You may already know buying organic is good for your health, but did you know it also benefits workers, the environment and climate change? It's true! Organic foods are grown without the use of artificial chemicals, synthetic fertilizer, hormones, pesticides or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Essentially, eating organic foods minimizes your risk for exposure to environmental toxins, avoiding serious health issues related to pesticides and other harmful chemicals found in non-organic produce and meats (12). There are no preservatives and additives to organic products, a.k.a organic foods are better for you! But on top of it being healthy, it benefits farm workers and the planet as a whole too.

Buying Organic Food Protects Farmworkers' Health!

Studies show the greatest amount of pesticide use in the United States occurs in agriculture. Pesticide exposures increase the likelihood of chemical related injuries and adverse effects in the workplace. These injuries are caused by the chronic toxicity of pesticides (specifically organophosphate) (14). This study determined that fatal injuries increased with days per year of pesticide application, with the highest risk associated to those who apply pesticides for more than 60 days a year. Being exposed to pesticides (even when a small amount) everyday (a.k.a chronic occupational exposure), will cause adverse health effects such as difficulties in executive functions like verbal, visual, memory, coordination and attention functions (8)(14).

Not only are pesticides used in the United States' agricultural process, but they are also heavily used among conventional farming in other countries that produce a lot of the food we eat! Did you know Mexico accounts for 75% of agricultural imports to the U.S.? Not only are farmworkers in Mexico exposed to harmful chemicals but on top of that, studies show most farmworkers in Mexico do not have the proper personal protective equipment (PPE)(8). Yikes! Meaning, they are even more exposed to these harmful chemicals! Similarly, according to a study where melon farmers were interviewed on pesticide application and PPE, the majority of farmers weren't aware of the importance of protecting themselves (6). Yet, another study conducted in India found pesticide poisoning is common among farmers because they are often under trained and consider it impractical and expensive to use safety equipment (13). Although we may not have the power to change these policies among other countries, we do have the choice to buy organic and help reduce pesticide exposure among farmworkers!

Organic Production is Better for the Environment (and our ecosystem)!

Unlike conventional farming, organic farming uses dirt and natural processes such as crop rotations, composting of plant and animal materials, and manure as fertilizer for the production of food instead of using synthetic fertilizers and applying pesticides. The problem with synthetic fertilizers is it requires the burning of fossil fuels, which inherently makes climate change worse by producing pollution and emitting nitrous oxide (N2O; a greenhouse gas with a high global warming potential)(3). The problem with pesticides is similar in that fumigants will release toxic chemicals into the air, accounting for 30% of global emissions leading to climate change (think CO2 in the air).

Whereas, organic farm productions improve climate change! Using manure as fertilizer reduces pollution, minimizes nitrogen footprint (i.e., reduces gas emissions) and increases nitrogen recycling (9). All good things! Additionally, crop rotations prevent nutrients from building up in the soil which helps with nitrate leaching and run-off. Otherwise, this excess nitrogen and phosphorus caused by synthetic fertilization can be lost into waterways, causing eutrophication (an increased load of nutrients in lakes and oceans, creating an abundance of algae and plants in estuaries and coastal waters). This excess of nutrients leads to low-oxygen (hypoxis) water (since the algae block the sunlight), which then kills off fish and their homes! (10) Eutrophication has a negative domino effect on aquaculture, since the abundance of algae and plants produces a large amount of carbon dioxide which then lowers the PH level of water, causing acidification. Acidification then slows the growth of fish, which means a smaller harvest (10). So let's support organic farming to save the fish population!

Eating Organic Will Help Save Our Busy Bees!

Organic farming benefits the entire planet, including our busy bees and beautiful butterflies! (10) Just like how pesticides affect human health, these toxic chemicals also place a burden on bees and butterflies (2). Entomologists (those who study insects) suspect that lethal and sublethal effects of pesticides are one of the many factors threatening our friendly pollinators (2). The use of pesticides is negatively affecting pollination and affecting our food system at large by reducing the bee population (21). Sadly, 40% of pollinators like bees and butterflies face extinction (11).

