This post was originally written for the fabulous and always hilarious brokeassstuart.com
Make Better ‘Bad’ Decisions: Soda
No one actually thinks that drinking soda or ‘pop‘ as I proudly call it, is good for you. It’s full of chemicals and sugar, it pollutes the environment, the large soda corporations have a history of poor working conditions and wages (something most people do not even realize) … it’s just ‘bad.’ If you’re like me, you’re constantly proclaiming your plans to give it up – we all know we’re not, so let’s instead find a way to make a better ‘bad’ decision when it comes to drinking our pop.
Why It’s Actually Bad for You
The extra sugar and high-fructose corn syrup is linked to diabetes, increased risk of heart attack and stroke. It’s riddled with GMOs as high-fructose corn syrup is one of the most common GMO ingredients, and if you think regular sugar is better – you’re shit outta luck since that is often sourced from genetically modified sugar beets, obviously aspartame isn’t better since besides it being chemicals it’s comprised of corn and soy, which is another highly GMO-ified ingredient. It also contains phosphates, preservatives that have been linked to kidney disease and accelerated aging.
Really trying to avoid GMOs? Check out this Non-GMO Shopping Guide.
Why It’s Actually Bad for the Environment
Obviously all that packaging does a number on the environment, but let’s quickly break it down:
The Plastic Bottle
These bad boys are comprised of 25% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and 75% fossil fuel based plastic, and they’re doing some serious harm to the environment. While the bottled water industry takes the most heat for it, that 20-ouncer of coke is packaged the exact same way.
They’re made from virgin aluminum, which is hella environmentally destructive to mine. The aluminum industry uses a crap ton of electricity, as much as the entire continent of Africa, and leaves behind a ton of toxic chemicals for every ton of the metal produced.
The Glass Bottle
These cool looking retro-style glass bottles have twice the carbon footprint of the can due to the heavier transportation loads – this means more fuel is required.
A study by German researchers discovered that artificial sweeteners may actually be contaminating our drinking water since sewage treatment plants apparently sort of suck as removing them from waste water – I know, super gross.
Why It’s Actually Bad for Humanity
Since my personal brand focuses on making kindness badass and fucking people over less, this is the largest issue I want this article to address. Most people do not even realize the shenanigans that go on behind the scenes of many large corporations. Basically, the larger a corporation, the more room for fuckery. And by fuckery I mean human rights violations, mistreatment of workers and the point that there are an estimated 27 million modern-day slaves. For example, the palm oil industry is one particular ripe with forced labor.
Due to the tremendous size of these multi-national corporations, it’s difficult to ensure that a worker in Botswana receives the same treatment and rights as one in Canada. Fortunately there are services and websites that keep tabs on and score companies in terms of workers rights, land rights, environmental impact, etc.
image from Killer Coke
Behind The Brands gave Coca-Cola a score of 54%. The company received an 8 out of 10 in lands rights, after being the first to adopt “zero tolerance” for land grabs throughout its supply chain. A 6 out of 10 for workers rights; they have strong policies towards workers but still need to recognize and act on the issue of low wages. Receiving only a 2 out of 10 in farmers rights, this is one area where Coca-Cola really needs to step up its game.
image from Politics of Poverty
PepsiCo scored a 43%. One of their higher scores was land rights, where they earned a 7 out of 10 in after being the second to commit to ‘zero tolerance’ for land grabs. It seems as though its in the areas of people, where the company scores the lowest. The company received a 3 out of 10 in workers rights due to their failure for enacting a system to identify high-risk countries for forced labor and low wages. A 2 out of 10 in both farmers rights (same as Coca-Cola) and women’s rights (Coca-Cola at least got a 6) is a high indicator that the company needs to clean up its act. It’s incredibly unfortunate that the farmers, those in charge of growing and harvesting the actual non-chemical ingredients, get the rawest deal.
How to Make Your ‘Bad’ Decision a Little Better
As I so eloquently wrote earlier, the bigger the corp, the more room for fuckery. There’s a higher probability that smaller companies support and actually enforce ethical practices, and are better prepared to stand by the upholding of those policies and practices.
While water is obviously the best choice in terms of … everything – if you have a soda habit, you still want a fix. When you just eliminate your habit, you gotta fill that void otherwise that vice will return … so, here’s a list of alternatives that are better for you, the environment (make sure you still recycle), and humanity as their practices are more aligned with the concept of less fuckery.
The brand behind this sweet drink is big on transparency; they want you to know exactly where the ingredients in your drink come from. Made with organic blue weber agave (like tequila), which requires little cultivation, making it ideal for organic certification. Those that harvest the crop in Mexico earn wages that are 6 times the federal minimum.
This zero calorie, sparkling green tea drink is sweetened with stevia and erythritol (a natural sugar alcohol) and fortified with vitamin B12. Steaz promotes sustainable farming practices and is committed to being a responsible member of the global community and is both Fair Trade Certified and Certified Organic. Workers are guaranteed safe working conditions and a fair price for their crops.
Since 1980, the California-based company has been making their beverages with stevia, and without preservatives or artificial colors. Part of the Hansens’ brand, their product lineup even contains an energy drink for those who want a somewhat better-for-you redbull.
The zero calorie soda is one of my personal favs. It swaps stevia for artificial sweeteners and is available in 15 flavors. And soon, it will be clear and non GMO. (Remember Crystal Pepsi? Clearly Pepsico was ahead of its time in 1992.) Another reason why I dig Zevia: there’s coupons on their website.
Water is better for you (obvs) but if you’re craving a fix, these are at least a better bad decision in terms of health. In regard to workers rights, which is a huge issue, it was hard to find a ton of information beyond what I discussed. But smaller companies tend to get away with less shit (mo’ money, mo’ problems) and companies committed to better health are typically set on holding their operations to a higher level of integrity, i.e., environment and workers rights. One of the most direct ways we can help put an end to the mistreatment of workers, domestic and abroad, is to only support corporations that are transparent with the conditions of their workers. Let your dollars speak to what you support and stand for. If we make enough of a stink, companies will be forced to clean up their acts.
If you don’t feel like doing your research, just shop at co-ops, such as Rainbow in San Francisco. They do the research so you don’t have to. My favorite co-op is Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco. Check this directory to find a co-op near you. If your favorite soda alternative didn’t make the list, leave it in the comments.
Here’s to enjoying your better, bad decision.