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Organic September: Simple ways to help the planet6 min read

Sometimes a small action can make a big difference, choose organic when you can.

No matter how much we try to eat healthily, or at least be more conscious about the consequences of our consuming choices, most of us end up choosing the quickest way to satisfy our gluttonous tastes when we’re at the supermarket.

The truth is that finding a healthy, fresh product can be difficult when we have limited time and dozens of different labels in front of our eyes. 

As expected, in this multitude of labels we have been welcomed by signs that say Certified Organic in bold letters. But what is different about organic products? And, is it even worth spending that extra money? 

This month is marked by Organic September, a campaign founded by the Soil Association, the biggest organic company in the United Kingdom, to celebrate the hard work and commitment behind organic farming. The Soil Association encourages people to make more eco-friendly decisions and clarify the benefits of choosing organic. 

At the heart of their philosophy is the belief that “organic agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment.”

What is organic farming and why choose organic?

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Organic agriculture is a way of farming that preserves nature by working towards environmentally sustainable production methods. They avoid the use of pollutants, pesticides, antibiotics and artificial fertilizers, which have been recognised as being harmful to the ecosystem and toxic to humans with long-term health effects, including cancer.

However, this does not mean that organic food is fertiliser and pesticide-free, but organic farmers do rely only on safe and natural products such as legumes to contain insects and weeds. The study Multiple benefits of legumes for agriculture sustainability (2017), found that natural fertilisers are among the safest, as they help to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, fix the atmospheric nitrogen and promote the circulation of soil nutrients. 

Farming is responsible for around nine per cent of overall UK greenhouse gas emissions, mostly caused by artificial fertilisers. By swapping organic, researchers estimated a significant drop in emissions of about 20 per cent for crops and around four per cent for livestock and a much bigger chance for wildlife to thrive.

Animal welfare is also one of the top priorities for organic farmers. Animals are raised in outdoor spaces, similar to their natural habitat. As well as ensuring that animals are genuinely range-free, organic farmers must provide high-quality food – primarily rich and healthy grass – and pleasant living conditions.

The short-term benefits are that you will support the farmers who choose to work with organic produce and prevent yourself from excessive exposure to toxic substances that you’re better off avoiding!

In the long-run, there are other positive contributions to the planet when you choose to buy organic, such as supporting agricultural sustainability and preserving biodiversity.

How to shop organic on a budget

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“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want”

– Anna Lappè, (American author, sustainable food advocate and expert on food system).

Because of the benefits and high-quality goods used during production, organic food purchase is becoming more frequent among health-conscious shoppers, who are willing to spend extra money than they would buying conventional items as they are guaranteed a safe and fresh product. Although a cheap discounted product may seem like a good deal, the drawbacks of non-organic produce could be damaging to society.

But organic doesn’t have to be expensive! If you are on a tight budget and you are willing to make some efforts, there are some strategies you can follow that will make organic food more accessible to your expenses.

Here are four tips that you can follow:

1. Prioritise your purchases

Buying only organic may not be financially possible for everyone, so start by making a list of priority foods. Firstly, consider if the product you’re buying is seasonal, where it might come from, its external appearance and whether the product is usually more likely to be contaminated. 

For example, did you know that some fruits like apples, strawberries and grapes but also leafy greens like spinach contain a higher level of pesticides? Therefore, is better to swap to organic counterparts of fruits and vegetables when it’s possible.

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Here’s a list of fruits and vegetables with higher and lower levels of pesticides to help you when shopping:

Best to buy organicNon-priority organic
Apples
Tomatoes
Spinach
Cucumbers
Celery
Potatoes
Peaches
Strawberries
Blueberries
Raspberries
Sweet bell peppers
Grapes
Nectarines
Kale
Green beans
Onions
Oranges
Bananas
Mangoes
Pineapple
Sweet potatoes
Avocados
Kiwi
Aubergine
Melon
Sweetcorn
Asparagus
Mushrooms
Grapefruit
Cabbage
2. Buy directly from growers or locals

Many communities offer farmers special support to sell their products directly to the public, giving farmers the chance to trade fresh products and get more profit from their sale. Their products tend to be fresher but also cheaper than the conventional equivalent and you might also receive better deals when buying regularly.

3. Swap fresh for frozen

You don’t need to eat fresh to eat organic. You can easily find organic frozen products at a friendly price. Also, don’t be fooled by the word frozen – Frozen fruits and vegetables can preserve more nutritional values as they are frozen right after being picked. 

4. Sign up to a box scheme

Organic box schemes are a great option to try organic products. You’ll receive an abundant box of fresh and organic fruits and vegetables delivered straight to your door.

These schemes offer a wide variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables alongside dairy and meat products at a good price starting from £9. Some of the most known schemes with nationwide deliveries are Odd box, Abel&Cole and Riverford, they all provide a discount off on your first order.

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