The Mind the Store campaign knows that retailers often need a little push to phase out specific chemicals and products. That's why they're spearheading the fight against harmful consumer products. Mind the Store works with retailers, governments, and individuals to transform the marketplace and create healthier retail choices. To learn more about the work and process, we interviewed Mike Schade, director of Mind the Store.



Because Health: Could you give us a brief overview of how Mind the Store came to be? What are you looking to accomplish?

Mike Schade: In 2013, we launched the Mind the Store campaign to challenge the nation's largest retailers to get tough on toxic chemicals in products and packaging and develop comprehensive safer chemicals policies.

By highlighting leaders and calling out laggards to improve, our campaign works to transform the marketplace and drive a competitive race to the top among the biggest retailers in North America.

Since we launched the campaign, we have convinced some of the nation's biggest retailers like Walmart, the Home Depot, Amazon, and others to phase out numerous toxic chemicals from key products and packaging. These include BPA, phthalates, PFAS, flame retardants, and methylene chloride. And that's just the start!

BH: That's important work! Can you tell us a bit more about why retailers need to protect consumers from harmful chemicals?

MS: It's pretty simple when you think about it. Retailers have the power to decide what products they sell. When you walk into your favorite store, you expect the products on the shelves to be safe. Most folks don't realize that harmful chemicals are hiding in everyday products all around us—from cleaning products and cosmetics to food packaging and electronics.There are many scientific studies on the very serious health hazards certain chemicals can pose.

Consumers also want to know that the products they buy aren't hurting other people or the planet. But these chemicals are also hazardous to the communities, workers, and environment where they're made and eventually disposed of. And unsurprisingly low income communities and communities of color are disproportionately impacted.

There's also a very strong business case to act! Retailers that are not properly managing chemical risks can lose the trust of their customers, lose market share to competitors, and may even risk facing significant financial liabilities.

BH: A big component of the Mind the Store campaign is your Retail Report Card. What is the Retailer Report Card? What criteria do you use to rank different retailers?

MS: The report card gives grades to leading retailers on the steps they're taking to address highly hazardous chemicals in consumer products. No one wants to earn a letter grade of F or D. It makes them look bad, with customers, with investors, and with the media. So by publicly grading companies, this is encouraging them to improve. You can read more about it here.

As consumers, we have enormous power! In the report card, you can learn about who got A's (like Target and Apple) and who got F's (like Ulta and Starbucks).

Our next scorecard is coming out soon in late March. So stay tuned and be sure to visit it at RetailerReportCard.com!

BH: How have retailers reacted to your report card? Are they receptive to the feedback? What are some changes you're particularly proud of?

MS: Absolutely! Since we launched the campaign seven years ago, and the report card four years ago, we've seen a massive amount of progress among retailers.

One of the first companies we started engaging in the campaign was Target, who in response, launched a chemicals policy restricting toxic chemicals like phthalates, parabens, and formaldehyde releasers in beauty, baby, and personal care products. They've made a lot of progress, and have continued to expand their policy year over year.

And since Target first launched its policy, other retailers like Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Sephora have targeted many of the same chemicals for restriction in beauty and personal care products.

BH: It sounds like shopping at retailers with better grades is a simple way to protect ourselves, in addition to supporting companies that we know make better products! Overall, what are three changes Mind the Store wants to see from all retailers?

MS: We believe there are many changes retailers should make, but most importantly…

  1. Companies should have comprehensive safer chemicals policies, with lists of chemicals they're restricting and phasing out, and requiring suppliers to disclose ingredients to them and to consumers. After all, we all have a right to know!
  2. Companies should set clear public goals to measure success in eliminating chemicals of high concern and reducing retailers' chemical footprint. And it's super important for companies to publicly report on how they're meeting those goals!
  3. And finally, we need companies to stop playing the toxic whack-a-mole game! Companies should develop a way to evaluate the hazards of alternatives to ensure companies don't move from one problematic chemical to another. If they move from a chemical that may cause cancer, to a chemical linked to infertility, that's not going to do anyone any good!

BH: And finally, why focus on retailers to make these changes instead of manufacturers or governments?

