans in North America, which conserves energy by
keeping our food miles-and yours-lower.

As always, we’re committed to being your favorite soymilk, and a partner in your healthy lifestyle. Enjoy the new choices!

Thanks again for contacting the Consumer Affairs Department.”

AND

“Thank you for your recent e-mail to Silk. We appreciate your interest in our products.

We produce products that meet the needs of a considerable number of consumers. We look for nutritional, ingredient and flavor profiles that have a broad appeal to a wide variety of consumer tastes and nutritional preferences.

We are sorry to hear that Silk Soymilk did not meet your specific needs and hope you give one of our many different products a try.

Thanks again for contacting the Consumer Affairs Department.”

I take issue with some of these statements. The price point is the same for the now non-organic version, which means it’s no more affordable for the masses. While it’s great that the new organic line will be non-GMO, it’s not at all good for the planet that now they’ll be acquiring much more soy that is not! While I’m glad that they’re no longer sourcing their soybeans from overseas suppliers, I can’t approve of the changes purely on the basis of food miles alone. And whose “consumer tastes” or “nutritional needs” require the purchase of non-organic soy?

If it were left up to me, I don’t think we’d be buying their products anymore. They cannot be trusted, are selling out organic farmers, and are responsible for the misery of so many dairy cows. It seems I’m not alone. People are unhappy with the way the Silk changes played out. It seems dishonest. Doing things like refusing to participate in the Cornucopia Institute’s soy industry survey only further soils their reputation in my eyes.

With the the changeover of many of their other brands on the horizon (ha!), I’m anticipating they will only alienate more of their core consumer base. Question is, can they afford this expense in the name of acquiring new customers?

On Marketplace and Monsanto

When driving home from work, I’m always happy to catch a bit of radio program Marketplace. However, I was extremely disappointed to hear that they’ve recently picked up Monsanto as a major sponsor. As the bit goes,

“Marketplace is supported by Monsanto, committed to sustainable agriculture, creating hybrid and biotech seeds designed to increase crop yields and conserve natural resources. Learn more at ProduceMoreConserveMore.com.”

I’ve been considering writing about Monsanto for a long time, and this sparked me into action. The Marketplace ad is nothing more than marketing spin, greenwashing. It’s a blatant lie that Monsanto is
committed to sustainable agriculture, unless by sustainable they mean making sure the opportunity exists for them to line their pockets for years to come. By my definition, sustainable agriculture must include some element of environmental stewardship, to which Monsanto can claim a spurious connection at best. And conserving natural resources? What a joke. Their corporation bears responsibility for dozens of contaminated Superfund sites and has done irreparable harm to the environment.

I consider Monsanto one of the more reprehensible companies out there. They are a corporate bully, have an abysmal environmental record (including Agent Orange), unscrupulous ties to government officials – including those directly responsible for approving their products, and have introduced some of the worst changes to our food supply seen in history (dangerous genetically modified food, rGBH milk, aspartame, saccharin, even the decline of bees needed for pollination).

They are tracking down, harassing and prosecuting small farmers when their “Roundup Ready” crops drift into their fields or are carried there by pollinators, even employing private investigators to spy in farm communities. They don’t let farmers save their seeds, an age-old tradition, and are now going after seed cleaners.

Their genetically engineered varieties of plants are wiping out natural species and destroying the biodiversity of our plant life. They aggressively advocate for and pursue patents that sometimes border on the ridiculous, like a breeding technique for pigs that gives them ownership of all animals born using method. They are litigious, use child labor overseas, and have had a negative contribution to overall public health with cancer causing compounds like dioxin and PCBs.

The list could go on!

I’m not the only one that noticed the new sponsorship. I recently got an action alert, asking me to “Tell American Public Media to Stop Letting Monsanto Leverage Its Reputation!”

The alert asserts that Monsanto is taking advantage of Marketplace’s reputation for journalistic integrity in order to leverage their products and build a more positive record. They also suggest Marketplace has a history of favorable treatment to Monsanto.

