Why Organic?

You’ve probably heard a lot of talk about how eating organic food is much better for you than just buying the non-organic fruit and veg the supermarkets generally have for sale. But as with my post about climate change, I think it’s always good to remind ourselves exactly what organic food is, and why it can be better for the environment.

So, first of all, what is organic food? The Soil Assocation describes organic food here: “Our definition of organic food is food which is produced using environmentally and animal friendly farming methods on organic farms. These methods are legally defined and any food sold as ‘organic’ must be strictly regulated.” And organic farming is “recognises the direct connection between our health and how the food we eat is produced. Artificial fertilisers are banned and farmers develop fertile soil by rotating crops and using compost, manure and clover.”

Different countries have different standards that have to be met for a product to be classified as organic, but you can’t define a food as organic if it risks contamination from non-organic sources, e.g. having a field of genetically modified (GM) crops next to your field means there could be a risk of cross-contamination through the air. Also, some products – such as fish – can’t always be certified organic (in this case, the water they live in is influenced by so many factors that’s impossible to guarantee that it’s organic!) So certifying a product as organic is actually much trickier than it sounds, as crops, animal feed etc. can all be accidentally cross-contaminated, even if by a GM seed that blows onto the farm.

But what are the pros and cons of growing and eating organic food?

Pros:

  • No chemicals (such as pesticides) are used. Chemicals can kill wildlife and leach into water, causing health problems in animals, which can eventually work up the food chain and affect humans. They can also be absorbed by fruits and vegetables, so even if you wash them before eating, you might still be eating some of the pesticides sprayed on them.
  • Crops are rotated so the soil isn’t exhausted and still contains nutrients without having to add fertilisers and chemicals. This also breaks pest and disease cycles, as they don’t have a constant supply of food (according again to the Soil Association website).
  • Conserves biodiversity – as above, wild plants and animals won’t be damaged or killed by chemicals designed to make crops grow better.
  • Organic livestock will have regular access to pasture. They also cannot be given antibiotics.
  • More carbon is stored in the soil.
  • No genetic engineering or use of genetically modified products is allowed. So crops can’t be GM, for example, and animals can’t be fed with GM foods.

Cons:

  • Growing organic crops takes up more space than growing non-organic, so more land will be required to grow the same amount of organic crops.
  • Crops and animals can be more prone to pests and diseases as no chemicals or antibiotics are used.
  • Organic foods might not last as long as non-organic foods as they won’t contain additives to help them keep longer.
  • Organic foods are generally more expensive than non-organic foods.
  • Consumers have to rely on certification to know whether a food is organic or not, unless you buy straight from the farmer or producer.

I came across this good infographic a while ago (you can find it pinned on my Pinterest board Going Green – Food). Of course, not all fruits have stickers on, but this is a good guide to go for. (Click on it to make it bigger!)

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If you want to know more, you could start with the Soil Association website, or these articles: When Organic isn’t Really Organic and The Hypocrisy of Organic Farmers.

What do you think? Do you eat organic?

Sandwich Containers

This week I want to think a topic that I’ve been putting off for a while…the foil I’ve been using to wrap up my sandwiches every day. I suppose that because I can recycle foil where I live, I hadn’t before thought much about how much energy it takes to produce it. And foil is so convenient, so I’ve been sitting on this issue. I stopped using it, and then started again. A lot of energy is required to make foil (I really wanted to find an infographic showing this but the internet has let me down – do let me know if you find one!)

Today’s post is about the different alternatives I could use instead, although I’m still sitting on the fence a little about which one is best!

  • Recycled foil – this is so much better because recycling foil actually requires 95% less energy than it takes to make brand new foil! However, I’ve trying to move away from disposable options, so although this is a good option, it’s not the one for me.
  • Plastic container – e.g. Tupperware. This is what I’ve swapped to instead of using foil at the moment as it’s what’s already in the house, so it’s not costing me anything more. However, chemicals from plastic containers can leach into food, so if this is something that concerns you then this might not be the option for you, particularly if you’re going to be heating things up.
  • Stainless steel containers – there are a variety of these out there, such as LunchBots and Eco Lunchboxes. They come in different sizes, some with plastic lids, some with metal. I feel that this is the best option if you want to entirely avoid wrapping your food in plastic. I really like these, but I feel like they’d take up a lot of space, and because I have a long commute to work and back I would rather carry a smaller bag. I am definitely keeping my options open on these though as I think they’re a great idea.
  • Reusable sandwich wraps – there are a variety of these too, the Eco Snack Wrap being just one of them. They are designed to be reused again and again, but tend to incorporate some plastic to make them wipedown-able. But they do mean that you’ll be saving lots of foil/clingfilm/sandwich bags from the landfill!
  • Make your own – you could sew your own sandwich wrap, or even make your own out of plastic bags. Rachelle from My Zero Waste recommended this tutorial on how to make a recycled plastic sandwich wrapper. I do like this idea, but I feel a bit uncomfortable with it: the plastic bags would be unlikely to be entirely clean, and, as already mentioned above, heat (from the iron) would cause the plastic to leach out chemicals much more readily.

