Sustainable Seafood: Which Retailers Topped The List? (INFOGRAPHIC)


Finding sustainable seafood has long been a challenge for environmentalists and foodies alike. Recently, however, supermarkets and food stores have stepped up their efforts to reconcile that dilemma.

Greenpeace has released the results of its annual Carting Away the Oceans report, which evaluates retailers on the sustainability of their seafood.

Greenpeace has conducted the study in each of the last five years, and no retailer had ever achieved a “green” rating. Until now.

This year, Whole Foods and Safeway topped the list, with a “green” score of 7.1 and 7.0 out of 10, respectively, followed by Wegmans, Harris Teeter, and Target.

The stores were graded on a number of factors, including the sale of overfished species such as Chilean sea bass, hoki, orange roughy, and shark. The retailers were also scored based on the degree to which their fishing methods were destructive to habitat and the environment, as well as on their conservation initiatives, transparency and internal policies.

Although some supermarkets received the incriminating “fail” rating, the good news is that the overall performance of the industry has improved significantly, the report shows.

Despite this progress, problems persist. For instance, it is becoming increasingly difficult to trace fish back to their origin, making it hard to say for sure whether or not it is sustainable. According to the report, fraud and other illegal activity are also prevalent in the global seafood market – even in the U.S. According to Greenpeace, pirate vessels capture as much as 20% of the seafood caught globally.

To make matters worse, a dismal 2% of imported seafood is inspected for safety at international borders, posing concerns not only for sustainability, but also human health.

Is your seafood sustainable? Check out this infographic for a snapshot of retailers’ seafood practices:

Image credit: Greenpeace


Holiday Gifts For The Green Movement

There’s no better time than the holiday season to reflect on the events of the past year – and there has been no shortage of environmental news stories that have both inspired us and made our blood boil. As Christmas approaches, let’s consider some appropriate gifts for those who have left their mark on green news in 2011:

President Obama: A microphone and some earplugs. Since the beginning of his term, the president has become notably less enthusiastic about clean energy and environmental issues, perhaps succumbing to Republican pressure and inevitably “compromising” with natural gas, as well as totally giving in by opening up areas off the U.S. to offshore oil drilling. In fact, the positive steps his administration has taken to support renewable energy and clean technology have flown somewhat beneath the radar, for fear of appearing “too partisan.” Advice to the president: Speak up about the benefits green technologies can bring the nation, and block out the noise from the Republicans in Congress and fossil-fuel lobbyists.

Newt Gingrich, and the other GOP candidates: A science textbook. Ten years ago, climate change was fact to everyone – not a partisan issue. It’s time for GOP leaders to stop denying science and accept that the planet’s future is resting on our action to curb greenhouse-gas emissions and combat climate change.

TransCanada executives: Some red tape. The best we can hope for, at the moment, is for the Keystone XL pipeline to face more regulatory delays and to ultimately fail in the face of a decision by the Department of State.

Former Solyndra employees: A new job in the growing solar sector. Solyndra grabbed all of the negative headlines with its failure, but that does not mean that the U.S.’ entire renewable energy future is doomed. The solar industry represents a flourishing employment sector that has the potential to create hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next few years.

The mainstream media: Some White-Out. It would be nice if the mainstream media could undo the mistakes it made in chastising solar company Solyndra for its DOE loan-guarantee debacle. In reporting so excessively and sensationally on an exception, rather than a rule, mainstream media outlets – including The New York Times and The Washington Post – cast the entire renewable energy industry in a poor light and questioned the justification for government aid of a growing, environmentally responsible industry.

BP: Some oil-covered shrimp cocktail. This year, we did not forget BP’s massive negligence and sin against the environment, as the Gulf still struggles to emerge from the disaster’s aftermath. BP needs a taste of its own medicine – or, perhaps of some oily shrimp for a nice holiday hor d’oeuvre.

Monsanto: A gift card to Whole Foods. Maybe, if Big Ag saw how much better organic food really is, it would stop attempting to overhaul the world’s food supply with a Soylent Green approach to genetically engineering food. Unlikely, but it’s worth a shot.

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity: A reality check and an inhaler. In addition to coal in its stocking (naturally), the ACCCE needs to admit that coal will never be “clean,” and the nation’s reliance on the filthy substance is endangering our children and grandchildren, not to mention future generations.

Alec Baldwin: A train ticket. Traveling by rail should help lower the outspoken actor’s carbon footprint, as well as allow him to avoid future airline conflicts. Besides, you can use your iPhone – and Words with Friends – on trains.

Sustainable nonprofit organizations: Your donations. There are plenty of responsible organizations doing their part to care for the planet and its future. This holiday season, replace a couple of peppermint-mocha lattes (or more) with a donation to your favorite conservation groups – they need your help.

Special thanks to my colleague, Phil Hall, for inspiring this post.