MS: The Mind the Store campaign focuses on retailers because they are an important strategic intervention point. If a company like Walmart asks their suppliers to "jump", often times they'll ask "how high?"... they have massive amounts of influence over their suppliers and global supply chains. We are working to leverage that market power, not to mention the influence that consumers have over retailers, to drive change. No retailer wants to sell products that can expose their customers to hazardous chemicals. And no retailer wants to be on the six-o-clock news with a story about hazardous chemicals showing up in their food packaging or children's toys.

BH: That's a good point, retailers are very influential. We know the focus is on retailers, but how does Mind the Store also affect manufacturers, policies, and legislation?

MS: Our organization also fights for strong and sensible policies at the state and federal level, whether in Washington State or Washington DC. And we know that when we not only change the practices of big corporations, but also strategically align those policy commitments with policy reform in key states and federally, that's a perfect recipe for transformative change and success.

Folks can get involved on a personal level too by signing up for our e-list at SaferChemicals.org to get involved in our campaign!

Thanks so much for the interview and all that you do at Because Health! It's such a useful and informative website!

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Our Non-Toxic Household Item Picks at Target

Everything you need for a healthy home!

Who can resist Target? It's our one stop shop for all things home, beauty, baby, snacks... basically everything! But Target is a huge store that carries thousands of different items; how do you know what are the best non-toxic picks? That's where we come in! We did the research and found the best non-toxic household items. All these items have been vetted by us and are readily available both online and in stores.



Seventh Generation Free & Clear Natural Dishwasher Detergent Packs
Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
Instant Pot Duo 6qt 7-in-1 Pressure Cooker
Bon Ami Powdered cleanser
Seventh Generation Fresh Citrus Laundry Packs
Puracy Green Tea and Lime Natural Multi Surface Cleaner
Everspring wool dryer balls
Arm and Hammer Baking Soda Odor Absorber
Honest Company Antibacterial Disinfecting Spray
Pyrex 10pc Freshlock Glass Storage Set Freshlock Glass Storage Set
Stasher Bag
Organic Cotton Solid Sheet Set

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The holidays are right around the corner, which means we're on the hunt for cool and unique gifts! That's why we've put together gift guides for everyone on your list. Looking for non-toxic, sustainable, eco-friendly, and fun gifts for someone's home? Look no further! These are perfect gifts for all the homebodies in your life.


non-toxic and sustainable gift guide for the home

Non-Toxic and Sustainable Gifts for the Home

$: Under $50

Graf Lantz Round Felt Coasters

These wool coasters from Graf Lantz are as beautiful as they are functional. We love that they are made from a renewable resource and protect tables from unslightly stains. A perfect stocking stuffer!

Heath Ceramics Bud Vase

This sweet little ceramic bud vase from Heath Ceramics will add a fun pop of color to any room. This vase looks so good you don't even need to add flowers!

Cora Ball

Protect your clothes and the environment with this Cora Ball! Simply throw it in with your next load of laundry to catch and prevent microfiber pollution.

Branch Basics Concentrate and Glass Bottle Set

Plant-based cleaning that really works! Branch Basics concentrate is a multi-use cleaning product that is free of any harmful chemicals. Pair it with the glass bottle set for a beautiful gift as the perfect introduction to green cleaning.

$ $: Between $50-100

Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America's National Parks

This beautiful coffee table book brings the gift of our National Parks into the living room. There are photographs of all 62 National Parks, including maps of each park and details of where the photographs were taken. This is a must have for any nature lover.

Cocktail Collection

It's always 5 o'clock somewhere, so why not up the cocktail game with Bloomscape's potted cocktail collection! This trio sage, mint, and rosemary are perfect for garnishing or muddling and come in beautiful ceramic pots.

goop Beauty Scented Candle

Give the gift of hygge with a luxurious scented candle from goop. These candles are made with soybean wax, natural fragrances, and smell absolutely divine!

Chilote Salmon Leather House Slippers

Cool meets cozy with these Chilote House Slippers. The combination of knitted sheep wool and salmon leather (yes, salmon!) are sure to delight. Each pair is crafted through a network of independent artisan women in Patagonia and all carbon is offset supporting the Cordillera Azul National Park in Peru.

The Little Market XL Friendship Bowl

Support artisans in Rwanda with these sisal and sweetgrass Friendship bowls. Hand woven in beautiful designs, these bowls will look great perched on a shelf or nestled on a coffee table. The Little Market is our go to for fair trade and quality gifts.

