Sustainable, Organic, Local, and Ethical (SOLE) food is part of a larger movement to change the way that people eat, and the sources of their food. Proponents believe that eating food produced this way will help people to live longer, healthier lives, and will also benefit the environment. They also believe that it is important to combine all of the elements of SOLE, as food could be organic but not ethical, or local but not sustainable. It is hoped that this type of food will enhance people's connection to the environment, food producers, and the food itself. Adherents of the movement range from proponents of slow food worldwide to major corporations that are trying to change the way they care for their employees and the world.
The sustainable aspect refers to farming and harvesting processes that are supportable in the long term. For example, a farmer who rotates crops and allows fields to lie fallow is farming sustainably, because the land will continue to support agriculture for centuries if well cared for. A farmer who continually plants the same crop and douses the land in fertilizer is not farming sustainably, because this exhausts the land. Proponents believe that the growing global population is putting intense pressure on the food supply, and that the only way to guarantee food for future generations is to start thinking long term, and farming in a sustainable way.
The term "organic" is a nod to organic agriculture, which is a type of sustainable farming practice. Organic agriculture goes another step, though, and tries to take care of the environment in general by producing food naturally, without the use of herbicides and pesticides. Farmers rotate crops, use natural pest control, and do not use artificial drugs or hormones for their animals. Most organic farmers also adhere to humane standards that dictate the amount of room animals have to move in, and how animals are slaughtered.
Adherents of SOLE food also believe that it is very important to obtain food locally. Food that comes from long distances is highly inefficient, and uses a lot of fossil fuels for transit. Local food also supports the local economy by keeping food dollars in the area rather than in the hands of large companies and agribusinesses. Eating local also allows for a greater connection to the people who produce food, and helps to bridge the gap between city dwellers and farmers, consumers and producers.
In this movement, food should also be ethically produced. Ethical food standards include concepts like Fair Trade, which ensures that people are paid a living wage for their labor. But ethical food is also produced humanely and in a way that benefits the environment. Companies that produce ethical food are expected to pay their workers well, complement the communities they live in, donate to ethical charities, and care about more than just the bottom line of profits.
By combining these four cornerstones, SOLE food proponents believe that they will nourish their bodies and the environments in a healthy way. With rising concerns about food supplies, food contamination, and obesity, many consumers are looking at how they choose foods and the way food is produced globally. It is also hoped that a growing demand for sustainable, organic, local, ethical food will result in higher production and lower prices, making it accessible to all consumers, not merely the wealthy.