Even if Monsanto may be getting favorable press from Marketplace and others, I am optimistic that new documentaries such as Food, Inc. may bring needed attention to the damage this company has and continues to cause to our world. (They must be concerned about this possibility too, as Monsanto is fighting back, trying to do some proactive damage control.) Between this and other related documentaries and books, I hope it causes many more to take an active look at large corporations and their impact on our food supply and environment.

Even if you don’t click any of the other links in my post, make sure to check out
these:
http://www.organicconsumers.org/monlink.cfm
http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/05/monsanto200805

The Great Disruption

I have been interestedly listening and reading the news lately on the topic of The Great Disruption, an idea by Paul Gilding that we have reached the limits on both the economic situation and the environment at the same time, requiring a cataclysmic shift in our thinking. Consumption cannot keep growing at the rate it has been, the Earth has reached its environmental threshold too, and drastic action needs to be taken to set us back on the right course.

For people already trying to live a more green and frugal lifestyle, I think it is nice to see consumerism issues like this getting this mainstream press. First there was an article in the New York Times by Thomas Friedman that made their most read and emailed lists. Then On Point had Paul Gilding on for a great show that covered everything from global warming, to how future generations will live and work, to whether or not people are really happier when they accumulate more material wealth.

There have also been a few others, including those that talked about how even the ultra rich are finally starting to take notice of their spending behaviours and make small adjustments which have an impact on both the economy and the environment.

Trying to remain optimistic about the potential for change is hard. In America, consumerism seems to be the name of the game. People are always upgrading to the bigger, better, faster, newer model whether they need it or not, and until recently were ignoring both the financial and environmental consequences.

I think Gilding’s right in that unless people perceive this as a crisis, they are not likely to take action. My fear is that just like with the rise and fall of gas prices, changes are going to temporary. While we are feeling the economic crunch, people will cut back. Then they’ll go back to spending money on worthless crap they don’t need, won’t use, and can’t afford.

Bottled water vs. tap

Bottled water has been a hot topic in the news lately, in part due to a report by the Environmental Working Group disclosing that the 10 best-selling brands of bottled water contain contaminants similar to those allowed in tap water.

This is not altogether shocking when you consider that in some cases, the tap water comes from the same source as the bottled watered. What was more of a surprise to me was learning that bottled water is not closely regulated and is not required to undergo testing as often or as thoroughly as municipal water systems.

This could be because bottled water is regulated as a food under the jurisdiction of the FDA, while municipal water is overseen by the EPA. As long as the bottle contains a “label of substandard quality” the contaminants are allowed, water can be treated with antimicrobial agents, and companies can continue using advertising that conveys a misleading level of purity.

According to WebMD,”Americans drank 9 billion gallons of bottled water in 2007, or slightly more than 29 gallons for every man, woman, and child in the country. They also shelled out $22 billion on a product that critics of the bottled water industry say they should be getting for free from their home faucets.”

We’d been wanting to get a water filter for our house for a long time, to make use of the existing tap water but improve on its taste and chemical makeup. We finally settled on an Aquasana, one of the lower priced under-counter models. While filters will be an ongoing expense, it’s a bargain compared to the estimated 1900% markup on bottled water. Factor in the environmental impact created by plastic containers and product shipping, and it should be easy to make a case for dumping the water bottle in almost any scenario.

Plastic + Giant Microwave = Oil!

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything to the blog, but not for lack of inspiration. I need to let go of my perfectionist tendencies and just post things, even if they’re not impeccably polished. So, in that vein, I bring you my latest post.

Sometimes I feel I’m going overboard, being cautious about potential things that could harm our family, things that many people don’t give a second thought. Once example is heating food in the microwave in plastic containers.

While all my coworkers heat their frozen diet meals in little plastic trays, I’m forever dumping my leftovers onto paper plates or into ceramic containers to heat or using the toaster oven to avoid the microwave all together. (After all, even if the chemicals migrating into the food aren’t harmful, microwaves do alter the nutritional content of the food and emit radiation.)

