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Once upon a time, humans foraged, hunted, and grew our own food. We have since lost that connection with that which nourishes us. The process that our food undergoes before it reaches the supermarket shelves is mostly unknown to us, and often the only information we have is the sticker on our bananas that says "Ecuador." In 1990, the FDA instituted the requirement that all packaged foods bear accurate nutrition labeling, which provides some information about the product. Since around then, organic certification has spawned awareness about chemicals and other unnatural food additives, which are potentially harmful to both the consumer and the environment. There is still very little information available to the consumer, and little accountability on the part of businesses to embrace sustainable, environmentally friendly production practices. As toxic pollutants accumulate in our environment and global warming becomes a threat to our longevity as a species, we are realizing that disregarding the environment's health equates to disregarding our own health. But this awareness is still only beginning to emerge. Designbreak proposes to create a label that indicates a measure of a product's ecological footprint, which allows consumers to make choices about the products they buy in terms of how it helps the environment.

We plan to start at the local level, a grassroots approach that is in step with the current philosophy of sustainable practices. The designbreak team will research products found on local supermarket shelves and index their "FoodPrint" based on several different criteria. We will keep a database of the information online here. We will then approach local businesses and ask that they incorporate "FoodPrints" onto their products. The options here include a) labels that accompany each product, b) labels that are posted on the shelves, and c) terminals that scan UPC barcodes and print on screen information from the FoodPrint database.

The label will consist of two basic elements: a numeric FoodPrint index that ranks the product's ecological footprint, and a green footprint logo if the index is below a certain value. The overall index will be composed of three indices that embody an easy-to-understand paradigm which promotes "green" thinking. The three indices will be called: Planet, People, and Progress. Planet represents the large scale impact the production methods have on the environment. People estimates the product's standalone health impact upon the individual based on current scientific knowledge. Progress is a measure of how the company has changed to embrace environmentally sustainable practices, and what they are doing to offset their impact.