Is organic food really better for people — and the planet? Filmmaker Kip Pastor endeavors to answer that question in his documentary "In Organic We Trust" (available On Demand and on iTunes starting Jan. 22) as he explores social and economic aspects of our food system and its impact on our health. Pastor, who has produced and directed short films documentaries and music video and is also a journalist, gave MNN his insights into the topics he chronicles on screen.
MNN: Where did you get the idea for the film?
Kip Pastor: I became a filmmaker because I believe that film is the most effective medium for disseminating big ideas and affecting change. The story for "In Organic We Trust" weaves together environmental, social and economic issues with something that we all do everyday — eat. Food provides a complete path for us to better understand our world, what we’re doing wrong, and how to create a more sustainable society. "In Organic We Trust" explores how these issues relate and impact our world and what people are doing to make a difference.
Why was it important to you to tell this story?
Before I began making "In Organic We Trust," I thought that I was a healthy, conscientious eater. I looked at labels, ate fruits and veggies, and avoided fast food as much as I could. But the more and more that I learned about our agriculture system and the consequences that our systems have on public health and the environment, the more I realized how much everything is connected. Our personal choices make a difference not just for us but also for everyone else. I was compelled to show people how we can positively impact our own lives and those of our communities. I learned a tremendous amount, and it has profoundly changed my life.
What are some examples?
One scary thing is that while we ban some of the most harmful chemical pesticides in this country, they are still used in other countries where they can hurt farmers, their workers, their families and the environment. Sometimes, they can even come back to us in contaminated imported foods. Although certified organic is a $30 billion enterprise, it represents only roughly 1 percent of farmland. It is not the only way to reshape agriculture and improve public health. We have to think bigger. Along those lines, I was blown away by the ingenious and powerful solutions that individuals and communities are doing to combat our agricultural and public health problems. "In Organic We Trust" explores many of these new models at the Watkins School in Washington, D.C., and the Calhoun School in New York City.
Have you changed your diet as a result of making the film?
I’ve changed many things in my life already and continue to change. It has been less about the things that I don’t do anymore and more about the things that I do more often. I shop at farmers markets more, and I pay more attention to the restaurants that I frequent and where/how they source their food. I don’t exclusively eat organic, but I try very hard to only eat food that is chemical-free, in season, and grown by someone I know. It’s important for me because I know that pesticides are dangerous for people and the environment. By eating seasonally, I am reducing my carbon footprint, supporting local growers, and enjoying the diversity of every time of the year. What I eat affects how I feel daily, and it impacts our world in the long term. Although I was a practicing vegetarian for several years, I enjoy some meat and fish. I try to limit the amount of red meat that I eat. I religiously practice Meatless Mondays as a good way to start off the week. It’s a very intentional approach to avoid meat that usually carries over several days into each week. It’s been a great conversation starter as well.
What do you want viewers to take away from the documentary?
The most important parts of the film are the solutions. I wanted to make a film that examined problems and provided solutions for you and me and society at large. We can all make different choices in our own lives, but even more importantly, to really create change, we need to make different choices as a society. What we eat affects our own personal health as well as the health of the environment for generations to come. One of the most profound things that we can do is to have gardens in schools, teach children about nutrition by growing something, learning how to cook it, and serve it to them for lunch. I believe that we can fundamentally reverse many of our public health problems in one generation if we teach kids how to grow healthy food, what to eat, and how to prepare it. Can you imagine a world full of young farmers? That’s the future we need. We can grow something good for everyone, and change will happen from the soil up.
What was done during production to reduce the film's carbon footprint?
During pre-production, we made a very intentional plan to reduce our carbon footprint wherever we could. Having worked in production for years, I knew that filmmaking can be extremely wasteful and inefficient. I sought out leaders in the Green Production space to advise me on how to make a film with fewer environmental consequences. I took a class on “How to Green Your Production” offered by the Burbank Green Alliance and also received a Resource Management Certification from California Resource Recovery Association. In order to take that education one step further, I volunteered at events around Los Angeles to better understand people’s waste patterns. There are many categories where environmental waste and carbon usage can be reduced and made more efficient. We focused on five: travel, food, crew, paper and electricity. We succeeded in greatly reducing our carbon footprint by using energy-efficient vehicles, eating seasonally and locally, hiring regionally, and minimizing electricity usage. We tracked our carbon footprint throughout production by keeping count of the miles traveled, paper used, and the electricity used in production and post-production. We worked with SNP Patagonia Sur to calculate what those emissions would total, and we purchased carbon offsets from them. We were recently honored with a Special Mention for the Green Award given at the Planet in Focus Film Festival for our diligent work throughout production to reduce our carbon footprint.
What about your personal green practices?
I do as much as I can to reduce my carbon footprint on a daily basis. At all times, I carry a metal water bottle, cloth bags, and a bamboo set of utensils. There is never a good reason to purchase a plastic water bottle or use a plastic bag. Although I live in the very car-centric city of Los Angeles, I walk as much as possible. I think little actions can have a profound impact on the environment and other people’s behavior. Not only am I personally reducing my carbon footprint, but I also hope that my example helps to change the actions of others.
Do you have another film in the works?
We are currently in the research/fundraising stage of my next film that focuses on waste and toxicity in people and the environment. When we throw things away, they stay in our environment and impact us. Many of these chemicals are found in our daily lives and don’t break down in the environment or our bodies. Like "In Organic We Trust," it will be a solution-based film that will expose problems and offer tangible alternatives for people as individuals and society as a whole.
DVDs of the film are also available at InOrganicWeTrust.org.