The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) says that “localism is ultimately about building communities that are healthy, equitable, and regenerative.” The sentiments of localism are embedded in our pages, along with those of over 90 Edible Communities publications across North America, and promoted by advocates for our local food system. But in the midst of a new level of social awareness, this niche bubble of local food activism might be starting to feel a little like food supremacy.
While some foodie purists have the best intentions, there is a challenge in balancing their knowledge and ability to pay with the reality of San Diego County, where one in six residents face food insecurity.
"Healthy, equitable and regenerative" communities means that while it might be ideal for everyone to buy locally-grown, organic produce in season, we can affirm positive choices when people purchase and eat fresh vegetables and wholesome foods, wherever they shop. In other words, in today's globalized world, "local" is one goal among many.
If we're talking about sustainability, we're going to have to slow down, sit down, and discuss what makes sense for us all individually, for our families, communities and beyond. Big box retailers might look like the enemy, but they offer scale to both producers and shoppers. Medium-sized chains and hyper-local businesses offer different advantages. If our food system is like an ecosystem, this diversity brings resilience and opportunity. Here in San Diego County, our local-global conversation needs to include some big players who have not only chosen to base their global operations here, but exemplify some downright awesome sustainability practices.
Year established: 1948
Products: Body care, come Care, and organic virgin coconut oil
Global locations: Serendipol (co-brand) Sri Lanka; and Dr. Bronner’s Germany
Background: The worldly popular maker of pure-castile soap products is currently run by brothers David Bronner CEO (Cosmic Engagement Officer) and Michael Bronner, president, and grandsons of founder and third-generation soap maker Emanuel Bronner. Dr. Bronner’s became Fair Trade certified in 2007 and is the largest personal care product company certified organic by the USDA.
Things they are doing right: In 2016 the company contributed 40.9% of profit before taxes to support regenerative agriculture, drug policy reform, wage equality, fair trade, Fair Pay Today, youth and community services, and more. Locally, they have been contributing to the Boys and Girls Club of San Diego for over 22 years, and they support other community organizations like the 100 Wave Challenge and the Oceanside Autism Center. A ribbon-cutting ceremony in September 2017 at the Vista soap factory celebrated a 356-kilowatt solar power system that meets half of the facilities electricity needs; and features drought tolerant landscaping, complete with bio-swales that will save over 600,000 gallons of water annually.
Year established: 1996
Global locations: Richmond, Virginia; and Berlin, Germany
Products: Craft beer, food service
Background: Founded by Greg Koch and Steve Wagner, Stone Brewing is the ninth-largest craft brewer in the world and has been involved in the International Slow Food Movement since 2000. The gargoyle in the logo wards off cheap ingredients, pasteurization, and chemical additives.
Things they are doing right: Stone Bistros use in-season, locally grown, organic small-farm produce and 100% naturally raised meats. The award-winning gardens at World Bistro & Gardens offers a Meatless Monday menu complete with the Impossible Burger, and last year’s Full Circle Pale Ale was made with 100% recycled wastewater. This limited IPA was made in partnership with the City of San Diego to support the Pure Water Initiative, proving that purified water is good for everyday use. Stone further demonstrates social responsibility by raising money for California’s 2017 fire victims, and Puerto Rico’s residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. And, they support small and startup brewers with a $100 million “True Craft” brewery angel investment fund.
Location: San Diego
Year established: 1899
Global locations: Cape May, New Jersey; New Brunswick, Canada; and Bangkok Thailand
Products: Shelf-stable seafood
Background: Bumble Bee Seafoods was founded in 1899 by seven canners in Astoria, Oregon, who began processing and canning salmon. They established the Harbor Industry Cannery in San Diego in 1977. Although canning now takes place in Los Angeles, Bumble Bee’s headquarters are located in the East Village, sharing an entrance with Petco Park.
Things they are doing right: Bumble Bee’s stylish downtown headquarters may have been awarded LEED Silver certification for clever design that incorporates repurposed fishing gear, but it’s their impressive conservation efforts that have caught our attention. Bumble Bee is so committed to sustainably managing major fisheries, they founded the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation in 2009, comprised of 75% of the world’s shelf-stable seafood corporations, scientists, and the World Wildlife Fund. In 2016, they also joined the Seafood Task Force, an organization focused on providing supply chain oversight, addressing social issues such as human trafficking and slavery, and environmental issues such as overfishing. Bumble Bee’s products also come with a traceability feature—a Trace Your Can code printed on products. Entering your can’s code on the company’s website will tell you what kind of fish is in the can, the fishery location, harvest and vessel info, where the fish was processed, and where it was canned. While you won’t find tuna from American flagged vessels in their cans, this new level of transparency is commendable.