Levoit Air Purifier Core300

Give the gift of clean indoor air! Banish dust, pollen, and pet dander with the Air Purifier Core300 from Levoit. The unique filtration system removes 97% of fine particles and allergens, and a streamlined design will look great in any living room.

$ $ $: Over $100

Citizenry Mercado Lidded Storage Basket

The Citizenry Mercado Lidded Storage baskets offer a chic storage solution for all of life's clutter. These baskets come in three different sizes, two colors, and are hand woven out of locally-sourced palm leaves by artisans in Mexico in a fair trade environment.

Bearaby Cotton Napper Weighted Blanket

De-stress and relax with the Bearaby Napper Weighted Blanket. Long-staple GOTS-certified organic cotton means this blanket is heavy but breathable! We love this sustainable weighted blanket and love how they don't use synthetic fibers.

Avocado Natural Latex Mattress Topper

Give the gift of better sleep with this Natural Latex Mattress Topper from Avocado! GOLS organic certified latex and GOTS organic certified wool provides incredible comfort and will upgrade any sleeping experience.

Food

Non-Toxic and Sustainable 2020 Gift Guide for the Home Chef

Eco-friendly and non-toxic ideas for anyone who loves to cook

The holidays are right around the corner, which means we're on the hunt for cool and unique gifts! That's why we've put together gift guides for everyone on your list. Looking for non-toxic, sustainable, and fun gifts for your home chef? Look no further!



Non-Toxic and Sustainable Gifts for the Home Chef

$: Under $50

Reusable Straws

Reusable stainless steel straws are a welcome addition to any kitchen. They reduce plastic waste and are easy to clean! A great stocking stuffer for anyone on your list.

Stasher Silicone Reusable Bag

Holiday leftovers have met their match with Stasher silicone reusable bags! These plastic-free bags are reusable and have an air-tight seal that will keep food fresh.

Bee's Wrap Reusable Food Wrap

Half an avocado? Leftover sandwich? Keep food fresh with Bee's Wrap Reusable Food Wrap. These wraps are easy to clean, non toxic, and are reusable for up to a year. See you later plastic wrap!

Bread Knife

Any home baker who has mastered the sourdough boule or banana bread this year needs this knife! This beautifully crafted Tojiro Bread Slicer is made from stainless steel and will cut with ease. No smushed breads again.

Twisted Wood Salad Servers

These twisted olive wood salad servers from the Little Market are perfect for anyone who loves salads! These servers are hand carved in Kenya and feature a unique, twisted handle. We love shopping on The Little Market, nonprofit fair trade shop featuring ethically sourced, artisan-made products.

Coyuchi x White Buffalo Land Trust Bandana Napkins

Not only are cloth napkins better for the environment than paper towels, but the proceeds from these Coyuchi napkins go to a good cause! The proceeds from these GOTS certified organic + Fair Trade Certified napkins go to support the CampaignForJalama.org and the 1000 acre center for regenerative agriculture. This is a no brainer for any modern dining table and for the environment.

Equal Parts Whole-cut Oak Cutting Board

This Whole-cut Oak Cutting Board from Equal parts is sturdy and naturally antimicrobial, with no glues or fillers. A flat side for chopping and a grooved side for collecting juices adds to the versatility of this board!

Eastfolk Pottery Mug

Elevate morning coffee time with this Pottery Mug by Eastfolk. This mug comes in a beautiful array of glazes (lead-free of course!). Bonus: it's made by hand in Ashville, North Carolina and is dishwasher safe!

$ $: Between $50-100

DeBuyer Mineral Carbon Steel Pan

Say goodbye to Teflon! This De Buyer Carbon Steel Fry Pan is made from 99% pure iron and becomes non-stick after seasoning. The smooth bottom is perfect for frying up eggs and even more delicate items like fish. This is a must have for any non-toxic kitchen.

Bean Box Coffees of the World Sampler

This Bean Box Coffees of the World Sampler box is the perfect gift for any coffee lover. They will enjoy comparing the notes and flavor profiles of 16 unique coffee samples. We love that Bean Box works with roasters that have long-term, direct trading partnerships with the actual farms from whom they source coffee.