Although small, these tiny and mighty pollinators are responsible for a lot of the food we eat (11). Bees are responsible for the pollination of fruits, nuts and vegetables. Pollination is essential for foraging crops used to feed the livestock we depend on for meat and dairy products (1). More specifically, 75% of the world's food crops depend on these pollinators! (11) Without the bees, the shelves at your local grocery stores would be empty! And I don't know about you, but I certainly can't live without honey in my tea! To prevent this from happening, we encourage you to buy organic and while you're at it, join these U.S. food retailers in saving the bees and reducing pesticide use! (16)

Tips on Buying Organic

Even though there are many awesome reasons to eat organic, we know buying organic food products can get expensive. That's why we have a few pro tips to help you prioritize what to buy (and when to buy)!

1. Start off with purchasing fruits and vegetables where it matters most to buy organic!

We won't go into detail on all dirty dozen but we do suggest adding these organic items to your grocery list!

  • Strawberries 🍓 (according to many studies, strawberries are the fruit with the MOST pesticides)(5)
  • All other yummy berries you throw in that smoothie! - raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, etc.
  • Spinach (or any other leafy greens of your choice)
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Cherries

Basically, anything you eat the skin on you should prioritize to buy organic!

If you feel overwhelmed by all this new info and feel as though everything in your pantry HAS to be organic. Don't sweat it. There's no need to rush to restock your entire kitchen with everything organic but the above list should help you start!

2. Budget and hold off on buying these items

Here's a list of a few of the foods containing the least amount of pesticides, a.k.a the clean fifteen (so it's okay to hold off on buying these organic right away):

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Mushrooms
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Kiwi
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe

3. Buy organic meat and dairy products. Look for an organic certified label! Oftentimes, conventional farm animals may be fed antibiotics, animal byproducts, growth hormones, pesticides, and sewage sludge. We really shouldn't be consuming any of this. Whereas, organic farmers are required to raise their farm animals in living conditions as close to their natural habitat as possible while feeding them 100% organic food and do not administer antibiotics or hormones (18). Good for farm animals and good for you!

4. Shop frozen goods. There are many organic frozen fruits and vegetables that are affordable and delicious as well. Organic blueberry muffins that are good for the earth and your wallet taste better! Trust us!

5. Buy in season and shop at your local farm CSA! Fruits and vegetables are cheapest and freshest when they are in season (friendly tip: stock up on your favorite berries and freeze them for later!). Shopping at your local community supported agriculture (CSA) farm will help assure you buy what's in season!

We hope these tips will make the journey to eating organic a lot less stressful and instead, a lot more fun!

References:

  1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/would-we-starve-without-bees/zkf292p#:~:text=All%20sorts%20of%20fruit%20and,we%20depend%20on%20for%20meat
  2. https://www.beyondpesticides.org/assets/media/documents/pollinators/pollinators.pdf
  3. https://www.bloombergquint.com/onweb/synthetic-fer...
  4. https://www.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/sources-and-solutions-agriculture
  5. https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/strawberries.php#
  6. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10661-015-4371-3
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3515737/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5606636/
  9. http://www.n-print.org/Organic
  10. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/eutrophication...
  11. https://www.organic-center.org/pollinator-health
  12. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/5/e1406.short?casa_token=NLuQNAYHAhcAAAAA:qpYUy6ciDLWYmouziY_-ctj4UYVXbNcRNDaL3zHzDUZD2CHn6BpLkMfdndq5bylhunXC60AYcO8
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17962973/
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27128815/
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30411285/
  16. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190626005208.htm
  17. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jul/29/bees-food-crops-shortage-study
  18. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2012/03/22/organic...
Home

Victory Garden Revival!

Easily grow produce at your home

We've got some free time on our hands now that we're staying at home all the time and going to the grocery store can be really stressful. Plus, many grocery stores have had trouble keeping fresh produce in stock during the pandemic. Why not start growing your own produce?!

