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Who’s Buying Organic or Natural Foods?

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Courtesy of GfK Mediamark Research and Environmental Systems Research Institute

understand the far-flung impacts of a purchase, including on humans and habitats. The Good Guide, for instance, employs chemists, toxicologists, nutri- tionists, sociologists and environmental lifecycle specialists to evaluate a prod- uct’s repercussions on health, environ- ment and society.

Sandra Postel, who leads the Glob-

al Water Policy Project, has teamed up with the National Geographic Society to devise a personal water footprint calculator. It helps people understand the wider environmental impacts of their lifestyle and purchasing choices, and provides options for reducing their footprints and supporting water replen- ishment efforts.

“It takes a per capita average of 2,000 gallons of water each day to keep our U.S. lifestyle afloat,” twice the world average, calculates Postel. The typical hamburger takes 630 gallons of water to produce, for example, while a pair of jeans consumes 2,600 gallons,

It’s our world, all of us. Reduce, re-use, recycle.

- Lesley Fountain natural awakenings October 2013 35

most of it to grow the necessary cotton. Water is just one of numerous

resources overused in the United States, according to author and journalist Danielle Nierenberg, co-founder of Food Tank. “We overbuy food. It goes bad and ends up in landfills,” where it lets off methane, a powerful green- house gas, as it decomposes. “We also over-order at restau- rants,” observes Nierenberg, whose think tank focuses on the interrelated issues of hunger, obesity and environ- mental degradation. Overall, the U.S. annually accounts for 34 million tons of food waste. “Part of the problem is we’ve lost home culinary skills,” says Nierenberg, who says we need to re- think how and how much we eat. “We don’t really understand what portions are,” she adds.

Share Instead of Buy Collaboration characterizes the broader trend in careful consuming that relies on

cell phone apps. Sometimes known as the “sharing economy” or “collabora- tive consumption”, initiatives can range from car and bike shares to neighborly lending of lawn mowers and other tools and sharing homegrown produce. One of the more innovative food-sharing options is Halfsies, in which diners at participating restaurants pay full price for a meal, but receive half of a full por- tion, effectively donating the cost of the other half to fight hunger.

Whatever the product, experts say, the new sharing business model is part of a fundamental shift in how people think about consuming, with the po- tential to help us reduce our personal carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Christine MacDonald is a freelance journalist in Washington, D.C., who specializes in health, science and environmental issues. Learn more at

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