October 21, 2008

Thinking About Going Green...Stand in Line

It seems that it’s become the “in thing” to say “I’m going Green” and purchase only organic, cage-free, natural, certified humane, free range, grass-fed, blah, blah, blah and blah type foods. Now, I’m a foodie just like the next person, but I also realize where and how my food is processed and makes it from the field to my plate and I can say that many folks today are very disconnected from their food.

Coming from a farm I have the up most respect for the farmers that supply my table with food. So, when all these terms start showing up on food labels across the nation, it makes what should be a simple everyday choice very complicated.

I have to wonder if most of us really understand what the term “organic” means when it comes to the food we consume or what exactly is free-range poultry…

I work with organic producers around the state in my job with the Dept. of Agriculture and I help producers become certified organic through the USDA. I thought when I took this job a little over a year ago I knew exactly what it meant to be organic, but I’ve learned a lot since then.

I was very impressed that the Food Network has an entire section on its website that helps consumers understand what the term organic means and the differences in the growing and harvesting of organic foods, compared to conventionally grown food. If a product bears a "USDA organic" label, you are guaranteed that's it's at least 95 free of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and sewage sludge and that it hasn't been genetically modified or irradiated. No hormones or antibiotics are allowed; animals must be fed organically-grown feed and have access to the outdoors. While some experts have suggested that organic foods are healthier than conventionally-grown, the USDA doesn't support these claims.

The site also has a list of ways to become eco-friendly which I really enjoyed reading. Here is the list from the site so you can make steps to "Go Green" in your home.

10 Eco-Friendly Tips
Shop Locally. Look for locally grown produce at farmers' markets, farm stands and food co-ops. You get fresher fare, support your community and help reduce fuel waste and emissions from long-distance shipping.

Keep an eye on the "9." Check the numbered stickers on fruits and veggies. If they start with #9, your produce is organic, meaning it's grown pesticide-free.

B.Y.O.B. – "bring your own bag." Skip your supermarket's plastic bags and transport groceries in reusable tote bags or canvas produce sacks.

Ditch the plastic bottles. Outfit your kitchen tap with a purified water filter, and tote around a refillable sports bottle, made of glass, aluminum or recycled plastic.

Recycle! Kick those cleaned-out cans, jars, plastic bottles, pizza boxes and even used tin foil to the curb on recycling day. When sorting plastic containers, look for #2 and #3 on the bottom and trash or reuse the rest.

Reduce waste. Buy in bulk, pick fresh ingredients and look for products with limited — or at least recyclable — packaging. Switch to cloth napkins or buy paper towels and napkins labeled "recycled," "unbleached" and/or "post-consumer waste."

Grill it! Outdoor grills take less energy than your stove and keep heat out of the house, reducing costly strain on your AC. Better still: upgrade to induction cooking — it's most efficient.
Chill out. Fill empty space in your refrigerator or freezer with crumpled newspapers or full water bottles — it improves cooling and saves electricity and money.

Go compostal! Feed fresh kitchen scraps (no meats or oils, please) to a compost pile. Then use the nutrient-rich compost to perk up your herb garden.

Clean greener. Scour cast-iron pans with salt to preserve seasoning, turn off the tap while scrubbing dishes and only run a full dishwasher. Plus, stock your pantry with the best natural cleaners: baking soda, lemon juice, white vinegar and club soda.


Jen said...

Great tips. There truly is a lot of confusion in food labeling. The Food Network's glossary of terms is a good start, but Animal Welfare Approved has a more extensive one, and it explains how what the animal eats affects you when you eat the meat, dairy or eggs from that animal. The website is (www.AnimalWelfareApproved.org), and you can just click on the link, "What do Food Labels Really Mean?"

Lane said...

Thanks for the great tip Jen!

Charlie said...

You know people now are starting to grill more into winter, extending the grilling season, could be because of the Green Movement?