Who made all this stuff I use?

Have you ever wondered who made the shirt that you are wearing, the environmental impact of the food that you are eating, or what happens to prescription medication that gets “thrown away”? Chances are, it wasn’t made in your community, or even your country.  In fact, it is estimated that 86% of seafood, 50% of fresh fruit, and 20% of the vegetables we eat come from another country.


While we have become accustomed to eating every type of fruit all throughout the year, or expecting to have access to fashion from around the world; this convenience has a high price. The downside to the globalization of our economy turns out to be pretty drastic, and includes:


1. Disconnection from our foods and products.

Lack of understanding, empowerment, or choice about the quality of our foods and products.

2. Chronic illness and dis-ease.

The less we know about what we are consuming, the more likely we are to consume things that do not contribute the health and well-being of our bodies and minds.

3. Choosing profit over sustainability.  

Profit-driven corporations choosing manufacturing, distribution, and disposal practices that are detrimental to the environment.

4. Resource inequality at the global scale.

Studies are beginning to show that resource consumption in wealthy areas leads to ecosystem degradation in areas inhabited by poor members of society, thus affecting the health of multiple groups of people (Corvalan et al., 2005).

5. Hidden energy costs.

The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research has shown that nearly half (46 percent) of the energy we use is indirect, meaning that the energy is used to produce, package, distribute, and dispose of foods, medicines, and consumer products. The highest level of indirect energy consumption is in health care services and pharmaceuticals, and the second highest is in food production and preparation.

6. Hidden social damages.

Social and socio-economic impacts that go unseen because of the complexity of the system.


What can you do to consume more consciously?/make more conscientious choices? What resources are available? There are a variety of ways that the problems inherent to globalization of our economy are being addressed.  These include: Truth in Food Labeling (In 2007, a new law came into effect from the The U.S. Department of Agriculture - this “Country of Origin Labeling”, or “COOL” law, requires food retailers to notify their customers with information regarding the source of certain foods), certification programs (i.e. fair trade and organic), “Buy Local” movements, purchaser education (e.g. goodguide.com and buycott), and product life cycle systems (see below).


Have you thought about the life cycle of your products? Product life cycle systems help to show the links between social needs, how to meet those needs naturally and economically, and the environmental impacts this creates. Life cycle assessment (i.e. cradle-to-grave analysis) evaluates the resource consumption and environmental burdens associated with a product or activity associated with all the stages of it’s life cycle (such as extraction and transport of raw materials, manufacture, packaging, transportation, maintenance, and disposal).


Would you have purchased the (“shoes on your feet”) if you knew the factory where they were made (provided unsafe conditions for its workers)?  Social life cycle assessments consider the social and socio-economic impacts of a products life cycle. This kind of assessment considers impacts on the workers, the local communities, the consumers, and the society. This takes into account human well-being (quality of life, living standards and human development, welfare, life satisfaction, basic human needs fulfillment, human development, happiness and utility).


There are some manufacturers and producers who are standing up for transparency and integrity in the life cycle of their products. Here are a few who are raising awareness and making socially and economically responsible choices :


1.Tumeric ALIVE

Tumeric ALIVE uses organic, non-GMO, domestic, and family-farmed ingredients. The ingredients are chosen for quality and health benefit.  We love that they do not add excessive sweetness to the drink (as nearly ALL other drinks, “health drinks” included, do). In fact, this drink uses ingredients known to benefit digestion, immunity, and cleansing.


Tumeric ALIVE is committed to transparency in the relationship and information exchanged between the manufacturer and the farmers. When possible, Tumeric ALIVE purchases ingredients from farms that are local to the manufacturing facility. They report being committed to buying from, selling to, and supporting local businesses. The distribution facility had been certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program and is powered by renewable energy.


After speaking with Daniel Sullivan, the founder of Tumeric ALIVE, it is clear that he is bringing awareness and discernment to his choices, working to choose the most sustainable practices possible in the making of the product line.



2. Jamii Goods

Heather Snyder, at Jamii Goods, is taking the commitment to socially-responsible business even further. JaMii is a socially conscious business that creates opportunity for female artisans from Uganda, Cambodia and India to sell their work in order to gain economic freedom and independence. Heather has personally worked in each of these countries, doing service work for a variety of social causes and working directly with the partner organizations. Jamii is committed to supporting the female artisans in creating sustainable livelihoods and achieving economic independence.



3. Numi Tea

Numi Tea has created long-standing partnerships with farmers and built cooperative farming model enables workers to become shareholders, and some of their teas are now fair labor certified. Numi reports fair treatment of workers, better working and living conditions, and an overall improved quality of life for families and communities. The products are also fair trade certified, which guarantees farm workers are paid a minimum fair wage for their labor and empowers them to lift themselves out of poverty by investing in their farms and communities. According to Numi, the worker community votes democratically on how Fair Trade premiums are used to invest in education, health, protecting the environment, and developing the business skills necessary to compete in the global marketplace.


With the interest of reducing carbon emissions wherever possible, the Numi team has been tracing supply chain outputs since 2009. According to Numi Tea, they carefully monitor the impact of the logistics for transporting our raw materials from all over the world as well as travel and have conducted annual emissions audits. They then purchased an equivalent amount of carbon offsets and renewable energy certificates (RECs) through Big Tree Climate Fund.


Part of the vision of COPIA Health, is to raise awareness about the impact of the indirect energy use inherent to our products and services.  We believe that remembering our connection to the greater web of existence will naturally inspire us to explore ways to reduce our energy expenditure. Raising awareness about the embodied or indirect energy used in the life cycle of a food or product will generate practices in conscious consumption, promote ecological sustainability, and encourage participatory self-care practices.