Choosing organic produce and products are a great way to improve sustainability and health benefits. It is important to understand the labelling issues surrounding the term 'organic' before you buy. Below are some resources to help you decide what and when to buy organic.
Check out The Environmental Working Group's Organics pocket pdf shopping list here
Understand what "organic" really means. It's a government certification indicating that the food has been grown without pesticides and is not genetically modified (GMO). Organic dairy is produced without the synthetic bovine growth hormone rGBH and no antibiotics are given to the animal; they must also eat organic feed. Standards are similar for organic meat. It doesn't mean the animals are raised any more humanely or that the food isn't produced on factory farms.Peeled or not doesn't matter. We've probably all heard that an easy rule of thumb for whether to spring for organic produce is to buy organic if you eat the peel. This isn't necessarily true, as it turns out; pesticides are absorbed by the whole plant. Peeling will reduce your exposure, but not eliminate it.
Buy whole foods, not packaged ones. Whole, unprocessed foods are cheaper and healthier, so you get more for your money. Peeling a few organic carrots versus buying the prepared "baby" organic carrots takes just a few minutes, saves money, and the carrots taste like carrots, not the plastic bag they come in.
Know where you're going to get the most bang for your organic buck. The Environmental Working Group has a list of the "dirty dozen" foods with the most pesticide residue and the "Clean 15" that are lowest in pesticides (you can get it as a PDF or smartphone app). Choosing organic for the "dirty dozen" makes the most sense if you have to watch your food budget.
Make friends with your local farmer. You can join a community-supported agriculture program that brings a box of organic produce right to you, or shop near the end of the day at your local farmer's market. Ask for a deal on whatever they have left; they don't want to have to truck that leftover perishable food all the way home, so you can stock up on the good stuff for cheap.
Learn to preserve. If you luck into, say, a cheap flat of organic strawberries from the farmer's market, you can freeze them or make them into jam; same thing with just about any kind of produce.
Buy in bulk. Many health food stores have bulk bins where you can stock up on pantry staples like grains and dried fruits; even Costco carries a fair amount of organic items.
Eat in season. When you eat what is in season from local sources, you tread lighter on the earth and take part in a more natural way of eating.
Government of Canada
Policies regarding Organics
Canada Organic Growers
The Environmental Working Group
Choose organic options whenever possible for:
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Kale/Collards (or grow your own!)
These items are considered generally very low in pesticides:
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet Peas
- Sweet Potatoes