We've seen a revival of "victory gardens" in recent months as a way to reliably get fruit and veggies. Growing your own produce is rewarding, fun, and a great educational tool for kids! Plus, a backyard garden is organic! You also don't have to have a large backyard to create your own victory garden. Many plants can be grown in containers. A lot of nurseries and gardening stores are still open during the pandemic. Make sure to call ahead to confirm store hours and see if you can do curbside delivery.

The Farmer's Almanac is a great, in-depth resource for all of your gardening needs. It's recent article on the revival of victory gardens in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic provides a lot of important information.

Below are some fruit and vegetables we wanted to highlight that are great for beginners. If you feel like you need some extra help, you can always contact your state's master gardener! Master gardeners are especially knowledgeable about what will grow in your area, how to keep your plants alive, and unique gardening challenges your area might face.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a hardy vegetable that love full sun. They're a super versatile ingredient used in so many different recipes. You can't go wrong with tomatoes! They're easy to grow in a container or in a sunny spot in your backyard with loamy soil. Tomatoes take about 60-80 days to mature, so plant in early spring! Read more about growing tomatoes here.

Herbs

A great option for apartment dwellers. You can grow herbs in small pots in a sunny windowsill. You can also plant herbs in containers and keep them on your porch. Growing your own herbs is super convenient when a recipe only calls for a few leaves or a small amount of an ingredient. You can just snip off what you need from your own plants instead of bulk buying at the grocery store! We love mint, chive, rosemary, or thyme. Check out more tips on growing herbs here.


Cucumbers

Another great container plant! We recommend getting a vining cucumber to plant in a container, just remember to also include a trellis! Cucumbers love hot weather and lots of water, and they'll grow quickly as long as they're receiving plenty of both! Cucumbers make a great addition to any salad or even as a cocktail garnish (we won't judge!). More info can be found here.


Green Beans

Like cucumbers, green beans are compact, productive, and easy to grow! Pole beans will need a trellis, but bush beans don't need extra support. Beans love full sun and will reach maturity in 50-65 days. Try green beans in a stir fry or as a tasty side dish! Get started growing green beans with this helpful guide.


Raspberries

Unlike many other plants, raspberries will do well in a partially-shady location. They need well-drained soil and protection from the elements to thrive. Water regularly and be prepared to eat some very tasty berries! We think home-grown berries taste exceptionally better than store bought berries. Learn more about growing raspberries here.


Strawberries

You'll be amazed by how much better home-grown strawberries taste than store bought. Strawberries are a little more finicky than other plants, but they'll thrive in full sun and well-drained soil. Check out this comprehensive guide to growing strawberries before your next gardening session!

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Food

Making Your Fruits and Veggies Last

In times of pantry cooking and beyond

In this unprecedented time of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, we're all eating a little bit differently. It can be tough to get to the grocery store and favorite items might be sold out. Our usual restaurant stops, home deliveries, and takeout options may not be available. While we're cooking more with less, it's more important than ever to make your fresh fruits and vegetables last. Luckily, the kitchen ideas I've learned over the past few years for fighting food waste are easily transferable to cooking in a time of quarantine. When you're aiming to make your food go far, during a pandemic or just real life, it's good to know how to make your fresh produce last as long as possible.

A good principle is to store your produce in the same areas as they do in the supermarket. It's their literal business to keep food fresh as long as possible! While you obviously won't be using the exact same methods - they're aiming for display as well as storage - you can think of your produce in the same fundamental categories:

  1. Room Temperature Storage: these are the items you'd find displayed out of refrigeration in the produce section and can be divided into:
    1. Pantry storage (cooler and away from the light) for sturdy and long-lasting vegetables
    2. Counter storage for fruits that need to ripen
  2. Refrigeration: These are the fresh fruits and vegetables in the refrigerated cases of the produce department and typically fall into three categories:
    1. Loose: most fruit, like citrus and melons can just be placed into your fridge drawers
    2. Airtight storage: most delicate greens
    3. Breathable storage: berries and most other vegetables, from roots to stalks to hearty greens
  3. Special storage: a few items, like asparagus, mushrooms, corn and fresh herbs require a bit more attention.