Farmhouse Pottery Classic Pie Dish

Bakers rejoice! This Ceramic Pie Dish by Farmhouse Pottery is handmade in Vermont. A white glaze (lead-free!) and scallop edges give this dish a classic finish. Dessert just tastes better when baked in nice dishware, right?

$ $ $: Over $100

Pique Tea Ultimate Immune Support Tea Crystals

Pique Tea Crystals easily dissolve in both hot and cold water, making it easy to enjoy tea wherever you are! And since they're USDA organic and made without preservatives, sugar and artificial sweeteners, you can feel good about having a cup (or two... or three...) Pique even tests for heavy metals like lead, pesticides, and mold. Gift a healthy habit!

SodaStream Aqua Fizz Sparkling Water Maker

La Croix who? This SodaSteam Aqua Fizz Sparkling Water Maker turns tap water into a bubbly beverage in seconds! We love this version with glass carafes. Add some homemade syrup or bitters for the ultimate mid-day treat.

Sarah Kersten 2 Quart Fermentation Jar

The 2 Quart Fermentation Jar by Sarah Kersten is the perfect gift for someone trying a new hobby! This compact jar helps make the most amazing sauerkraut, kimchi, or any fermented vegetables, which are super good for gut health. Plus it is beautiful enough to sit on the shelf all the time.

Misen Stainless Steel Starter Cookware Set

Good pans are a must in the kitchen. That's where the Misen Stainless Steel Starter Cookware Set comes in! A stainless steel skillet, sauté, and saucier will help cook dishes to perfection without the need for a non-stick (Teflon-like) coating. These pans will last a lifetime and are worth the investment.

The holidays are right around the corner, which means we're on the hunt for cool and unique gifts! That's why we've put together gift guides for everyone on your list. Looking for non-toxic, sustainable, eco-friendly, and fun gifts for him? Look no further!


non-toxic and sustainable gift guide for him

Non-Toxic and Sustainable Gifts For Him

$: Under $50

Lifestraw Personal Water Filter

This super portable water filter can be a life-saver, literally. Lifestraw's unique microfiltration system can turn unsafe water into drinking water in the blink of an eye. Super convenient for any just in case outdoor situation or for your emergency kit.

Keepcup reusable coffee mug

This sleek and sophisticated reusable Keepcup will become a favorite for morning coffee runs! The tempered glass body provides extra durability and protects against drops. It's also great for parents who can't seem to drink their coffee in one sitting.

Ursa Major All-Star Travel Kit

Looking to introduce someone to clean skincare? This kit from Ursa Major showcases their best products in a convenient travel kit, including deodorant, face wash, face wipes, and a recovery cream. This is the perfect way to try new clean products before committing to a full sized bottle!

Adorrgon 12x42 Binoculars

These lightweight, powerful binoculars are perfect for camping, bird watching, or even live sporting events (remember those?). 12x magnification and full-coated lens creates crystal-clear images.

Scrappy's Bitters New Classics Gift Set

This bitters gift set from Scrappy's contains lavender, cardamom, black lemon, and Orleans that are essential for any home mixologist. We love how Scrappy's uses fresh organic fruits and herbs and doesn't add any food coloring or artificial flavors. These bold flavors are super fun to play with!

Merkur Safety Razor

Banish single use plastic razors or expensive blades with this durable Merkur Safety Razor! Double edge blades and a weighty short handle will give a super close shave without skin irritation.

Stanley Classic Growler

The Stanley stainless steel growler is an easy way to transport beer from a favorite brewery to just about anywhere! The stainless steel interior will keep the beer tasting fresh without the chance of leeching harmful chemicals. It's also a great way to share home brews with family and friends.

$ $: Between $50-100

Kyrgies Classic Wool Slipper

Upgrade old, worn-out slippers to these ultra cozy Kyrgies Classic House Shoe. Handmade from felted wool, these slippers will keep feet warm during the coldest winter nights.

Flybold Slackline Kit

2020 is the perfect year to explore new hobbies, so why not try a slackline kit from Flybold? This complete kit is perfect for all skill levels and is even suitable for teenagers! Family bonding time has never been so fun!

$ $ $: Over $100

Jack Wolfskin JWP Shell Jacket

Whether the plan is to hike the Appalachians or run to the grocery store, this Jack Wolfskin Shell Jacket is perfect for every situation. The environmentally friendly TEXAPORE ECOSPHERE material keeps dry without the use of harmful PFAS chemicals.

