Do Your Dirty Work! Tips on Sustainable Shopping

As we turn the corner into June, Vancouverites can start enjoying the beautiful local produce grown right here in Southwest BC. It’s been officially 10 years since two locals launched a simple experiment to reconnect with the people and places that produced what they ate.

For one year, they would only consume food that came from within a 100-mile radius of their Vancouver apartment. The 100-mile Diet was born! From a sustainability perspective, the David Suzuki Foundation informs us that eating as locally as possible is one of the most effective ways to reduce global impact.  

Organic farming is also inherently sustainable. The tactics employed are based on the long-term benefits they have for people, wildlife and the environment. Whether they’re livestock, or crop-based, organic operations encourage a healthy balance between farming and nature. To highlight one out of the many principles of organic farming, it replenishes and maintains the integrity of the soil.

Soil erosion and nutrient depletion are hazards of over farming the land. Through more natural methods, organic farming helps preserve the land for future farming generations. Instead of fossil fuel-based fertilizers, organic farming relies on natural compost, mulch and manure to feed the soil. This replenishes the nutrients and promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms that live in the topsoil. Crop rotation and grazing are also tactics used to sustain healthy soil on organic farms.

Although it promotes sustainability, organic certification can be a financial hardship for small-scale family farms. This is where getting acquainted with local producers and farmers comes into play. Knowing where your food comes from is all part of understanding whether or not it’s produced in a sustainable way.

“Organic” versus “Natural.” When you see an “organic” claim on a label you know it’s heavily regulated and farmers and producers are held accountable for the foods they’re feeding to consumers. Generally speaking, the term “natural” really only refers to any major structural changes made to foods or ingredients. This claim isn’t nearly as regulated as organic, and it makes it more difficult for shoppers to know what exactly went into the foods they’re consuming.

When should you choose organic over conventional produce? Every year the Environmental Working Group singles out produce with the highest loads of pesticide residue and this year strawberries top the chart at #1. Click here to see the whole Dirty Dozen list. While produce like cauliflower contained relatively few pesticides and had a low total concentration of pesticide residue. Click here to see the whole Clean 15 list.

Choose organic when the produce is on the Dirty Dozen list or make sure to give it a good wash by rinsing it under tap water, which works just as well as those fruit and vegetable washes/sprays. And it wasn’t because pesticide residues dissolve in water. According to the researchers, it’s the mechanical action of rubbing produce under water that removes residues. Rinsing reduces pesticides on the surface of fruit and vegetables, but it can’t remove those that are absorbed by the roots and make their way into the plant’s tissue.

Now go find some local, organic, sustainable, natural, clean & non-GMO strawberries!

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