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Published on December 17th, 2007 | by Stephanie Evans

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Organic Foods and Beverages

Growing awareness of our individual and collective responsibility for protecting the earth and her resources has motivated many of us to make important lifestyle changes.  So far, our collective interest in “going green” has largely involved the way we get around and run our homes.   For example, we’re beginning to see a shift towards environmentally responsible modes of transportation, such as alternative fuel/hybrid vehicles, carpooling, biking, and mass transit.  Environmentally conscience homeowners have adopted solar panels, energy-efficient HVAC systems, and greener lighting options in many rooms.

But what about the food we consume? T he aforementioned green practices haven’t yet significantly changed the way we purchase and prepare food.  Therefore, food can be considered one of the final, important frontiers in green living.

Why Make Green Food Choices?

We can significantly boost our efforts to conserve and protect the earth by adopting a whole systems approach to eating. Conventional food growth, harvest and transportation systems are at odds with green goals.  Because the conventional process is largely invisible to us, we are not always aware of the environmental implications and, unintentionally, we are reversing the gains we have made on other fronts.

Here are some examples of unconscious gain reversal:

  • We carpool or use mass transit but we don’t eat locally.  Instead, we choose food that traveled more than 1,000 before reaching our table.
  • We line dry clothing but eat frozen food, which requires more energy to produce, than fresh food.
  • We recycle, but regularly eat beef without realizing that cows are the greatest producers of the greenhouse gas methane.
  • We bring reusable bags to the grocery store, but purchase foods wrapped in excess packaging.

What Can We Do Instead?

Organic VeggiesConsider buying organic and local whenever possible.  Organic food is produced without chemicals, such as pesticides, that are harmful to the environment (including our water) and to humans.  Not surprisingly, these harmful chemicals require vast amounts of energy to produce.  According to Georgia Organics, “Chemical inputs have devastating consequences on our health and the environment.  As a result of chemical use and long distance food transportation, our agriculture industry now consumes 1/5 of the total oil used in the United States.”

Need another reason to buy organic?  Think about this: If we grew all of our corn and soybeans organically, we’d remove 580 billion pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to ClimateCrisis.net, the homepage for the movie, An Inconvenient Truth.

Eating Organic—and Local

Shop Farmers MarketsFarmer’s markets increase opportunities for growers of all sizes and combat the growing industrialization of food.  Consider this:

There are a couple of ways to track down farmers markets in your area.  To start, you can visit www.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/map.htm for a state by state listing of farmer’s markets.  Many communities also offer fresh air markets in the warmer months.  Your local paper will probably have weekly listings.

You might also consider joining a food co-op or community food garden.  You don’t have to live in a rural area; many city gardens produce beautiful vegetables and flowers.

Other opportunities for eating organic and local can be created through community supported agriculture (CSA).  With CSA, a community of people makes a commitment to a local farm operation to share the load and the bounty.  Increasingly, small farming is risky business.  Group members minimize that risk by providing upfront financial support.  Members also purchase from the farmer, thus creating a built in market and eliminating marketing costs.  When times are good with weather, pests, etc.,  everyone wins.  When times are not so good, the farmer does not have to bear burden alone because the supporters help weather the tide.  Small scale farmers really benefit from systems that facilitate economic sustainability making CSA’s a win-win scenario.

Countless communities also offer a local food guide (for an example visit http://www.georgiaorganics.org/).  Check local food guides in your area to learn about ecologically and environmentally sound food purchases.

Eating local and organic is not simply a matter of trend or taste—though few would dispute the utter joy that comes with biting into a tomato fresh from the garden—the concern is also for our health.  As the saying goes we are what we eat…and drink.

Organic WineWhen it comes to the meal table, green options extend beyond the plate to include the glass, as well.  Are you in the mood for a glass of wine with your locally produced, organic meal?  According to the National Organic Program, alcoholic beverage choices include those with “… 100% organically produced ingredients, not counting added water or salt.”  Other available options include those beverages made with some (usually 70-95 percent) organic ingredients.

The greening of the meal table is even growing to include energy drinks.  These specialized drinks have enjoyed a huge surge in popularity in recent years even as soda is experiencing a decline.  Capitalizing on the widely acknowledged benefits of green tea, manufacturers are beginning to infuse the presumed health tonic in energy drinks.  From a marketer’s viewpoint it is easy to see why green energy drinks may just be a match made in heaven.

In keeping with the whole systems approach, we must not limit our attention solely to food purchases.  Food preparation, clean-up and disposal are also of concern.

Small Changes You Can Make

  • Enjoy raw fruits and vegetables, and salads, to reduce energy consumption.
  • Clean produce in short water baths rather than with running water.
  • Replace appliances with more energy efficient models.  You’ll save energy and maybe even benefit from additional savings with an energy credit.
  • Avoid plastic containers in favor of eco-friendly storage.
  • Switch to reusable stainless steel water bottles instead of plastic.
  • Run your dishwasher only when full and on the lowest energy setting (for example—let the dishes air dry instead of using the heated dry setting).
  • Consider composting.  Use egg shells, coffee grounds and cover with torn pieces of cardboard to create a compost heap that yield rich soil.
  • Buy minimally packaged foods.

It can be overwhelming to think about the damaging impact ordinary life choices make on the environment.  But remember, you can do something!  We have to eat, and we can make a difference simply by practicing responsible or enlightened consumerism.

Simple lifestyle changes present opportunities to learn, explore, and build community around the common interest of better food, better bodies and a better environment.





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