J500 Media and the Environment

Grading the Pantry by bpirotte

A lot of Clementines, Sun Chips and of course, MILK–staples in my kitchen. While I’m a sucker for convenience, I try to stay relatively healthy and be at least conscious of my environmental impact. So what do these particular items say about me? Because you are what you eat, right?

Let’s start with the Clementines.

Clementine mandarins- a fridge favorite. Photo by Ben Pirotte

I buy relatively large bags of Cuties, which are small varieties of mandarins. They’re easy to peel, small, and seedless. They’re a convenient and seemingly healthy snack from California. However, to achieve that convenience, they are treated with Imazalil or Thiabendazole, both common pesticides used on citrus fruits. The peeling is also waxed and possibly even gassed in order to increase shelf-life and appearance. Turns out being “cute” comes at a price.

So, first item examined: I’ll give myself a B-. Even though the’yre definitely non-organic, gassed, and shipped over 1000 miles to get to me, they’re still relatively healthy, right? Yikes. Scratch that. I probably deserve more like a C.

Next item: Sun Chips. I’ve been eating them since I was little, so they have the nostalgia thing going for them. They’re a crunchy, well-seasoned snack. So, what does that new 100% compostable bag business really mean? Am I being a more environmentally responsible consumer for buying Sun Chips? Well, if we’re talking about buying local, for example, this would constitute a “fail.” The company that produces Sun Chips, Frito Lay, is a national chain that ships all over the United States and the world. If we’re talking about buying organic, again, not so much. Sun Chips ingredients include artificial flavors, and even Maltodextrin. However, the new ad placed on the bags of the product indicate the chips are contained in a compostable bag. While that doesn’t mean you can just compost the bag, it does leave less of a carbon footprint because it uses less petroleum-based plastic. Also, apparently at least one of the plants that produces Sun Chips is solar, with plans for further solar plants in the future. Not bad, right? I think I will give myself a B+ for the Sun Chips. While still supporting a large chain, I am proud of supporting at least a sub-company that supports greener production.

Now for the milk.

Iwig Family Milk-local goodness. Photo by Ben Pirotte

Milk is my favorite beverage, hands down. I would much rather drink milk than pop, juice, or even water. My milk purchase is something I feel proud of, though, because I have recently started buying from local producer, Iwig Family Dairy, who sells milk in a reusable glass bottle in grocery stores around Kansas. They’re an organic dairy farm not far from where I live in Lawrence, Kansas. It’s tasty and guilt free. Tecumseh, where the milk comes from, is only about 25 miles from Lawrence. Organic: check. Local: checkity-check. The reusable glass bottle adds a nice touch. Milke grade: an honest A.

While I’m sure I have committed several more food sins with my Double Stuffed Oreos, Ramen noodles, and pepperonis, I think I’m at least headed in the right direction. It’s rough to think about what you are is what you eat–when what you’re eating might not be so great.

–Ben P.


5 Comments so far
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Do you think you will try to buy fewer Cuties now… or still keep buying them (because they are still pretty good for you)? Also, is it this class that made you switch the kind of milk that you buy? -Kristina B.

Comment by kristinabev


It actually was this class that got my attention about buying local. When I found out about Iwig’s, I felt like it was something small I could do. Honestly, the cuties will most likely stay.
–Ben P.

Comment by bpirotte

Do you think the grade of a food affects it’s taste? What if a more nutritionally enhanced food traveled a further distance than a food that was locally grown? Do you find yourself making substitutes?

Sean T

Comment by Sean Tokarz

Sean, I don’t think that affects taste, which is probably why I continue to eat foods that are bad for me/my environment. That’s why I think you sometimes have to pick which issue to support instead of trying to tackle them all at the same time. I’m a believer in baby steps.
–Ben P.

Comment by bpirotte

Thanks for your post on the SunChips compostable bag. The bag does compost in a hot, active compost bin. Prior to introducing the bag we tested the bags ability to decompose in a number of different environments and locations and have made this information available online at SunChips.com. But don’t take our word for it. We received the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) certification on the bag, the highest and most rigorous third party certification for compostable claims.

Comment by Sunchips

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