Let's dive a bit more deeply into each one:

Room Temperature Storage:

Pantry Storage: some vegetables need a cool, dark place for optimum storage. In the old days that would have been a root cellar, but let's be honest - who has a root cellar these days? For most people this means a cupboard or a drawer away from the light where you'll store the following items:

  • Tubers such as potatoes and sweet potatoes, winter squash, and even eggplant, which browns in the fridge.
  • Onions, shallots, and similar alliums should also be stored somewhere cool and dark, but not with potatoes. If stored together, they'll cause the potatoes to sprout. While we're on the topic - green and sprouted potatoes can be eaten if peeled deeply to remove all green and sprouty bits, but if you're immunocompromised in any way, just compost them.

Counter Storage: your counter is the best place for most fruits (except apples, citrus and berries) to sit until ripe - that's why fruit bowls exist! Once ripe, these fruits should be moved to the refrigerator to preserve them as long as possible. Melons, stone fruit (i.e. peaches, nectarines, cherries, etc), and bananas fit into this category, as do avocados. Tomatoes should ideally always be kept at room temperature, but can be moved to the fridge once cut, or if in desperation to keep them a bit longer. If your tomatoes get wrinkly, roast them up!

Refrigerator Storage:

Produce in the fridge fits into three categories: loose, airtight or breathable. You'll see a lot of storage guides recommend plastic bags for airtight or breathable storage, but there are other options if you're trying to minimize your use of plastic. You can invest in reusable storage bags or save the plastic ones that come into your house as bread storage or cereal bags. Try repurposing old storage boxes or tupperware for fridge storage. A lot of items will do well in their original plastic container, such as berries and grapes, which can then be recycled.

Fruits in the fridge:

  • Apples, citrus and berries don't need time to ripen, and so should be refrigerated right away if you're aiming for lengthy storage. Take them out or let them sit at room temperature if you know you're going to eat them soon.
  • Berries do well staying in their original box or another breathable container. Once you get them home, remove any moldy ones, then don't wash them until you're ready to eat.
  • Citrus can last a long time in the fridge, loose in your crisper drawer.
  • Any other fruit that has been stored on the counter to ripen can be moved to the fridge to hold, or should be stored in the fridge in an airtight container once cut

Vegetables in the fridge: Most vegetables do best in the fridge when uncut, unwashed, and wrapped in a breathable container. This could be a plastic bag with holes in it or a reusable bag left open. The goal is to limit oxygen exposure, but allow a bit of airflow to minimize the moisture and condensation that causes rotting. This method works well for roots such as carrots and parsnips, cruciferous veggies such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts, fruits that are actually vegetables such as summer squash and cucumbers, as well as fresh beans, green onions and more. If your roots have greens on them like beets or turnips, cut the greens off and store them separately as they'll draw moisture from the root. Don't throw them out though - they're delicious cooked like chard or another sturdy leafy green.

Greens, especially delicate salad leaves, are more susceptible to moisture and wilting. You'll want to limit their supply of oxygen by storing in the airtight original container or rolled up in a plastic or reusable bag. Either way, it helps to stick a paper towel or dish towel in with the greens to soak up any moisture that would cause sliminess.

Special Storage:

There are a few fruits and vegetables out there that need some additional TLC to last as long as possible. Asparagus and most leafy fresh herbs are best stored like cut flowers. Place them in a tall upright container in an inch or two of fresh water and refrigerate. The one exception is basil, which should be kept at room temperature or it'll brown. Corn should be kept in the husk if possible; if not, wrap in damp towels to keep them moist, then wrap in a bag.

