I'm still hashing out what exactly I want to consider "the loop". As I phrased it to a friend yesterday (albeit in a cliched way), "how far down the rabbit hole am I going to take this?". Once you start thinking about the chain of everything you consume or everything you wear or every gadget you use to get you through the day, it starts getting at least mildly overwhelming. Even companies that most folks who try to be ecologically conscious try to support have been acquired by behemoth companies. Burt's Bees sold to Clorox in 2007, Tom's of Maine is owned by Colgate-Palmolive, Stoneyfield Farm Yogurt is owned by Danone (although the original CEO, Elliot Hirshberg, is part of the board of Dannon USA so he's still directly involved). Cascadian Farms? Owned by General Mills. Odwalla? Owned by Coca Cola Co. Dagoba chocolate? Owned by Hershey (my heart broke a little when I learned that). And then there are those situations in which the chain turns more into a web. Back to Nature (cereal producer) is own by Kraft Foods (the very same company who brings you Kool Aid and "cheese" slices) but Kraft itself is a subsidiary of Altria who also owns Phillip Morris. You won't find this info by looking on the packaging; you have to dig. Or, in my case, read other people's research. Credit for the all of the aforementioned information goes to Andrea Whitfill and her article "Burt's Bees, Tom's of Maine, Naked Juice: Your Favorite Brands? Take Another Look." The original can be found here: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_17306.cfm.
EDIT: I just found this site that uses flow charts to show you who owns what. Check it out! https://www.msu.edu/~howardp/organicindustry.html
This isn't to say that these original companies are "bad". It would be easy to draw a line and say "these are bad" and "these are good", "buy these" and "don't buy these". I think what I want to change for myself and for others is the dissolution of the idyllic illusion that when you buy products from companies like Tom's and Burt's Bees that you're directly supporting some small farmer or producer. And we should definitely keep in mind that most of these companies probably didn't set out to be acquired by conglomerates for billions of dollars. Most of them just wanted to make a pure, healthy, responsible product.
So what's the answer? To quote Winona Ryder, "the answer is, I don't know." Yeah that's right. I just quoted Reality Bites, but it's applicable. I don't know. My partner (Ed) and I are starting to make some of our own household products. He's been toying around with various toothpaste recipes and I have a few homemade deodorant recipes I plan on trying. But it leads to more questions. What company manufactures the baking soda and hydrogen peroxide we use for the toothpaste, and who owns them? How about the vinegar we use as a hair rinse? This brings me back to the rabbit hole. How far down and what are the consequences/sacrifices/benefits?
I was going to try to include a source or reference or video in every one of my posts but that just seemed slightly overzealous, so starting today I am creating "mentionable Mondays" in which I'll post a few people or bits of new or a book that are helping me (and hopefully, you) navigate our present world. I'm not paid by or working for anyone I recommend. I just want to spread some helpful resources. Here are today's!
Jim Hightower: author, radio program host, populist, political agitator. His books, Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go with the Flow, There's Nothing In the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos: A Work of Political Subversion, Thieves in High Places: They've Stolen Our Country and It's Time to Take It Back, and If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote, They Would've Given Us Candidates, are great (often hilarious) illustrations of the corporate takeover of the US government as well as profiles of folks who are trying, and succeeding, in making their own paths. You can also follow him on twitter and on his website here: http://www.hightowerlowdown.org/
The Corporation: a documentary filmed by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbot, and Joel Balkan. I watched this last night and while it takes a hefty chunk of your night to get through, about 2.5 hours, it was worth it. It's a great introduction to corporations and the history that's allowed them to become so powerful. Here's their site: http://www.thecorporation.com/. Plus, they run a psychological profile on corporations like you would on a human and it turns out that they're psychopaths. Que sorpresa.