Drink natural soda
Thirsty? Whether you're providing refreshments for the neighborhood BBQ, stocking the office fridge, or treating yourself to a fizzy midday pick-me-up, natural sodas offer much of the same as standard sodas but with health- and earth-friendly ingredients that are sometimes organically grown. Drinking natural sodas might even, gasp, be good for you.
Find it! Natural and organic sodas
Soft drinks are the lifeblood for many, but for those living the green life they aren't always the most eco- and health-friendly thirst quenchers. The beverages listed below are a perfect match for greenies with a penchant for pop. All can be found online or at specialty grocers like Whole Foods Market and at health food stores. And remember: after you empty the contents of that can or bottle, find your way to a recycling bin posthaste.
Yes, Virginia, there really are organic soft drinks. Blue Sky's line of Organic Sodas proudly carry the USDA Organic Certified label—all flavors from New Century Cola to Ginger Ale to Black Cherry Cherish contain pure cane sugar and are free of preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, and caffeine.
Since 1891, Boylan's old-fashioned sodas have been held in high regards among pop purists. Never a company to give in to "pop trends," Boylan's continues to use pure cane sugar and the finest ingredients in their beverages. "The Natural Kind" line of sodas includes Black Cherry, Cane Cola, Root Beer, and Creme Vanilla.
Cricket Cola could be considered Coca Cola's trendy green little sister: she's done up with pure cane sugar (Splenda when she's watching her weight), green tea, and kola nut instead of high-fructose corn syrup, phosphoric acids, and chemical caffeine.
Don't you think it's about time you graduated to GuS? These kosher, 100 percent natural "Grown-up Sodas" are preservative- and caffeine-free. The light, refreshing mix of cane sugar, carbonation, and real fruit juices and extracts may have you childishly gulping down a six-pack in no time.
Having a buzzy love affair with both coffee and cola? Look no further than JavaPop, a soda made with organic fair trade coffee from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, organic cane juice, and sparkling filtered water. Available in Espresso, Hazelnut, Vanilla, Mocha, and Caramel flavors.
" ... leave the corn for your cars, and keep the sugar for your soda," encourages Jones Soda, Seattle-based purveyor of bubbly refreshments with eye-catching labels. The company uses GMO-free pure cane sugar in lieu of high-fructose corn syrup, ideal for eco- and health-conscious soda sippers.
Award-winning Reed's is renowned for its Ginger Brews, Virgil's Root Beer and Cream Soda, and China Cola that incorporate natural flavoring from herbs, roots, and spices, not from artificial ingredients and coloring. The sodas are crafted beer-style in small batches at a brewery using solvent-free methods and packaged in recycled bottles.
Healthy and refreshing, Steaz literally puts the green into soda. All flavors—choose from Raspberry, Cola, Ginger Ale, Grape, Orange, Key Lime, Root Beer, and Green Tea with Lemon—are made with Fair Trade Certified green tea, organic cane juice, and natural flavors.
Before you buy
Is it the buzz you're after? You may want to reconsider drinking natural sodas (try switching to organic coffee, if you're so inclined) as many are caffeine-free although they still contain sugar to facilitate that sweet high. And given natural sodas are part of a small but growing niche market that sometimes includes organic ingredients, prices may be higher than their conventional brethren. Also, be aware that terms like "natural" or "100% natural" are not defined or regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and do not guarantee organic-ness.
Drinking natural soda helps you go green because...
- They swap high-fructose corn syrup, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners, flavors, and colors for more earth- and health-friendly ingredients.
- Many natural soda companies follow additional green business practices.
Sweet, sugary, and ubiquitous soda is big business with even bigger eco-impacts. The average American guzzles around 53 gallons of the stuff annually, and on a global scale, it's the third most popular beverage. Along with mounting consumer interest in natural food products, sales of natural sodas have grown as well. From May 2004 to May 2005, sales of natural soft drinks increased 15 percent. Sales of conventional sodas, on the other hand, have dipped slightly with sale volumes falling 1.1 percent in 2006.
Although a bulk of the environmental ills of soda consumption comes from packaging and consumer concerns tend to be health-centric (see Related health issues below), there are other eco-issues that can be avoided by drinking natural sodas or no soda at all. For example, the second largest use of corn in North America (followed by livestock feed) is to make high-fructose corn syrup. The chemical pesticides and fertilizers used in conventional corn production are not only believed to be harmful to human and animal health, but also to pollute ecosystems and waterways.
Most natural sodas replace high-fructose corn syrup with natural ingredients that are sometimes organic. Like other food products, when soda is Certified Organic, its ingredients must meet criteria set forth by the United States Department of Agriculture(USDA). To be officially certified as organic, they must be grown in soil free of toxic pesticides and fertilizers and cannot be genetically modified or irradiated.
The production of sugar, another agricultural ingredient found in many sodas both conventional and natural, is also ripe with eco-dangers. Out of all crops, the World Wildlife Fund considers sugar to be the most harmful to biodiversity. Habitat destruction needed to make way for plantations, the massive amount of water used for irrigation, the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and the discharging of polluted wastewater are all factors. Ecosystems particularly affected by sugar production include Florida's Everglades, Australia's Great Barrier Reef, and rivers in Southeast Asia and Africa.
