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Beverages & Liquor

Soft drink brands are backed by huge lifestyle marketing campaigns, which mask their common recipe: water and lots of high fructose corn syrup. Is it worth it to boycott those household brands, which are after all much cheaper than organic beverages? The ethics of satisfying your thirst brings up serious issues of health, the environment, energy use, and treatment of the workers, especially in developing nations.

Coffee, Tea & Chocolate

The United States consumes one-fifth of all the world's coffee, making it the largest consumer in the world. But few Americans realize that agriculture workers in the coffee, tea and chocolate industries often toil in what can be described as "sweatshops in the fields."

Fast Food

They don't call it "junk food" for nothing. Should fast food be avoiding completely—or can you live with the occasional Big Mac Attack? Recently, fast food has come under attack in print (Fast Food Nation) and film (Super Size Me), which has led chains to go on the defensive when charged with causing an obesity epidemic in America. Yet, how much responsibility should the chains shoulder? Is it not consumer choice to buy a salad and not a Big Mac?

Meat & Fish

Ask a vegetarian or vegan where to find an "ethical" hamburger, and you'll get the obvious answer. It doesn't exist. For those of us who enjoy a juicy burger or nice piece of fish, we need to ask ourselves how much we know about how the meat or fish is treated, killed, and prepared—and the effect on animal populations and the environment.

Packaged Products

Walk into a grocery store, deli, or discount warehouse and you are confronted with a myriad of ethical questions. The store itself may present an initial problem. How do the mega-chains impact the environment, treat their workers, and effect local businesses? The products inside may come from massive corporations. By the time food is manufactured and wrapped in layer after layer of packaging, it could be robbed of much of its value. How should the ethical shopper navigate the aisles of packaged, frozen, and canned products.

Stores & Markets

In recent years, health food chains—in particular Whole Foods, Wild Oats, and Trader Joe's—have received blessings from a wide range of activists for providing health and organic foods to the consuming public. Yet, ethical questions persist. While all three have worked to provide more organic foods, they have also resisted unions. Local health and organic stores have been driven out of business by the chains, which are—after all—supermarket businesses. Is the local shop or farmer's market the only refuge?

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Don't Buy It

  • Racial profiling and discrimination
  • Genetic Engineering and Monopolistic behavior = Monsanto
  • Unethical marketing of baby formula in developing nations
  • Altria? Formerly known as Philip Morris
  • Weapons-maker. Multiple environmental offender.