Finex 12" cast iron skillet

Take cooking to the next level with this Finex cast iron skillet and ditch the nonstick pans (with their harmful Teflon and PFAS chemicals). Premium design combines with rigorous manufacturing standards to create a pan that your cook whipping up Michelin-quality meals with ease.

Polywood Modern Adirondack chair

Enjoy the great outdoors (even from a porch) with the Polywood Modern Adirondack Chair. These chairs are made from recycled milk jugs and detergent bottles and come in a wide arrange of colors!

The holidays are right around the corner, which means we're on the hunt for cool and unique gifts! That's why we've put together gift guides for everyone on your list. Looking for non-toxic, sustainable, eco-friendly, and fun gifts for her? Look no further!


non-toxic and sustainable 2020 gift guide for her

Non-Toxic and Sustainable Gifts for Her

$: Under $50

Aya Paper Co Retro Thank You Card Set

Hand written notes will never go out of style and this is the perfect time to reach out and connect with friends and family. These thank you cards from Aya Paper Co are printed with 100% non toxic toner on 100% PCW Recycled, PCF chlorine free paper.

Captain Blankenship Dry Shampoo Powder

No bad hair days here! Captain Blankenship Dry Shampoo Powder will keep your hair looking refreshed even when you don't have time (or motivation!) to shower. The aluminum free baking soda, organic arrowroot and kaolin clay will absorb oil without leaving any residue or nasty chemicals in your hair.

Olio E Osso Natural Lip and Cheek Balm

This Natural Lip & Cheek Balm from Olio E Osso is about to be your next makeup obsession. This multitasker comes in numerous shades (we're a big fan of Tea Rose), gives a natural glow, and is made with safe ingredients.

Skin Gym Rose Quartz

Self care gets a major upgrade with this Rose Quartz Facial Roller from Skin Gym. Natural rose quartz will help de-puff your skin and create a radiant glow. Plus it just feels good, which is good enough of a reason for us.

Herbivore Coconut Milk Bath Soak

Bring the spa to you with Herbivore's Natural Coconut Milk Bath Soak. This luxurious bath soak only contains 4 ingredients and will leave your skin soft and hydrated. This is just what you need for the perfect Friday night in.

Grown Alchemist Intensive Hand Cream

Grown Alchemist Soothing Hand Cream is perfect for hands ravaged by harsh hand sanitizer and constant hand washing. Instead of petroleum products and harsh preservatives, this hand cream has aloe vera and cactus flower extract help to relieve dry skin and keep hands moisturized.

$ $: Between $50-100

Jungmaven Jung Tee

On the hunt for the perfect t-shirt? Look no further! The Jung Tee's relaxed fit makes it perfect for any occasion. Plus, it's made from 55% hemp and 45% organic cotton! We increasingly are into hemp because it's a natural material that requires almost no pesticides, irrigation, or fertilizer to grow.

Hydro Flask Water bottle with straw lid

Hydration meets style! This Hydro Flask stainless steel water bottle is super durable and comes in a bunch of fun colors. We love the straw lid and find ourselves drinking way more water this way.

Raaka Organic Chocolate Gift Subscription

This 3 Month Gift Subscription to Raaka Chocolate is a total crowd-pleaser. Who doesn't love chocolate?! And Raaka's transparent trade policy and quality organic ingredients made this treat a no brainer.

Coyuchi Organic Waffle Robe

Stay cozy during those long winter days in this GOTS certified, organic cotton robe from Coyuchi. We guarantee it's the first thing you'll reach for in the morning and the last thing you'll have on before going to sleep.

$ $ $: Over $100

Sea Bag Mariner Stripe Tote

This cute Red Mariner Stripe Tote from Sea Bags will hold all your essentials and look good doing it. Handmade from recycled sail, this tote is the perfect work bag... even if you're just commuting to your home office!

Dry Farm Wine 6 Bottle Gift Box

Want to try natural wine but don't know where to start? Then a Dry Farm Wine gift box is perfect! It's a great introduction to organic, biodynamic, wild yeast, and more. This curated mix of reds and whites is lab-tested and delicious!

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Non-Toxic and Sustainable 2020 Gift Guide for Kids

Here's the key to finding a perfect non-toxic gift for kids of all ages!

