Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Local v. Organic

To buy local or to buy organic, that is the question.

If thinking about food in this context is something you're interested in, I'd love to have others weigh into the debate, as well!  Personally, I think the question is a tough one.


A few months ago, I decided I wanted to make an extended effort to lessen our exposure to chemicals in the house.  I say "in the house" because I don't really think it's realistic to expect that 100% of our lives can be spent chemical-free.  So for our house, I started buying more organic foods (following the generally understood principles of buying organic produce on a budget [ie, if you eat the skin of something or it's a root, you probably want the organic version]).  I buy organic milk.  When buying soy, I try to buy a "no-GMO."  And Jonathan and I decided that we'd use all the chemical cleaners we have until they run out, and when they do, we'll replace them with a natural product.

Similarly, a few months ago, I decided I wanted to clean up my environmental footprint a little.  So when shopping, I only use re-usable bags.  I recycle everything I can (including using plastic products multiple times/until they break).  I switched from a daily styrofoam cup of coffee to a ceramic mug (seriously, I can't believe I spent so many years using a new piece of styrofoam every morning at work!).  We paid extra to have a low emissions thing on our new car.  We try to not have our heat/air conditioner run around the clock (although that's quite difficult in the summer).  I buy used books.  Basically, baby steps that might make us a little less Earth-consuming than the next guy.

And both of those things are great, and I feel good about them; except that the food aspect of the equation doesn't really line up.  Either I buy local and spare the environment, or I buy organic and spare my body.

My first selfish thought is to spare my body.  It's my body, after all.  But one of the super annoying aspects of buying a lot of organic for me is that the nice grocery stores that carry the wide selection of organic are pretty far away (thus using more gas to get out there - damaging the environment on an even greater level), so that makes it tough.

And then when I get over my selfishness, it seems like I should be concerned with the environment and the future of our planet more than my measly little body.  But then I think about the possibility of having a baby (which could affect the planet beyond my "measly little body") and I'm more interested in eating organic over local so I can create healthy progeny.  (Ha - I'm so scientific.)

But really, I just don't know!  What do you guys think?  Have you ever thought about the two as opposites?  One thing I can say is that I appreciate the fun, chill vibe at the farmer's market much more than the snobby east Memphis vibe of Whole Foods or Fresh Market.  That's for sure.


Anonymous said...

Many of the farmers at the local markets don't use chemicals, but just aren't certified organic. The CA had an article yesterday about Dodson Farms - instead of chemicals, the brew a "tea" of garlic, cloves, and mustard to spray on some crops. Doesn't kill anything, but makes the area smelly.

Claire said...

I typically go back and forth over organic versus conventional. Some products I always buy organic (ie meat (if ever I buy meat), grains, beans, and pasta, peanut butter and other "prepared" foods), but do go back and forth over fresh vegetables and fruits. It can get very expensive, so if I'm not feeling like I've spent a lot of money that week, I'll go organic. Otherwise, conventional? I guess I haven't thought too much about it.