So these are what I feel are the most environmentally friendly options available to me for keeping my sandwiches all wrapped up throughout my day.

How do you carry your lunch around? I would love to hear about your experiences to help me decide which option I should go for! :)

Thanks for reading!

A Return to Project 333

A few months ago I wrote about Clothes and Project 333. I wrote about how brand new clothes use up a lot of resources (and can also be expensive), having a significant impact on the environment. Not to mention ethical issues concerning the people employed to make them!

I feel that the main options to avoid having so much of an impact on the environment in this way are:

  • having a buying hiatus;
  • buying second-hand or from sustainable sources;
  • making and mending your own.

Although of course these are interchangeable. I try to combine elements of all three!

I was initially a bit reluctant to embark on my own Project 333. I tried to donate or recycle all the clothes that I knew I didn’t wear, were past it or that didn’t fit any more, using the ‘hanger trick’ to see whether I’d worn each item or not. And for a while I was content with just doing this. If I wasn’t sure about something, I put it in a drawer out of sight to see if I would want to take it out and wear it again. There must be close to 20 items of clothing in that drawer at the moment, and I’ve only taken 1 of those out to wear – only to decide I didn’t really want to wear it and put it straight back again. Soon these will all be consigned to a charity shop too.

Following on from this, at the beginning of July I really felt that I wanted to take the step of living with less clothes and see how I coped. Here is a reminder of what Courtney Carver says on her website about Project 333:

When: Every three months (it’s never too late to start so join in anytime!)

What: 33 items including clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.

What not: These items are not counted as part of the 33 items – wedding ring or another sentimental piece of jewelry that you never take off, underwear, sleep wear, in-home lounge wear,  and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to workout)

How: Choose your 33 items, box up the remainder of your fashion statement, seal it with tape and put it out of sight.

What else: Consider that you are creating a wardrobe that you can live, work and play in for three months. Remember that this is not a project in suffering. If your clothes don’t fit or are in poor condition, replace them.

Courtney’s rules are that your 33 should include clothes, shoes and accessories, but I decided for my first 33 I would only include clothes, although I am also keeping track of the shoes I wear. To be honest I haven’t bothered boxing up the remaining items (although this is more of a lack of space issue than anything).

I also created a little spreadsheet I could use to track how often I wore each item. Here is a snippet from July (click on it to make it bigger)! The items highlighted in yellow are those I wore most often, and red those that I didn’t wear at all throughout the month.

Project 333 spreadsheet

I’ve never been much of a shopaholic and I’m sure I don’t own nearly as many clothes as others might, but even so I have been surprised over the last month as to how content I generally am just with the choice of 33 items of clothing. Here is a breakdown, if you’re interested:

  • 6 cardigans
  • 2 jumpers
  • 5 vest tops
  • 4 t-shirts
  • 1 blouse
  • 3 long-sleeved tops
  • 5 dresses
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 2 skirts
  • 2 pairs of leggings

Shoes:

  • 2 pairs of flats
  • 1 pair of boots

I should point out that my work wear and casual wear are pretty much the same (we have a very informal work dress code) so I haven’t had to set aside separate items for work, which you might have to factor in. Your style is likely to differ significantly from mine – and the climate could be very different – so you might have different numbers of items in each category.

I haven’t bought a single item of clothing for a few months now, I think, and I really feel that except for a new pair of boots (mine are falling apart and not repairable, unfortunately, and I would like to have some for rainy days to keep my feet dry), I have more than enough clothes to last throughout the warm/hot months of the year.

This project has also shown me how much I re-wear the same items. Even with this restriction, the fact that I didn’t wear 6 items at all throughout July shows how I always turn to my favourite items even when there is novelty or more choice. I suspect this is the same with most of us. Even if you don’t want to do Project 333, keeping track of how often you wear each item could be interesting!

