Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Baby Steps Toward Going Organic

As your standard broke college kid, when I go to the grocery store I avoid the word “organic” like the plague. Why? Because to me, organic means expensive. I was raised in a low-income family that taught me to save every penny. I act this way in terms of clothing, food, and gasoline. So today, as I walked through the produce section of the nearest grocery store, I decided that I would rather spend $1.99 on a bag of generic, inorganic baby carrots instead of a $2.29 for the same sized bag filled with organic carrots. 30 pennies were the deciding factor for me.

Ironically, I was snacking on these carrots while researching topics for this soil contamination blog. I felt a twinge of guilt when I came across articles citing chemical pesticides as a contributor of soil contamination. Arguably the most important part of eating organic food is that it is not treated with chemicals and pesticides. Most of the discussion on organic food concerns putting these chemicals into our bodies, but it’s also important to consider that they are seeping into the earth.
When a pesticide does get into our soil, it has the potential to contaminate groundwater. As a freshwater source, we then have to consider that our choice in eating nonorganic food still put these potentially harmful products into the bodies of those around us. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) tells us that “this especially concerns people living in the agricultural areas where pesticides are most often used, as about 95 percent of that population relies upon groundwater for drinking water.” Another interesting fact is that these pesticides “may take decades to become apparent in groundwater.Not only is this affecting those around you, but it can affect future generations.

To be fair, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and USGS both note that you generally have to consume a large amount of pesticides in order for them to be significantly harmful. When the chemicals do take effect, however, the EPA says this about pesticides in the human body: “The health effects of pesticides depend on the type of pesticide. Some, such as the organophosphates and carbamates, affect the nervous system. Others may irritate the skin or eyes. Some pesticides may be carcinogens. Others may affect the hormone or endocrine system in the body." To me, that seems pretty substantial, but I still wasn’t fully convinced it was worth the cost.

I decided to look up ways to make eating organic affordable. After all, these healthier, environmentally friendly veggies can cost 40-50% more. One site specifically told me that “the best foods to buy organic are apples, bell peppers, carrots, celery and strawberries” while some others, such as seasonal options, are not as harmful to consume. To check out some more helpful tips, here is the link to the article.

This discovery probably won’t make me throw away my bag of baby carrots, or convince me to spend double the money when I go grocery shopping, but it does give me a third factor to consider when I’m filling up the shopping cart. Instead of just comparing cost and quality, I now have to consider my morals because my decision effects more than just my bank account. 


Added by: Erin Kashuba

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