Millennials showing the world they can change it

Kelsey Goldstein

Kelsey created the website Get Cultured Kitchen that features environmentally-minded and humanely-run ethical businesses while educating others on how to incorporate sustainability into their own lifestyles.

Q: How did your interest in activism and Get Cultured Kitchen begin?

A: It really started when I moved out on my own and became in charge of where I get my food and clothing from. When I moved to Los Angeles, I wanted to find places where I could find ethically-sourced food, but I had a very difficult time finding any information. I had to do a lot of digging and I thought, “wouldn’t it be so great if there was just a resource where people could go and find businesses around them that are ethical? Or just generally learn about how to live a greener, sustainable, more mindful life? That’s when I decided that I wanted to start the Get Cultured Kitchen blog.

It was originally going to be part ethical foods, part fermentation and things like that –that’s why it’s called Get Cultured Kitchen – not only food culture but cultured food. I still have recipes on there, because eating in season and buying local ingredients cut back on the fossil fuels used to transport our food, but it’s not a focus anymore. It’s more about caring about your well-being and in turn the well-being of the environment and the people who are working to bring you what you have.

Q: It really is connected to our culture of food though because we are disconnected from how we get our food in a lot of ways. We’re more accustomed to instant gratification and getting food as fast as possible rather than investing in the quality of food.

A: It’s funny because I started paying attention to our disconnection from our food  and how it is produced first. Then I started paying attention to that aspect of clothing then that aspect of electronics. It clicked with me one moment when I realized that exploitation applies to absolutely everything that we consume. That stapler we buy, just like clothing, is made by sweatshop workers in third world countries. I don’t know why it took me such a long time to make that connection, but I think that’s true for a lot of people. Ignorance is bliss. I think that’s where something like Get Cultured Kitchen can be really helpful because it takes people out of that dark space where we don’t see the exploitation that surrounds so much of our lives. We have to stay educated and diligent, because advertisers know ignorance is bliss; they are very keen on that aspect of human nature and they’ll play to it. For example, you’ll see something at the grocery store advertised as “all-natural,” but there is no definition or regulation of what that means; it’s just advertisement fluff. It sounds good though. That makes it confusing when you start really caring about these things and want to make a change, but have to weave through a lot of misinformation. I wanted to take the guesswork out of making a difference for people by making it simple and straight forward.

Q: How do you think lifestyle ties into these kinds of trends?

A: We are really wrapped up in a convenience culture structured around people being very busy. Basically meaning, when looking to purchase something we generally value price and convenience over other standards such as quality, sustainability or ethical manufacturing. Luckily, there are a lot of resources out there attempting to counterbalance the exploitation that arises from convenience culture, including Get Cultured Kitchen. These resources teach people how to start their own homestead, how to live off the grid, how to grow their own food, how to raise their own animals and how to make their own clothing – overall self-reliance. And I think that’s wonderful because really the biggest issue isn’t where the things you’re consuming are coming from, but the fact that we consume so much. A lot of these issues wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have an insatiable appetite for stuff. We have to have things accessible to us cheaper and more quickly. That’s what we want, that’s what we’re buying, so that’s what corporations are providing for us. And it’s kind of cyclical, because if corporations weren’t able to produce things so cheaply then consumers wouldn’t be able to keep up with this insane rate of consumption. So through this cycle of over-consumption and supporting corporations that are perpetuating it, we get things like sweatshops and factory farms that cruelly push the Earth and its inhabitants beyond their capacities.

However, although consuming less and becoming more self-reliant is very important, I recognize we have to take baby steps. Change is simply going to start by people thinking about where the things they are consuming are coming from. At least that’s how it worked for me; I started to think about exactly where this shrink-wrapped chicken thigh came from and my interest grew. Then I started watching more documentaries about unethical treatment in the business world and reading and talking to more businesses. That’s when the bigger picture started to form and I realized that this affects everything in our lives, even beyond consumption. I came to realize that it doesn’t matter how “green” and “ethical” the products are that I’m buying if I’m going to continue to consume them at an unsustainable rate. So that’s why Get Cultured Kitchen is sort of two-fold. There is a big focus on ethical consumerism and understanding who and what is behind the things you buy, but then the ultimate focus is on consuming less, self-reliance, and community-oriented living, because that is the permanent solution.

Something I’m developing is a map of ethical businesses. You can find where you live and search for anything in your area like restaurants, entertainment, clothing stores or anything you would spend money on. Every business on the map I’ve looked into personally or is verified by a third party certification I trust. Right now it just has stuff mostly in Los Angeles and a couple other places sprinkled around, but hopefully that is something that will grow toward the entire country, and who knows after that? I’m really excited about it because it’s something easy and accessible that I think people living in our convenience culture will appreciate.

