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Last Updated:

Sunday, May 30, 2004




The United States, with less than five per cent of the world’s people, consumes over twenty-five percent of its resources.

And that’s not even the bad news: the really scary news is that the rest of the planet is scrambling to catch up with our lifestyle. If all 6.4 billion people did so, we’d need four more Earths to accommodate them.

In response, the Sierra Club Sustainable Consumption Committee is has launched a new, national grassroots campaign. It’s focused on the one major aspect of American consumption that’s probably the easiest to change: our dietary lifestyle. American food production has a huge impact on the environment and the Club expends enormous resources fighting the symptoms of unsustainable agriculture, from water pollution and toxins in the food chain to loss of habitat and species.

What the Club has not previously done is to seriously challenge the root cause of the above: American food consumption patterns. By and large, our diet is so unsustainably produced that it jeopardizes not just the environment but also our health. Our diet completely ignores the true cost of food.

We’re responding with the “True Cost of Food” campaign to make the Club a leader in sustainable eating: Our goal is an America that eats:

  • Low on the food chain.

  • Organically produced food.

  • Locally grown food when practical.

The first prong of this campaign is building a nationwide network of activists who will target local markets to provide more food that is organically grown, locally produced, and reasonably priced. These goals are practical and doable. There already exists a pent-up public demand for organic. Rapidly growing numbers of local farmers want to give up their dependence on poisons. And the Sierra Club already has the ideal structure and experience to galvanize this movement.

The second prong is educational. We’re producing brochures and fact sheets for activists, and articles for local newsletters. We’re completely redoing our website: This campaign has one special advantage: It shows environmentally minded people how they can immediately start making a big difference in their everyday lives. That’s empowerment. And empowered people are already halfway to becoming activists.

The Club’s traditional work on forests, habitat, clean air, and so forth must be strengthened. And few things will help more than addressing one root cause of these problems, the wasteful and excessive consumption in our society. That’s where the Sustainable Consumption Committee comes in. Switching consumer demand to low-impact food is our current focus area, but we will also educate on sustainable wood production, energy use, water consumption, and related issues. Furthermore, we plan to talk about the Madison-Avenue-driven, buy-and-consume craze that has virtually become our national religion.

We’d love to have you get involved at any level of activity you’re comfortable with. Please contact the Club’s volunteer coordinator, Gordon LaBedz at

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