One of my goals is to have the freedom to buy whatever food I desire, without regard for price or weekly grocery budget. To be able to roam through a farmer’s market, specialty store, or traditional grocery store and choose not only want I need, but also what I want, is the ultimate luxury. I often find myself staring at the organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables side by side. I used to go back and forth in my head—to splurge or not to splurge?—and finally pay that extra markup on organic food. Luckily, I found an environmental health advocacy and research organization in the United States, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which I now trust to help me make those decisions.
The EWG provides insight on everything from cosmetics to produce, water to cleaning products, regarding the impact of pesticides, manufacturing practices, and product ingredients on our health and environment. How can this help with my food shopping decisions? For one, the EWG produces a consumer guide ranking 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue. The higher the rank, the lower the residue. In this ranking, the 12 most affected fruits and vegetables belong to the “Dirty Dozen,” and the least affected are part of the “Clean Fifteen.” So when faced with the question of should I or shouldn’t I go organic, I simply power up the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” app on my iPhone to make a better-educated decision.
So that answers the question of when to go organic, but then there is the decision between local or organic. The “Dirty Dozen” app is still helpful here, because I am able to determine the traditional amount of pesticide residue used to grow the fruit or vegetable. After that, the benefit of going to a farmer’s market is the ability to speak to the farmers themselves to ask about their practices. Many small farms go to great lengths to reduce the amount of pesticide used in their growing practices, and some use no pesticides whatsoever, but choose not to apply for “official” organic status due to the extensive costs associated with achieving that status from the government. If you are considering local versus shipped fruits and vegetables on EWG’s “Clean Fifteen” list, consider that local produce tastes fresher, has less environmental impact, supports your local farmer, farmland, and economy and, often, is less expensive.
This week, Yoffie Life Simplify and Environmental Expert Lisa talks about the environmental impact of choosing local foods in her article, “Local Food: Easy on the Earth.” Also, check out our list of Summer Fruits and Vegetables to know what to look for in your local grocery store, and savor the joys of eating seasonally and locally.
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