Q: What are some of the things that catch your eye when you notice a place that is notably ethical or doing their part to reach these goals?

A: I personally define the word “ethical” as a product or something produced that did not exploit any person, animal or environment during the process of being made. I think “sustainable” means something that can continue to be made over long periods of time without any detrimental effects to the environment or without any ethical issues. We continue to demand things be made cheaper and faster, but then the only people that are eating that cost are the low-level laborers or the environment, and we can’t keep that up. Eventually you can’t make things physically any faster or any cheaper and we’re going to run out of resources because we are deforesting at a faster rate than we can plant and grow trees, or even care to. We are over-fishing faster than fish can reproduce. We are taking and taking more than can be replenished, so that is not sustainable.

Q: It’s like the more we interfere, the more complex the problems become.

A: Exactly. Take the feedlot cow for example. Cows are a ruminant, which means they naturally eat grass. However, in a feedlot cows are fed grain because it fattens them up faster. But now we have to find a place to grow the grain to feed the cattle. And because Westerners consume so much beef, cows are being confined into smaller and smaller spaces, so we can produce more beef while keeping costs down and profits high. So now these cramped cows that are unable to roam pasture are literally standing in a foot of their own feces every day. This makes it easy for disease to spread and this is obviously not how cows would naturally live. It’s cruel. Now that disease is spreading rapidly through the feedlot, the industry has to start putting antibiotics in the cows’ feed to try and deter the spread of disease. But now the cows are becoming immune to these antibiotics, etc. etc. The more the cattle industry does, the more new solutions they have to come up with to fix the problems they caused.

And nobody stops to think or say, “Wait a second, maybe we shouldn’t be in this whole system in the first place.” The industry could never admit that because there is so much money and politics involved in these corporations. There are so many middle men and so many moving parts and it becomes difficult to control it.

For me, since there are so many elements involved in a large business it gets difficult to judge if the business is actually being ethical. Maybe they are making an effort in some areas, but not others in an effort to appease concerned consumers such as myself. I think it ultimately comes to what the business’s intentions are.

Q: What goals would you like to accomplish with Get Cultured Kitchen?

A: The point for me and Get Cultured Kitchen is not necessarily to tell people how to live their lives, but to empower them to feel like they have a choice for the first time. I want them to understand what being ethical means in all these different areas. I am very blessed to get to interview experts in various fields about exactly what ethical and sustainable means in their area of expertise. I hope the information on Get Cultured Kitchen translates into readers being able to make a change on their own. I can only put so many businesses on my map so fast, but if you have the tools to recognize how to find clothing or food that is ethical on your own, then people will be more self-reliant. If we continue to vote with our dollar, then hopefully we will see change.

Q: What advice you would give to others who may have an inkling of what their passion is, but may not have gotten the ball rolling? What would you say to them to help them move forward in that?

A: Rather than trying to overhaul your whole life, just take it one moment at a time. Every single moment of our lives we get to choose what we want to spend our time doing. Even small habits like choosing to get out of bed to spend more time working on a passion are key. Meditation also really helped me be able to focus more. When it comes time to work on the things I need to work on, I have a longer attention span. Taking care of myself health-wise gives me more energy to put where I want it to count. And remember that you don’t have to have everything figured out to start working on a passion.

I want people to understand that I’m not perfect when it comes to the things I’m working on. Get Cultured Kitchen is a resource for all of us, including myself. There are so many more things to do and ways to grow and that’s so exciting. I hope that as I continue to grow and understand more, I can share it with others.  I hope people can learn from my mistakes and my experiences and that they can also share their mistakes and experiences with me.

Another thing that helps is having a supportive network of people who are excited for you and the things you’re passionate about. However, don’t feel discouraged if you don’t have that. There have been times when I’ve been passionate about an issue that my loved ones didn’t seem all that interested in, but I’m not doing this for their approval. It’s not about me, it’s about making Get Cultured Kitchen a useful resource for others. I try to remind myself that my pursuit of ethical consumerism and creating a resource for it is about what ethical consumerism can do for others, rather than anything I may personally accomplish.

If you are passionate about what you are doing and pursue it honestly, someone will find it of value. Worrying about the things that aren’t going our way or whether people are going to receive what we are working on is out of our control and a waste of our mental energy when we could be focusing on the things we can control. Even if what you accomplish is seemingly small, I still think it’s a huge deal that you decided to go for it regardless of success. The hardest part is starting!