The big guys go natural
Soft drink behemoth PepsiCo jumped on the natural soda bandwagon by launching Pepsi Raw in early 2008. This "healthy" alternative to conventional Pepsi can be found in a limited number of bars and nightclubs across the UK. Pepsi Raw contains none of the staples of standard Pepsi—high-fructose corn syrup, caffeine, artificial colors, citric and phosphoric acids—and instead contains ingredients like cane sugar, coffee leaf, apple extract, and tantaric acid from grapes. Pepsi Raw also boasts a slightly lower calorie count than Pepsi.
In 2006, Cadbury Schweppes reformulated 7 Up to contain natural ingredients like filtered carbonated water, high-fructose corn syrup, natural citric acid, natural flavors, and natural potassium citrate. After pressure from public interest groups such as the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Cadbury Schweppes halted claims that 7 Up was "100% natural." Detractors felt using such a term was cagey given that high-fructose corn syrup—although originating from corn—goes through a series of very unnatural, complex stages to produce and is linked to diabetes and obesity. The drink now boasts "100% natural flavors."
In 2004, Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi came under fire in India when the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) released reports claiming that beverages produced and marketed in India by both companies contained unsafe levels of pesticides and insecticides like DDT, lindane, malathion, and chlorpyrifos. Drinking these beverages, the reports claimed, could lead to cancer and birth defects, and harm the nervous, reproductive, and immune systems. Following this report, lawmakers called for a ban on both Pepsi and Coke products and "smash-the-bottle" campaigns were initiated across the country. Indian Parliament even stopped selling Pepsi and Coke products in its cafeteria. Both companies fought back, denying the claims, launching counter-attack campaigns, and taking CSE's allegations to court. As of 2006, six Indian states had completely or partially banned the sale of Coke and Pepsi products.
Ironically, a 2004 article in the Guardian revealed that Indian farmers unable to afford pricey chemical pesticides have turned to spraying cotton and chili fields with Coke, Pepsi, and other soft drinks. It's unclear exactly why insects are repelled by these unlikely pesticides, but they have been praised by farmers as being effective, cheap, and safe to handle.
Also in India, a Coca-Cola plant in the village of Plachimada was shuttered in 2004 after pressure from local and global activists. Opponents charged that Coke depleted local water supplies and polluted what scarce supplies remained, rendering the community drinking water toxic.
Related health issues
Soft drinks have long been linked to various health concerns, most notably obesity. Americans drink more carbonated beverages—an edible with no nutritional value that sells better than any other product at grocery stores, including fruit and veggies—than water on a daily basis. In total, Americans take in 67,840 calories per year from soft drinks. It's estimated that soda represents 10 percent of calories in the American diet, an alarming statistic to those tracking the steady climb of American obesity rates. Groups such as the CSPI advocate affixing obesity warnings on pop cans and bottles, similar to the health warnings on a pack of cigarettes.
Aside from obesity, other health issues facing soda sippers include cell damage (caused by the preservative sodium benzoate), osteoporosis (due to mineral-leaching phosphates), gum and tooth disease, and a compromised immune system.
And finally, caffeine, the reason many turn to soda and other drinks like coffee. Caffeine is an addictive stimulate that, when used in excess, can toy with the body's hormones and lead to dizziness, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, heart palpitations, and more. On the positive side, caffeine helps boost metabolic and respiration rates.
In May 2006, beverage industry heavyweights Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Cadbury Schweppes voluntarily removed soft drinks from American elementary, middle, and high schools. Under the agreement, elementary schools cannot serve soda, diet soda, sports drinks, and certain juice drinks. All approved beverages, such as water and orange juice, must be served in containers under 8 ounces. The same rules apply to middle schools, but servings up to 10 ounces are allowed. In high schools, sugar-laden sodas are forbidden but diet sodas and other diet drinks, juices, and sports drinks with under 100 calories per serving are allowed. Approved beverages in high schools cannot be larger than 12 ounces.
The dangers of diet
Although diet soft drinks are usually sans sugar and/or high-fructose corn syrup—thought by researchers to be the source of a chemical chain reaction that can ultimately lead to diabetes—and subsequently contain less calories, these beverages pose another slew of health concerns. Aspartame, an artificial sweetener found in over 6,000 products and commonly referred to as Equal or NutraSweet, is responsible for over 75 percent of adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA. These reactions include anxiety attacks, headaches, joint pain, memory loss, depression, and even seizures and death. Aspartame is composed of three different chemicals: Phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol, a lethal poison. For more on the the dangers of aspartame see Aspartamekills.com.
- food irradiation: The use of radioactive waste to eliminate bacteria and extend the shelf life of various food products.
- genetically modified organism: A GMO results from merging the genetic make-up of two organisms to create a desired byproduct that could otherwise not be found in nature. Engineering GMOs is a common practice in conventional farming, and studies have shown that GMOs pose significant environmental risks, such as killing off living, natural organisms and becoming immune to pesticides.
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- Culinate - Bubbly bonanza
- Plenty Magazine - The Cola Wars
- The Black Table - The Cult of Diet Coke
- Business Week - The Success of Germany's Bionade Soda
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- FiLCHeRS - 7-Up 100% Natural?
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- The Guardian - Things grow better with Coke
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