Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Analysis

Reader 1

Char Miller

Reader 2

Samuel Yamashita

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© 2018 Olivia Lingzhao Whitener


“Local,” “organic,” “natural,” and “Fairtrade” are just several of the many claims adorning the food products that line grocery store shelves. These promises of environmental sustainability and social responsibility are pillars of the “good food revolution” sweeping the nation as consumers demand alternatives to the products of the industrial food system. Green consumerism, the premise that consumer demand for environmentally sustainable goods will bring about ecologically beneficial outcomes, is at the heart of the sustainable food movement. This thesis takes a critical look at the operation of green consumerism in the food system. It explores the ideology and shortcomings of neoliberal consumer-citizenship that informs the “vote with your fork” rhetoric promoted throughout alternative food markets. Examining the plant-based foods movement as a case study, it attempts to shed light on aspects of food production that are obscured by the promises of “conscious consumption,” such as environmental impacts, accessibility, and reinforcement of the dominant dietary and patriarchal paradigm. Ultimately, the emphasis on consumerism as a means to remedy the failures of the industrial food system instead perpetuates social inequalities and environmental exploitation while relieving powerful institutions and the public of the responsibility to enact significant change. This thesis concludes with recommendations for a multi-sectored approach to the good food revolution that incorporates government, corporate, and grassroots action to bring about a truly sustainable food system.