Just One Thing Challenge #4

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Did you send your letter and email last week? Did you get your friends to? This weeks is tougher still and will hit the old pocket book. Not all of them are going to be easy.

The request: When you buy your groceries this week, if the option presents itself buy organic. Looking at the canned pintos, splurge and buy the organic pintos for 50 cents more. Some of you will no doubt quaff at this week’s request. You will say, as I would, but what about the extra money. I only ask you to do this week. Find out exactly how much it raises your grocery bill this week. Post that amount below. You may be surprised at that amount. What is saving the ocean worth to you weekly $10, $20, $50? I ask you to consider that amount this week. If you decide financially it is too much of a strain then by all means do what you can do. But try it just this week.

The reason: I could lay out a well-reasoned argument for why you should do this, but my preparations for my Sea of Cortez expedition (I will be live blogging!) limit my time. But common you know the reasons! Feel free to list them below if you want.

Ongoing challenges:
1a. Sign up at this post
1b. Keep reading DSN and participating in the Just One Thing Challenge
2. Use no plastic grocery and shopping bags for the next week. Use, and purchase if necessary, reusable bags. Recycle all plastic bags around the house at a participating location.
3. Start pestering the hell out of Trader Joes.

People accepting the Just One Thing Challenge: 1. Craig McClain 2. Kevin Zelnio 3. Peter Etnoyer 4. Sheril K. 5. Mike G 6. Farne 7. Jim Lemire 8. Kiki 9. Fish Guy Dave 10. CK 11. Karen James 12. Merisea 13. Keely 14. tonyj 15. Traci 16. Mrs. Hillary Victoria Minor 17. Peter Mc 18. Tony D 19. Mary Aloyse Firestone 20. Miriam Goldstein 21.John 22. Judith in Ottawa 23. tjewell 24. Slim 25. Ashley 26. Silver 27. Steve W. 28. John Hill 29. Rachel 30. You?

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.


11 Replies to “Just One Thing Challenge #4”

  1. Hum… I can’t post an amount since I always buy organic, and have since c.1995 (a bit earlier, actually, but it wasn’t until then I could routinely buy/eat an all-organic meal). This last week, for instance, my food purchases included some beef and lamb, spices (black pepper and oregano), a bottle of wine, bread, cow’s milk, goat’s yogurt, coffee, tea, a selection of fruits and veggies, and a chocolate bar, all organic. My non-organic food purchases would be dinner in a restaurant, a nightly beer at the pub, and both coffee and (unfortunately) lunch during work.

    The issue for me is a fair amount is not local. E.g., the bananas, chocolate, coffee. tea, and spices are certainly not local. I’m not sure about the milk. Some of the veggies could be, except perhaps that this is still winter. The meat could be, but I’m not certain. In other words, the impact of transporting this stuff to the shops and weekly markets is much larger than I’d like. In the case of things like bananas, that also means ships, which are a fairly large source overall of CO2 emissions (see True scale of C02 emissions from shipping revealed in The Grauniad). (Since I typically walk or bicycle or use the bus, the impact of transporting it from the shops to the house is acceptably(?) low.)

    The transport issue also applies to non-organic.

    The cost difference? I simply don’t know. I just don’t buy enough non-organic anymore to have a basis for comparison.

  2. Like Brian we have been (predominantly) organic for quite some time, so the cost is hard to come up with now. When I started back to school we did a budget to find everywhere we could cut expenses and found that our price difference per week was $30 for a family of three. $8 of that was due to my wife’s dairy allergy (allergy as opposed to lactose intolerance) requiring us to use more expensive Rice/Soy/Goat milks and cheeses for so I don’t think that should count as going to organic cows milk/cheeses would only have increased our weekly budget by ~$3. So in round numbers, about $25/week increase. On our current budget that is significant, but worth it. We get even more savings since we make our own breads that are all organic (we eat more bread that way though!)

  3. I’ve got to admit that I’m not a big fan of organic. I watched Anthony Bourdain speak a few months ago and he said succinctly what I’ve thought in a more round about fashion for a long time: organic is rich people food. I’ve worked with advocates for people living in poverty who actually believed that organic wouldn’t cost too much more than conventional and in the end that is just an outright lie.

    If cost were the only consideration though I would probably eat organic more, but there’s much more to it than that. First, when people started using the term Organic it implied a more wholesome manner of food production at many different levels, whether it was humane treatment of animals or stopping use of pesticides. But as Organic grew it became hijacked by people who thought it sounded good, so official guidelines were established to regulate the use of the word. Enter the lobbyists… There are now rules governing exactly where you can place the label organic on a bottle depending on the percentage of organic material in a product, and apparently product names are exempt because there are things out there that are mostly non-organic but that are labeled organic prominently in the brand name.

    All of this would just be frustrating, but what is really criminal is the cost of Organic Certification, which drove many small farmers out of business. I knew a girl who had grown up on a dairy farm in Vermont that was completely organic in practice, but when Organic certification came around they were put out of business. After all, you used to pay more for a product that you thought was better because it wasn’t made in some corporate farm, but now the mega-farms sell the foods bearing the Organic label and the small farms can’t afford it (the label, not the actual practices).

