As a sustainability intern at Amy's Kitchen for six months, I am in the unique position of gaining deep insight into the food industry from a consumer perspective.
I grew up in the hills of Petaluma, California on a small vineyard started and run by my parents. Because I grew up in agriculture, I was able to make connections that I didn’t realize were not obvious to the average consumer until I started my work at Amy’s. My core values and knowledge base are rooted in the relationships between food, people and nature’s well-being. These connections have led me to understand that personal action must work in conjunction with changes in government policy to stop the climate crisis. This association takes place through intentional consumer purchasing choices, especially with food.
As the climate change debate has become an increasingly common part of the vernacular in the US, I have begun understanding the contrasting views of the role of individual action in the climate crisis. In my experience, there are two dominant perspectives in response to the climate crisis.
One side believes that it is the individual’s responsibility to compost, recycle and drive less to do their part to reduce their carbon footprint. With these actions, one can feel confident that they aren’t hurting the planet and leave it at that.
On the other side of the argument is the belief that only the government can enact change and put regulations in place to curb climate emissions. To some, this view suggests that individual choice doesn’t matter and small actions, like composting or using reusable shopping bags, are invalid. Because consumers don’t feel empowered to make real change and there is no system for individual accountability, working to remedy climate change quickly appears futile and a sense that we are all doomed emerges.
So, what should we do as individual consumers? The truth is that both ideas have merit, but neither can work independently from the other. None of us can solve the climate crisis on our own, and political representatives need to hear from their constituents about what matters to them to prioritize the planet’s health. Instead of feeling hopeless or idle, we as consumers can use our voices and actions to display our values and create change.
We can have a much larger impact by using our purchasing dollars to support companies that have the capacity and will to do the right thing. Companies, particularly in the food industry, have immense influence in the US over the environment and the communities they’re in. With so much power, it is easy to forget that at the end of the day, companies are dependent on individual consumer choice. Although it may not feel noteworthy to buy one $5 meal over another, this simple choice can have a magnifying effect. In addition to focusing on recycling or not wasting food, we can amplify our positive impact through choosing where to shop and which companies to support.
With purchasing power in mind, I want to offer some tips to reduce your environmental impact:
Vote with your dollar
Support companies that are socially and environmentally transparent and accountable. Here are two ways to identify these types of companies:
Look for the B Corp logo. B Corp certifications are given to businesses that meet the highest standards for social and environmental impact. Go check out the B Corp directory to see the range of businesses available!
Familiarize yourself with food label certifications, like Fairtrade International, Rainforest Alliance, Certified Humane and USDA Organic. These third-party certifications confirm that there are no human rights, animal welfare or environmental violations associated with your food.
Introduce more plant-based meals into your diet.
You can still get your fast-food fix by heading over to Amy’s Drive Thru for awesome veggie burgers and vegan shakes!
Reduce your single-use plastic.
Use reusable produce bags along with reusable shopping bags and consider shopping in bulk.
Research how and what your city recycles to see how to dispose of waste properly.
Plant a garden or support local CSA (community supported agriculture).
You can also create your own compost bin, which is especially useful if your city doesn’t have a composting service. Get your friends and family involved and learn more about food and food waste throughout the process.
Contact your local representatives, sign petitions and use your vote!
There is individual advocacy in backing companies who can have a much larger impact than just one person. I can choose to buy a pack of the Amy’s Vegan Spinach and Cheeze Ravioli or the Vegan Mexican Casserole with Cheeze (personal favorites), and I know that with these actions, I am supporting a company that is striving to heal the planet, curb carbon emissions and reshape how we view business and food today.