Lexicon of Sustainability Defines True Cost Accounting

Lexicon of Sustainability Defines True Cost Accounting

Each week, Lexicon of Sustainability adds a new theme to their Food List, a mixed media webpage of video, interviews, terminology, and ideas about a particular hot topic in sustainability. Food Tank would like to highlight their innovative work with true cost accounting.  Relevant to current ecological issues, true cost accounting develops the emerging practice of factoring in the often unseen aspects of food production; environmental impacts, nutritional outcomes, economic effects that highlight the differences between conventionally produced food and sustainable agriculture.

Douglas Gayeton, co-founder and artist behind much of Lexicon of Sustainability, uses info-graphics with handwritten text superimposed on photographs, as an innovative way to present topics on sustainability. These examples of Information Artwork can be downloaded and shared. Gayeton notes that, “At some point we have to recognize that what we pay for food at the supermarket counter is not the true cost.”

Lexicon of Sustainability places great value on the clarity of words and their meaning. Tragedy of the commons, tragedy of the supermarket, external costs, extractive, and life cycle assessments are terms discussed in detail to demonstrate why true cost accounting is useful. Gayeton adds, “What’s not factored into the true cost of corn? Farm subsidies you pay through your personal income taxes, pollution of local drinking water due to contamination by petrochemical herbicides, pollution of waterways and oceans due to nitrogen fertilizer runoff, and loss of vital soil nutrients and top soil through mono crop farming practices are hidden costs.”  

Lexicon of Sustainability also provides a film discussion guide based on Gayeton’s video on true cost accounting, which can be used in classrooms as a focus point for discussion and analysis.

One interview is with Tucker Taylor, formerly in charge of landscaping at chef Thomas Keller’s restaurant properties and now Director of Culinary Gardens for Jackson Family Wines. For Taylor, higher prices for organic food are worth it: “We were providing a livelihood for the crew by paying them a living wage.  Not only that, we were caring for an entire ecosystem, by building soils, increasing plant diversity and, as a result, increasing animal diversity. In the end, helping to create community of the plants, animals, and people working on and enjoying the fruits of the farm, by providing healthy, nutrient-dense food.”

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