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Back to the start

April 26th, 2012

Nearly every person I know loves Chipotle. Whether it’s the $1.80 guacamole, the allure of a baby-sized burrito or the feeling of immobility that comes after finishing one or two, the Mexican grill has become a regular spot for many college students when the dining hall just won’t do the trick. During the Super Bowl, this quality quick serve restaurant bought a two-minute commercial spot that brought to light a foundational part of their business philosophy that many customers were probably unaware of: their dedication to purchasing sustainably cultivated vegetables and ethically raised animals.

The commercial is titled “Back to the start” and features a Willy Nelson cover of the Coldplay song “The Scientist.” It shows a pleasant animated family farm raising pigs and cows. The farmer builds a fence, then barn which contain the animals. These buildings eventually transform into industrial buildings that pollute bodies of water and churn out overweight pigs pumped with chemicals. The farmer then tears down the barn to release free roaming cows, pigs and chickens and getting everything back to the happy, sustainable way it started.

I have heard stories from relatives of the way the farming and purchasing of food used to be. Food was bought from local farms and supported one’s local community. The tomatoes were always deep red and the chicken juicy and flavorful.

While I’ve expressed in the past my disapproval of the agricultural revolution, I realize that we must work to improve our current situation instead of dwelling on the ways of the past.

Sure, pasture-raising animals is more expensive, more difficult and produces less than industrial-sized farms. However, it is argued that when animals are not crammed in cages, fed grains, given antibiotics, having their genome manipulated and living in insufferable conditions they are happier and thus healthier. This movement  is spreading and persuading a lot of people to rethink the ethics of food. It is no longer solely about what you put in your body but the quality and care that goes into that food.

Even though people have put together the pieces of the puzzle concerning the happiness and health of animals, most continue to fail to draw the same correlation between happiness and the health of our own species.

Raising happier animals requires them to be raised in a more free environment, closely resembling a natural habitat. In the beginning of humanity we roamed freely on the plains, grazing scavenging and hunting.

Our industrial minds are impregnated with delusions of the glories of being productive. People sit in cubicles or at desks, hunched over computers, uncomfortable, stressed and overworked.

Everyone knows that student that everyone thinks is a slacker. His productivity is terrible and everyone believes he is mostly useless to society. I am that kid. From my experience, I know that we need to get out and roam the plains and mountains once in a while. If not, I’ll just be distracted by my desire to do so.

But, companies are beginning to discover that creating a work environment that encourages freedom of body and spirit cause their workers to be happier and thus more productive and creative.

Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia Inc., wanted his business to encourage employees to pursue their outdoor passions in the hope that they would be enthusiastic about coming to work. Under this principle, the company continues and has been named one of Outside Magazine’s 50 Best Places to Work. The other companies on the list similarly have alternative work environments with flexible hours, encouraging rewards and pursuit of passions. As a result, the companies are not only successful, but the employees volunteer and give back to the community and environment. Those companies realize that unhappy people are unhealthy people. Healthiness results in higher quality production.

Forcing perfection only pushes us further from it. Pressuring the earth to produce only plunders the soil of its richness. Badgering and constraining people only robs them of physical and emotional strength and therefore motivation and productivity.

To continue to progress we must cease to destroy. To move forward in the right direction requires getting back to the start of sustainability of the earth and its denizens.