Green New Year’s Resolution #2 – Eat Organic and Local

Agriculture has become increasingly concentrated in the last few decades, and Americans have grown accustomed to the benefits of these industrial agriculture operations. Most of us take for granted the low price of milk and eggs or the fact that we can buy strawberries all winter long. But that convenience comes at a steep cost to the environment: while farming may seem green, in fact the methods used in industrial farming operations are a major source of pollutants and environmental damage. So this year, for your second New Year’s resolution, go green by choosing organic, locally grown fruits, vegetables, and meats.

Traditional farming methods use crop rotations and natural animal products to maintain soil nutrients and to protect crops, but industrial farms rely instead on high volumes of fertilizers and pesticides. These chemicals, including herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides, make their way into the surrounding ecosystem and cause serious damage to plant and animal life. Even fertilizer runoff can be damaging to the environment because it disrupts the natural balance of nutrients. And these chemicals don’t just stay in the environment: for example, the non-profit Environmental Working Group found pesticide residue on 97% of all the grocery store apples they sampled.  

Meat production has also become heavily concentrated: in 2010, ten companies produced 90% of the poultry eaten in the U.S. The factory farming of animals is another major source of environmental pollution, including chemical runoff and greenhouse gases emanating from large pools of animal waste. These farms also create an incredibly abusive environment for the animals, who are fed a steady diet of hormones and antibiotics to artificially speed growth and are frequently kept in dirty, cramped living conditions that breed disease.

Organic farms use sustainable farming methods designed to avoid causing damage to the environment, so buying organic is one of the best ways you can reduce your own environmental footprint. To get started, look for local farmers’ markets that carry organic, locally grown foods – you’ll be reducing the energy it takes to transport food to your table and you’ll be putting money back into your community. When you’re shopping at the grocery store, try to find USDA certified organic foods, which will have come from sustainable farms that emphasize animal welfare and don’t use chemical fertilizers and pesticides. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can also start your own garden or get involved in a community co-op that will provide fresh fruits and vegetables year round.

Buying organic produce isn’t just a great way to help the environment – it can also help improve the health of you and your family. Organically grown produce is higher in certain nutrients, so learn to take advantage of the seasonal produce available in your area to prepare nutritious, homecooked meals. This will also reduce the amount of pesticides and fertilizers that make their way onto your table. And with a little planning you can make sure you have organic produce available year round: it’s easy (and economical!) to buy in bulk and store meat and produce in your freezer at home. So help yourself and the environment this year by avoiding industrially farmed foods and instead choosing organically grown fruits, veggies, meats, and dairy products.

Goals for 2012

• Buy locally grown, organic produce and meats and be sure to pick up reusable shopping bags so you can avoid plastic grocery store bags.

• Avoid restaurants that purchase from industrial farming operations. Instead, try to cook more meals at home and stock up on beautiful bamboo bowls and other eco-friendly tableware to make your whole meal green.   

• Learn to be seasonal: look for recipes that use the fruits and vegetables available in your area and freeze food in reusable containers to help keep organic produce in your home year round. You can also make jam or can tasty fruits like peaches and berries – it’s fun and easier than you might think.   

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