Occasionally somthing will arise that makes my confidence in a decision grow. This time that boost came in the form of a news story, old but only recently brought to my attention, showing how a U.S. company is using a large microwave to recycle plastic, turning it back into oil. Obviously this would be great from an environmental perspective, but yikes! I realize that most everyday microwaves can’t perform such a feat, but that it can be done at all says a lot both about both the cooking method and the composition of the container.

To add to the argument, recent tests show that many so called “microwave safe” plastics still leach BPA into food. So while going for the safer plastics with recycling codes 1, 2, 4 and 5 and only those labeled for microwave use can certainly help, the best option really is not to use plastic containers.

Green your diet

Even if you’re not concerned about animal welfare or the potential health benefits of a vegetarian diet, there is yet another reason to reconsider your animal product consumption – the environmental impact.

Several great articles followed a lengthy UN report issued late last year that said raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg! The facts and figures surrounding this topic are astounding. Here are a few that I’ve pulled out of my recent readings:

  • A 10-acre farm can support 60 people growing soybeans, 24 people growing wheat, 10 people growing corn and only two producing cattle.
  • More than 1/3 of all fossil fuels are used in animal production.
  • Farmed animals are fed more than 70 percent of the corn, wheat, and other grains grown in the U.S.
  • Because of deforestation to create grazing land, each vegetarian saves an acre of trees per year.
  • Producing a single hamburger patty uses enough fuel to drive 20 miles.
  • The livestock sector is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent. This is a higher amount than the transportation sector.
  • Reducing meat production by just 10 percent in the U.S. would free enough grain to feed 60 million people.
  • You could spend more than $20,000 on a Prius and still emit 50 percent more carbon dioxide than you would if you just gave up eating meat and other animal products.
  • Waste from animal production pollutes American waterways more than all other industrial sources combined.
  • Methane is 21 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2. Animal agriculture produces more than 100 million tons of methane a year.
  • You’d save more water by not eating a pound of beef than not showering for a year.
  • Chickens raised for KFC and other companies are fed crops that are grown in the Amazon rain forest.
  • More than 260 million acres of U.S. forest have been cleared to create cropland to grow grain to feed farmed animals.
  • Almost half of the water and 80 percent of the agricultural land in the U.S. are used to raise animals for food.

With the recent media focus on “going green”, I find it somewhat surprising that we’re not hearing more about this. It’s all over the news in other countries, and in the UK official government sources have encouraged people to examine their meat consumption and eat and drink in a greener way. So why is this a non-issue in the US to the point that even Al Gore does not mention it??

Recent research has shown that a majority of people are concerned about climate change and want to do something to feel like they’re a part of the solution, but the recommendations our government and media gives to the average consumer are limited. In addition to driving a hybrid, switching to energy efficient appliances, or turning off lights, we need to better communicate the message that reducing your animal product consumption is something you can do every day that will have a huge impact on the environment and global warming.

Want to make a transition to eating less meat? Check out One Bite at a Time: A Beginner’s Guide to Conscious Eating, participate in Meatless Monday, get a starter pack from Vegan Outreach, find a vegetarian friendly restaurant, or do whatever it takes to stop global warming one bite at a time.

Safe plastics

With all the hullabaloo about the dangers of Bisphenol A (BPA), I’ve been looking into the safety of plastic. Talk about a huge topic to tackle! So much in the way of baby gear is plastic these days, and bottles and toys babes put in their mouths are of particular concern.

So I found this article on safe plastics. It’s geared specifically towards food storage and reheating, but good info nonetheless and doesn’t read like a tome. Makes it easy to quickly identify what is and isn’t safe (supposedly). Also check out these tips to avoid BPA exposure.

Family members and friends, if you’re listening, please consider purchasing natural toys for the lad when gift giving. One less thing for us to worry about and just as great if not more interesting for him.