There’s no getting around it: shopping for food in an ethical and sustainable manner is difficult. The information needed to do so can be hard to find, and is in many cases unknowable to a non-expert. Transparency is not a main prerogative for most products offered in groceries or restaurants. Far from it — products claiming to be organic or healthy are often that in name only.
Enter: HowGood, Happy Cow and Seafood Watch.
Continuing a recent series of posts on technology and sustainability (see earlier posts here and here), the Clean Fairfax blog will explore several mobile applications that can help you shop for food in a more sustainable manner!
HowGood is a rating system and app that helps shoppers understand growing guidelines, processing practices and company conduct behind each product. Walk into any HowGood affiliated store (Giant Food is currently the only partner in Fairfax County — with more coming soon) and pay attention to the labels. Many products will have HowGood “Good” “Great” or “Best” ratings on their tags, relating to their overall sustainability scores. How are these ratings created? HowGood collects comprehensive information on products from the USDA, Fair Trade USA, Rainforest Alliance and 350 other sources, and rates according to 70 different indicators. Using your phone, you can also scan any barcode in the store and view a breakdown of a product’s rating, or better yet you can map out your entire grocery list using the app. The days of wondering if that box of granola is actually organic or sustainable are over!
A go-to app for vegetarians and vegans, Happy Cow is Yelp for sustainable dining and grocery shopping. The concept is simple: vegetarians want to know which restaurants are truly amenable to their green lifestyles, and just as importantly, they want to know which restaurants have the best food. Download, search, enjoy. Enough said!
Much to the chagrin of conservation groups, it seems that anything goes out on the open seas. Unsustainable fishing practices are unfortunately still commonplace today, literally leading to classic cases of tragedy of the commons. In response to overfishing, Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch is taking a novel approach to this issue by helping consumers and businesses make better seafood choices for a healthy ocean. The Seafood Watch app keeps consumers informed about the latest recommendations on which fisheries are currently sustainable. More on Seafood Watch’s recommendations:
Buy “Best Choice” recommendations first, they’re well managed and caught or farmed in ways that cause little harm to habitats or other wildlife. You can also buy “Good Alternative” recommendations but be aware there are concerns with how they’re caught or farmed. Don’t buy “Avoid” recommendations because they’re overfished or caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment. — Seafood Watch
For example, Seafood Watch currently suggests that Virginians buy farmed Arctic Char and Tilapia, but urges residents to avoid imported Mahi Mahi and Bluefin Tuna. See a fish that sounds delicious on a menu or at the fishmonger? You can search specific fish on the app to see if it’s a sustainable choice.
Increasingly, there are less and less excuses not to shop for food in an ethical way. Step up!