MAP Co-Sponsors Seattle Greendrinks Event
Whenever we go shopping at the grocery store, we are often overwhelmed by the different eco-certification labels plastered over our food packaging: USDA Organic, Non-GMO, Fairtrade, Certified Humane, and many, many more. It can be difficult to sift through all of these labels to find those that really mean something, and really reflect our concerns as consumers.
This past Tuesday, November 10th, the Mangrove Action Project sponsored the November Happy Hour for Seattle Greendrinks, joined by five other amazing organizations: Washington Fair Trade Coalition, The Domestic Fair Trade Association, the Seattle Aquarium, Pinchot University, and Central Co-op. This diverse group of organizations presented information about their work, as well as the way eco-labels come into the picture for them. Conversations throughout the night spanned topics like sustainable seafood, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, human rights, sustainable agriculture education, truly just and fair trade both internationally and domestically, and how labeling impacts our lives.
Sara Lavenhar of MAP gave a short presentation on how eco-labels inform where our food comes from, both geographically and in the context of how food is grown or raised, how workers are treated and much more. She quickly made it clear how confusing eco-labels can be when there are hundreds of them, many of which appear to cover the same ground, exemplified by the 20+ labels for organic food, and 15 labels relating to carbon emissions and neutrality.
Although MAP might seem like an oddity at such an event, she brought to light that labeling is actually deeply connected to our work with mangroves through the Question Your Shrimp campaign. The certification standards used for farmed, imported shrimp fall far short of what is needed, and in particular ignore the plight of mangroves and mangrove communities alike.
“It’s telling when you come to an event like this with a hundred very smart, very engaged people who still don’t know much about this topic,” she said after the event. “Shrimp is just one piece of a very big puzzle, but the deep and destructive impact is not well enough understood by the general public. That’s why we’re here – to educate people and help them make healthier, more sustainable choices.”
But the night was not meant to be yet another soap-box rant on the doom-and-gloom of our current global food system. Sara encouraged attendees to ask questions, and provided resources that could help each of them make decisions about what labels they wanted to support. In particular, she highlighted a tool from the ISEAL Alliance called Challenge the Label, which outlines a series of questions for consumers to ask when considering an eco-label. Throughout the event space were more than twenty labels and resources that attendees could explore using tools provided, as well as engage with the sponsoring organizations who could help consumers navigate labels that related to their work.
MAP was very proud to sponsor this event. It was wonderful to invite other organizations to participate, some of whom we have worked very closely with in the past. We would like to thank Central Co-op for being our food sponsor, Friends of Waterfront Seattle for donating the space, and Katie Auker of Greendrinks for all of her help in organizing the event with us. We look forward to many more events!