Having decided, last time around, to add a new layer to my theoretical pancake stack of “things” that I want to explore, I faced the perennial problem of where to start. It’s easy enough to say that I would like to know more about the environmental impact of my food and drink choices; it is quite another to actually get going on that journey.
But then I had a great idea. (It does happen occasionally.)
Really, I had been thinking about this backwards. I had assumed that I needed to find out the facts first and then let them inform my food and drink decisions. But why should I? Surely that’s making me do all the hard work. After all, I’m just an ordinary consumer, just like you; my superpowers do not extend to knowing anything about this subject. Rather than researching this myself, why shouldn’t our food and drink companies be telling me this information instead?
Armed with a pad of paper and a pen, I set off for the kitchen.
If you look carefully – which I clearly hadn’t bothered to do before – then it turns out that several companies do already share at least some information about their environmental practices. After twenty minutes in the kitchen, this is what I had found.
Recycling information – This is pretty much the bread and butter of package labelling, but it is reassuring to see this information on a lot of packets.
Forest Stewardship Council – Found on a number of cartons and cardboard packets, the “FSC’s ‘tick tree’ logo is used on product labels to indicate whether products are certified under the FSC system. When you see the FSC logo on a label you can buy timber and other wood products, such as paper, with the confidence that you are not contributing to the destruction of the world’s forests.” (fsc.org)
We Forest – This logo appears on packets of Nakd bars. Whilst it sounds very encouraging, I still can’t work out the connection between buying a bar and the We Forest campaign – one to come back to, methinks. We Forest “is an international non-profit association with following mission: create and promote a pioneer movement in large scale sustainable reforestation.” (weforest.org)
Dolphin Safe – This logo “was established by Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project on Earth Day 1990”. The “Earth Island Dolphin Safe Campaign established the standards for Dolphin Safe tuna: No chasing or netting of dolphins, in order to prevent any harm to dolphins.” (dev.eii.org/news/entry/25th-anniversary-of-dolphin-safe-tuna)
Soil Association Organic – One of the organic certifications I found, this could be found on a few different products. There is an 83-page document outlining their certification standards and – no – I haven’t read it. Yet. But I think it’s fair to assume that this logo means that there is definitely something going on that’s got at least one eye on the environment. This is definitely a topic that I’m going to have to sit down and read more about.
EU Organic Logo – As well as the Soil Association logo, the EU also has an organic certification scheme and this appears all over the place. Have a look at this site to see what their green leaf guarantees.
OMSCo – Focussing in on just one industry, I then stumbled across a logo for the Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative (OMSCo). They provide more information about organic milk on their organicmilk.co.uk site.
Fairtrade – Although not exclusively an environmental scheme, the fairtrade system “takes a holistic approach to sustainability focusing on improving economic, social and environmental conditions for the long-term.” (info.fairtrade.net)
Plus, there are companies with their own, brand-specific information and accreditation:
Trees for Life – Taylor’s, the tea company, have their own tree-planting initiative. You can read more about it at treesforlife.co.uk
Tesco Nurture – This “is an exclusive independently accredited scheme to Tesco. It is dedicated to ensuring all our fruit and vegetables are grown to environmental and responsible standards.” (tesco.com/nurture)
Coffee Made Happy – Kenco’s programme to make coffee a sustainable, profitable and respected career for their farmers. (coffeemadehappy.com)
At the same time, there are also other logos that I found that don’t tell me much about the environmental impact of that product. Which is totally understandable; there are all sorts of bits of information that companies are looking to cimmunicate on their packaging. For the record, and as far as I can tell, these logos do not tell us anything about environmental impacts specifically.
Made in Britain – The aim of this label is restricted to enabling “buyers and consumers at home and abroad to identify British-made products.” (madeingb.org)
Vegetarian Society Approved – A little bit of a surprise, this one. Obviously, the main aim of this is to confirm the vegetarian credentials of a product, but the qualifying criteria do not really tell me much about the environmental impact. You can see the criteria at vegsoc.org
The Kosher Kiwi – Yep, that’s right. Something in our store cupboard had on it “the hecsher (kosher mark) of the United Orthodox Hebrew Congregations of New Zealand” (ahc.org.nz/kosher-kiwi/), which is a little surprising if I’m honest. As far as I can tell, from a quick look through the criteria on their site, there are no specific environmental considerations in this accreditation scheme.
A word of caution: Please bear in mind that all I have done so far is to wander around my kitchen and then google what I found. For my own piece of mind, I want to spend longer digging around in these websites to understand more about how my support for these products is benefiting the environment (or not). This is only the beginning…