I am definitely going to continue with my Project 333 items until the end of August, and then I’ll do a little reassessment to see if these items will continue to work if it’s cooler in September. Then I’ll create a new Project 333 wardrobe for the months of October, November and December, to include warmer items. When I move on to this new 33 wardrobe I’ll look through the clothes I chose not to include in my summer 33 and see how many of them I still want to keep.

I’m not sure if Project 333 is something I will continue every single season, as Courtney Carver and many other Project 333ers do, but I am really finding it a useful tool to assess my wardrobe and find out what I enjoy wearing the most. It is also interesting that no one has noticed or commented on my limited wardrobe!

Have you tried anything similar? What would you think about giving it a go?

100 Happy Days #6

Photos of the little things that made me happy last week…

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Enjoying a sandwich on the way home.

I tried out a new hairstyle, the fishtail plait. Not sure I got it quite right but it was fun to try.

I tried out a new hairstyle, the fishtail plait. Not sure I got it quite right but it was fun to try.

Enjoyed a sausage sandwich for breakfast at work - I forgot to take a photo until it was nearly gone!

I had a sausage sandwich for breakfast at work – I forgot to take a photo until it was nearly gone!

Relaxing in the TV room on my lunch break...it was lovely and cool and peaceful as everyone else was outside!

Relaxing in the TV room on my lunch break…it was lovely and cool and peaceful as everyone else was outside.

This is my Lush conditioner - it smells so lovely!

This is my Lush conditioner – it smells so lovely!

I've had a large pile of stuff to get rid of in my room for months...finally decided to bag it up ready to go to a charity shop!

I’ve had a large pile of stuff to get rid of in my room for months…finally decided to bag it up ready to go to a charity shop.

What have you been enjoying taking the time to do?

100 Happy Days #5

Continuing the 100 Happy Days challenge, here are my photos from last week…

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The book I am reading this week.

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Lovely to snuggle up in my pjs and dressing gown after a long day, tube delays and getting caught in the rain.

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This is a cat who I see sometimes when I’m walking back from work…he likes to walk with me along part of the road :)

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I follow a blog called Reduce Footprints, which sets a green challenge every week. I interpreted the challenge ‘Ban single use items’ to stop using brand-new post-it notes at work. Instead, I took in some old receipts that I can write on the back of (nothing with any bank details printed on, just in case). Since I didn’t have a choice about getting these receipts, at least I can use them for something else too!

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One of my cats – she enjoys kneading the blanket before she settles down to sleep.

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I went to the Science Museum on Saturday for the first time in a while – forgot to take any photos except this one of the logo on the map, but I had a good time.

 

What have you been enjoying this week?

Climate Change: A World Finally Warming Up To The Idea

Joanna:

Whether you know a lot about climate change or not, I highly recommend you read this post. It’s called Climate Change: A World Finally Warming Up to the Idea. It’s a really great and informative discussion of climate change and the greenhouse effect. My blog is all about sustainability and going green, so I think a reminder about exactly why I’m doing it is really important once in a while. A long read, but worth it! Let me know what you think!

Originally posted on Why? Because Science.:

Climate change and severe weatherBeneath the fads, the fashion, the loud headlines, media threats and intimidating claims lies a totally rational story; the bare science of a shifting environment that, once explained, is simply irrefutable. You can be skeptical about going on a blind date or about eating Indian food before said blind date, but you can’t be skeptical about the fact that humankind has and is having a definite and permanent effect on the climate of our planet. That’s naivety at its worst.

In this blog post and the next, we’ll be taking a journey through the fancy terms thrown around by the media and redefine them to yield a totally new and more scientifically accurate understanding. We’ll come to appreciate what’s normal (historically speaking) and what definitely isn’t in terms of climate variability. We’ll also take a closer look at Earth’s atmosphere in order to get a better perspective on how our…

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100 Happy Days #4

Here are my 100 Happy Days photos from this week, still trying to focus on the small things that I enjoy.

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One photo of a cat…

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Yoga practice (my yoga mat is from a great company called Eco Yoga, by the way).

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Just finished reading this book – a little complicated, but very interesting.

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I made curly kale crisps to try as a healthy snack.

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…another photo of the cat…

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Beautiful blue sky on a hot sunny day.

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…this photo was supposed to be of a cat I made friends with on the way home from work…it obviously moved too fast so you can only see its feet!

What have you made time for this week?