Another Fast-Food Greenwash: KFC Opens ‘Eco-Friendly’ Restaurant

Whether it’s due to a nagging sense of guilt or the pure delusion of PR staffs, greenwashing among fast-food chains appears to be a growing trend. Wendy’s and McDonald’s are just two of the companies to launch “green” campaigns in recent months, and Taco Bell spent a hefty sum defending the quality and sustainability of its “beef.”

The latest offender is KFC, which issued a press release Tuesday touting a new “eco-friendly” restaurant that it claims is helping the city of Indianapolis meet its sustainability goals.

For your amusement, I’ll provide the opening of the company statement:

“While the newest KFC in Indianapolis features the brand’s familiar red and white design scheme, it’s the color ‘green’ that is really going to have people talking.” 

Granted, the building is LEED-certified, according to the release. But we all know that combining the words “sustainable” and “KFC” in one sentence is an oxymoron of the first degree.

Perhaps notably, KFC’s parent company, Yum! Brands, also counts Taco Bell among its brands. I can’t blame the corporation for attaining LEED certification, of course, even if the fast-food chain represents the antithesis of sustainability. Nonetheless, corporate efforts to scheme investors into thinking the company and its products are actually “sustainable” are not only questionable, but outright laughable.

But hey, at least it got me a good chuckle.

Greenwash: Wendy’s Misses The Point

Photo credit:

Add another one to the list: Wendy’s is the latest company to beef up (yes, I went there) its greenwashing rhetoric: The restaurant chain has launched a new PR campaign claiming to “quench consumer demand for healthy beverages.”

The chosen partner, in this case, is Nestle Pure Life Purified brand bottled water, which will be added to the restaurant chain’s menu. According to a combined statement from Wendy’s and Nestle, “Nestle Waters North America aims to be a good neighbor, with a focus on environmental sustainability.”

Right. I don’t think I need to point to the elephant in the room here. Not only does the concept of bottled water epitomize environmental unsustainability, but Nestle has actually faced multiple lawsuits on the very issue, according to a FORTUNE article posted by back in 2007.

I could waste time preaching to the choir about the exorbitant amounts of hydro resources, fossil fuels and non-biodegradable plastic that result from the production of bottled water. But there’s another elephant in the room here: Wendy’s — yes, Wendy’s — is claiming to be “healthy” because it is offering its customers water.

Well, it is “Pure Life” water, after all — it must be good for you, and for the planet. But let’s be honest here. No one goes to Wendy’s to be healthy, much less to save the environment. If the restaurant chain were really concerned about consumers’ health, it would be launching a major overhaul of its brand, menu and practices.

But the question I pose is this: Instead of greenwashing consumers, why not just adopt sustainable offerings and practices? Now, I’m not naive enough to believe that the bottom line doesn’t play a role here. But I’m seriously suggesting that companies devote more of their budgets to actually becoming ambassadors of sustainability, rather than wasting marketing dollars on promoting the illusion of it.

I guess that would be too much work.

USDA Wants Us To Diet, Cares Less About Cancer

Looks like the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is finally getting around to looking out for consumers’ health — to a certain degree.

Under a recently passed rule, beginning Jan. 1, 2012, the USDA will require that packaging on 40 of the most popular cuts of meat and poultry be labeled with nutritional information such as number of calories and fat content, according to a statement from the agency.

The new rule is a slow start at demanding full disclosure of food content, but it raises several questions. First, why is this just now becoming a requirement? And why have our most vulnerable — and potentially dangerous — food products been exempt from these disclosure requirements for so long?

But more importantly, is labeling for nutritional information enough? I would argue that full disclosure of fat and caloric content of food will not stop Americans from indulging in, say, a nice, juicy steak — just like it hasn’t stopped them from eating at McDonalds.

Americans know their cheeseburgers are greasy. What’s still lacking is knowledge — and disclosure from the agricultural behemoths — of the other aspects of our corrupt food system: genetic modification, hormone-induced growth, antibiotic-fed animals, and unsustainable raising methods.

Shouldn’t we demand more? It’s quite clear — for obvious reasons — that the USDA has serious reservations about requiring labels such as this:

“This product contains 100% genetically modified content, and is made from animals fed the following hormones and antibiotics (listed here) until the animal was so fat it could no longer stand up. The contents of this product are also known to cause cancer, so eat at your own risk.”

You may assume from statements like this one that I am part of the PETA crowd, but I am far from a supporter of these kinds of groups. In fact, I am not even a vegetarian — I enjoy meat just as much as the next barbecue fanatic. What I am advocating, however, is full disclosure of the origins and contents of our food — not just it’s nutritional value.

There is no justifiable reason why we, as citizens of this country, should not be informed about the origins and contents of our food. The lack of disclosure, in fact, is what is contributing to the continuation of unsustainable practices. Until the USDA decides to take its efforts a bit farther, the best we can do is continue to support organic farms that use sustainable practices.