Conservation Station: Go Green, Eat Clean

By Stacy Martin on May 12, 2012 from Conservation Station via Connect-Bridgeport.com

I’d like to first say “Congratulations” to one of Connect-Bridgeport’s newest bloggers, Ashley Aragona, who debuted with a blog about cleaning up your eating habits. It was a great blog with inexpensive kitchen gadgets highlighted to make it easier to eat clean. As we all know, eating healthy is good for our bodies, but did you know it’s also good for the environment and our community?
 
Most of us have heard the term “organic” used with reference to food in one way or another, but what does “organic” really mean? Organic is a term used to refer to the way farmers grow and process their agricultural products (i.e. fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and meat). The following comparison table was taken from The Mayo Clinic’s website and compares conventional farming methods with organic farming methods:
 
Conventional
Organic
Apply chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth.
Apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants.
Spray insecticides to reduce pests and disease.
Use beneficial insects and birds, mating disruption or traps to reduce pests and disease.
Use herbicides to manage weeds.
Rotate crops, till, hand weed or mulch to manage weeds.
Give animals antibiotics, growth hormones and medications to prevent disease and spur growth.
Give animals organic feed and allow them access to the outdoors. Use preventive measures — such as rotational grazing, a balanced diet and clean housing — to help minimize disease.
 
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/organic-food/NU00255. Essentially, organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. With that being said, why are people not switching to organic products?
 
Despite all the good things about organic farming and its products, people are still very hesitant to change their purchases to organic. The biggest deterrent for people to choose organic is COST! It is hard to mass produce organic products due to the more expensive nature of the organic farming practices, therefore the more labor intensive the more the cost to the consumer. For some people the extra cost can be justified when there is a substantial benefit for choosing organic. Unfortunately, at this point in time, there is no hard evidence that choosing organic products is more nutritious. Further, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates the amount of pesticides used on ALL products to ensure safe levels for all foods (even though organic regulations require much lower levels of pesticides). So why do people choose organic if it’s more expensive and has not been proven to be more nutritious or safer? Some prefer the fresher taste, but most people choose organic to reduce their exposure to the amount of pesticides used in conventional farming, to reduce their intake of food additives (i.e. preservatives, food colorings and flavorings, artificial sweeteners, MSG), and to help the environment and their communities.
 
So what is your stance on buying organic? If you are on the fence about it or wholeheartedly refuse, then I urge you to consider a couple things that may persuade you in the right direction. First, each inorganic product has been produced with chemical fertilizers, sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, and/or been injected with hormones or medications. Although the USDA regulates the amount of these chemicals that can be used and the levels contained in the food prior to reaching the grocery shelves, it does so on individual crops/animals/products. But combining all those products together and adding all the other processed food we eat each day, think about how many chemicals we actually consume and are absorbed by our bodies (the USDA isn’t regulating your overall consumption). So why wouldn’t you try to limit your exposure to such harmful chemicals? Second, choosing organic means choosing to support the environment by supporting farming practices that aid in the conservation of soil and water, and reduce pollution. Not only are the chemicals used being absorbed by the fruits and vegetables, but they soak into the soil and waterways and can be carried in the wind.
 
If you are still not convinced to spend the extra money on organic products, then I urge you to do the following, at the very least:
  1. Shop LOCAL! Buying fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and meat from local companies and/or the Bridgeport Farmers Market not only supports the local economy, but provides you with better products using better farming practices than those products produced on massive farms.
  2. Select a variety of foods! By varying the kinds of fruits, vegetables, and meats you eat, you are limiting your exposure to any one specific chemical/pesticide/herbicide.
  3. Choose organic when buying any of the “Dirty Dozen” or opt for the “Clean 15”! The Environmental Working Group puts together lists called the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean 15”, which refer to the twelve fruits and vegetables containing the highest level of pesticides and the 15 with the least amount of pesticides. Go to http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/for the lists, or better yet download their free app for your mobile phone.
  4. Buy fruits and vegetables in season! When not in season there is a good chance preserving techniques have been utilized in storing and shipping.
  5. Always wash and scrub fruits and vegetables! Use running water and consider peeling those listed on the “Dirty Dozen” list.
  6. Grow your own! Growing your own fruits, vegetables and herbs is a great way to limit your exposure to harmful chemicals. Even if you don’t have a yard, or the time to start and maintain a garden, or you can’t keep the animals out – potted or vertical gardening is the way to go. I grow my herbs in my kitchen window (the picture is of my Basil and Parsley just starting to sprout) and I generally plant tomatoes, peppers, and squash in pots on my deck. This year I bought a tater tower to try growing fingerling potatoes vertically. To keep the pests at bay, there are several homemade recipes on the internet to use instead of chemicals.
So do your part this summer for yourself, the environment and your community by going green and eating clean!

 


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