The holidays are right around the corner, which means we're on the hunt for cool and unique gifts! That's why we've put together gift guides for everyone on your list. Looking for non-toxic, sustainable, eco-friendly, and fun gifts for kids? Look no further!


non-toxic and sustainable 2020 gift guide for kids

Non-Toxic and Sustainable Gifts for Kids

$: Under $50

Toysmith Beetle and Bee Paint a Bird Base, Backyard Birdhouse Kit

Welcome birds into your backyard with a fun eco-friendly project that kids will love doing. We also love that this company uses FSC certified wood.

Green Toys Dump Truck

This dump truck with some gravel or dirt gets non-stop play at our house. It's always a favorite in the sandbox too. It's super durable, yet light enough to take to the playground. Green Toys are made from recycled plastic milk containers, and contain no BPA, pthatlates, or PVC.

Oli and Carol, FLO the Floatie Natural Rubber Duckie

A rubber duckie is a favorite bath toy for a reason, but synthetic rubber is full of yucky chemicals like phthtalates. That's why we love this natural rubber version. Bubble baths just got a lot more fun!

Ocean Bingo

Beautifully illustrated twist on traditional bingo. This is a fun way to learn about ocean creatures that brings the family together. It's a simple game, but one that your family can play over and over again.

Tegu 8 Piece Pocket Pouch Magnetic Wooden Block Set

This is the perfect first building set for younger kids that will still be fun years later. We love how portable this is and can be thrown in the diaper bag for on the go fun and entertainment. Not only is the wood sustainably source, but Tegu employs local workers in Honduras and pays them a living wage. Now these are blocks we can get behind.

Kids Organic Apron + Cookbook for Young Chefs

Cooking is a great way for kids to explore new foods and flavors and get excited about healthy eating. This organic apron and the award winning Cookbook for Young Chefs is the perfect starter gift set to get any kid started in the kitchen.

Elly Lu Cupcake the Unicorn

Elly Lu makes extremely cute organic stuffies that we love. There is also a really cute book that goes along with the stuffed animal that helps the stuffed animal come to life. The cloth is OCS Certified Organic Cotton and filled with a recycled polyfill made from recycled water bottles. They also have narwhals, tigers, elephants and more!

Green Tones Glockenspiel

This is a top quality cute glockenspiel with beautiful crisp sounds. It's made from eco-friendly rubberwood and the clever designs mean that kids don't take the bars on and off. That's less cleaning up for parents!

Tender Leaf Toy Espresso Machine

If it's your dream to have your kids make your cup of coffee in the morning, this wooden espresso machine is great for pretend play. It's eco-friendly and quality made and is the perfect gift for a budding barista.

$ $: Between $50-100

Keva Contraptions Plank Set

Made from solid pine, KEVA Contraptions are a fantastic building and engineering toy for older kids. This set includes 200 wooden planks that can be used to build scaffolding, ramps, paths, and much more. Kids will have so much fun making their own Rube Goldberg machine in their living rooms.

Manners&Co TableTalk Conversation Cards

Use this set of 135 cards to spark meaningful conversations with kids at the dinner table or in the car. It's a great way to get even the most reticent little ones (and partners) thinking and talking. There's a good variety of topics that can be revisited time and time again.

Hape Scientific Workbench

A fun and quality workbench that will inspire kids to experiment and tinker. This set includes contains everything children as young as four need to conduct over 15 experiments and learn basic scientific principles. Made of FSC certified wood like all Hape toys.

Poppie Toys Rattan Doll Crib

This beautiful doll crib is made from sustainably sourced rattan and cotton. It is a heirloom piece that will inspire hours of pretend open-ended play. The fact that it's beautiful enough to fit in with your decor is just a bonus.

$ $ $ : Over $100

Origial Wobbel Board

This quality balance board promotes balance and creativity. The board can be used a bridge, boat, and anything else they can imagine! This board is made with European FSC beech wood and even adults will have fun with it.

LL Bean Kids Pull Sled

A heirloom quality pull sled for the littlest snow explorers. We love that it's beautiful enough to function as holiday decor when it's not in use. We also love that it's not plastic, which inevitably cracks and breaks and contributes to our plastic pollution problem.

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...
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