While we're on special storage - the most highly controversial of vegetable storage topics is... mushrooms! Some people swear by paper bags or damp cloths to retain some moisture; others claim that any moisture will speed up the rotting process and breathable plastic bags should be used instead. Just for you guys, I did an at-home experiment comparing a breathable cloth bag to an open silicone bag to a paper bag. After 5 days, the mushrooms were all still good, if the tiniest bit slimy, but the least slimy ones were the ones stored in the paper bag. However, the original packaging often works well too.

Freezing Fruits and Veggies:

If you're really aiming for long-term storage, most fruits and vegetables can be frozen. Fruits will lose texture (i.e. you wouldn't want to eat them raw once defrosted) so they're perfect for cooked desserts or smoothies. Vegetables can be frozen raw or cooked, depending on the vegetable, but you'll also want to use them in cooked dishes.

Fruits: cut your fruit into pieces, lay on a tray, then transfer to a resealable bag. Defrost, then use for pie or tarts, or leave frozen for smoothies. Frozen peeled bananas make a delicious ice cream substitute when blended!

Vegetables: hearty greens and other tender vegetables like asparagus and broccoli are best blanched before freezing - chop, boil in salted water for a few minutes, then drain and let cool and freeze in bags. Tomatoes and onions can be frozen when raw or cooked (chop them first), then used in cooked dishes once defrosted. Sturdier vegetables like winter squash and sweet potatoes do best when cooked and pureed, then frozen. Herbs freeze best with a bit of oil in an ice cube tray, then you can toss the cubes into stews, soups, and more. The main vegetables that don't freeze well are potatoes and lettuce. If you must freeze potatoes, make them into mashed potatoes first. And if your lettuce is getting old you can cook it (stir-fry or soup!) or perk it up in an ice water bath.

Home

Why You Should Care About Soil Contamination If You're Starting a Garden in Your Backyard

Here's the dirt-y details you're going to want to know and what to do about it

Dreary winter blues might have you dreaming of blue skies, warm weather and some home grown vegetables. But before you go jetting off to your nearest Home Depot or nursery, you might want to take a second and get to know your soil. We're serious! No, not the hello, my name is ____, more like the hey, what's in my soil? Not all soils are created equally and trust us when we say that you'll definitely want to make sure the soil you're using for growing food to eat is top notch!
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No matter where you turn everyone has suggestions for how to prioritize when to shop organic. Some swear by the dirty dozen (props to you if you can remember a dozen different fruits and veggies - I sure can't) other say just do what you can. While that advice is a start, sometimes we get confused and want a little bit of guidance. So, we went through the dirty dozen and other lists to break it down into a silly 3 word phrase. Like when you had to study vocab in school and you would make up stories, leafy berry skins helps us remember the 3 things to opt organic for in the produce section. Leafy greens, berries of all kinds, and things with skin you eat.

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Food

How to Get the Most Nutritious Bang for your Buck AND Fight Climate Change

Climate change is messing with your food. Here's how you can bite back.

Ugh. We're just gonna say it - Climate change sucks. It's messing with the weather, it's messing with our allergies, and now… our food too?!

All of that extra CO2 we're putting into the air is making plants grow really fast and forcing them to turn that carbon into sugary carbs and fibers instead of healthy vitamins and minerals. While a little bit of extra CO2 can help plants grow faster, too much zaps the nutrients out of healthy leafy greens, high protein rice, and vitamin-packed fruits. How? Plants need time to grow and build up healthy minerals and nutrients.

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Surely you have heard the recommendations to choose organic when you can. But, what does that really mean? Are you really getting the benefits that you pay for?

We have done some digging to find out exactly what organic means in different contexts, besides just being free of man-made pesticides. While organic does mean there are a stricter set of regulations, it doesn't necessarily mean pesticides aren't being used. It does mean that the pesticides used come from a vetted list of non-man-made chemicals, which does help assure they are better for your health because many chemical based pesticides have been linked to cancer, infertility, cognitive impairment, and immune system suppression to name a few.

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