    All right, so I hate the label and the fact that small farm owners are screwed, but it’s a better product, isn’t it? I remember passing Whole Foods last October and seeing the beautiful pumpkin displays they had set up and labeled organic. I live in Pennsylvania, where we produce huge amounts of pumpkins, and right across the river is New Jersey, the “Garden State”. So where did these organic pumpkins come from? California. There is absolutely no way in hell that it is better for the environment to grow a pumpkin in California and ship it to Pennsylvania than to just grow it here, especially when we make plenty of organic food too. And California is relatively easy to ship from compared to the amount of food we get from Chile… Places like Whole Foods don’t make their money being good for the environment, they make it buy selling their name to people who don’t think enough about what they’re buying and are willing to believe that a store will do that part for them.

    So that’s probably my biggest beef with organic: this is a challenge devoted to reducing our impact on the environment, and we were just told to buy organic but not specifically to buy local. If this were a health blog, or a cooking blog, I could understand that. But in the context of DSN, buying local FIRST and organic if available is so much better than the other way around, isn’t it?

  4. Like the others, I am already a dedicated organic shopper. And like blf says, it is way more complicated than that. If the organic apples are wrapped in plastic and from New Zealand and the non-organic apples are loose and from 20 miles down the road, you can bet I choose against organic. I suppose the real challenge here is to think about every purchase. What had to happen to get that thing into your shopping cart, and what will happen after you eat it…both in your body and in your landfill? For those who blanch at the cost of organic food, I have this to say: 1) you can pretty easily make up for the increase simply by buying more raw, whole foods and less processed/packaged food; 2) try substituting a couple of meals a week with simple meals of whole grains (cheap!!) like oat porridge or bulgar wheat; 3) eat out less. Lastly, as a kind of “expert” challenge to the organic veterans out there, I would suggest this: try to live a whole week just on what you can buy from the farmer’s market!

  5. Max and Karen,
    You bring up a great point. And obviously buying organic was intended as first step and then buying local. Obviously, buying both local and organic, and reducing packaging, are important. In a buying situation, should one choose wrapped organic produce from father afield or locally produced nonwrapped produced conventionally grown? This is rather slippery slope to head on, but worth considering, that eventually lead a consumer to doing nothing at al. This is not what we want at all. We can all agree that the worst choice is conventionally grown, heavily packaged, from afar is the worst choice. Any step away fro that is toward the right direction.

  6. We’ve bought organic for many years too, but more importantly we buy from our local farmers market and are starting to buy from a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). It is dirt cheap compared to the Grocery store. The fruit and veggies are larger, some stay fresher longer (despite the preservatives added in the stuff sold at grocery stores), and the taste is noticably more fuller (word?). Our main thing is to buy locally. Most local, small-scale farmers follow organic practices but aren’t certified, cause of the cost like (I think) Max was saying.

    Another misnomer is that organic food is pesticide free. As my many friends in agroecology here at PSU will tell me. Organic means organic pesticides. Even the amish are in on it here!

    But organic is better than non on the average, but supporting local CSA’s is a world better! For an upfront payment $545 (we also do the egg share for $60) we get 12 lbs. of fruits and veggies in season every week from mid-May to the end of November. They also have a winter share which we haven’t done yet. I have a family of 4 and our grocery bill alone is probably close $500 each month, if not more (including diapers, other baby crap and smoked salmon – cannot live without smoked salmon, man it sucks to be inland). If you are in central PA check out Village Acres Farm CSA: http://new.villageacresfarm.com/cms/

  7. We’ve bought organic for many years too, but more importantly we buy from our local farmers market and are starting to buy from a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). It is dirt cheap compared to the Grocery store. The fruit and veggies are larger, some stay fresher longer (despite the preservatives added in the stuff sold at grocery stores), and the taste is noticably more fuller (word?). Our main thing is to buy locally. Most local, small-scale farmers follow organic practices but aren’t certified, cause of the cost like (I think) Max was saying.

    Another misnomer is that organic food is pesticide free. As my many friends in agroecology here at PSU will tell me. Organic means organic pesticides. Even the amish are in on it here!

    But organic is better than non on the average, but supporting local CSA’s is a world better! For an upfront payment $545 (we also do the egg share for $60) we get 12 lbs. of fruits and veggies in season every week from mid-May to the end of November. They also have a winter share which we haven’t done yet. I have a family of 4 and our grocery bill alone is probably close $500 each month, if not more (including diapers, other baby crap and smoked salmon – cannot live without smoked salmon, man it sucks to be inland). If you are in central PA check out Village Acres Farm CSA: http://new.villageacresfarm.com/cms/

  8. We’ve bought organic for many years too, but more importantly we buy from our local farmers market and are starting to buy from a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). It is dirt cheap compared to the Grocery store. The fruit and veggies are larger, some stay fresher longer (despite the preservatives added in the stuff sold at grocery stores), and the taste is noticably more fuller (word?). Our main thing is to buy locally. Most local, small-scale farmers follow organic practices but aren’t certified, cause of the cost like (I think) Max was saying.

    Another misnomer is that organic food is pesticide free. As my many friends in agroecology here at PSU will tell me. Organic means organic pesticides. Even the amish are in on it here!

    But organic is better than non on the average, but supporting local CSA’s is a world better! For an upfront payment $545 (we also do the egg share for $60) we get 12 lbs. of fruits and veggies in season every week from mid-May to the end of November. They also have a winter share which we haven’t done yet. I have a family of 4 and our grocery bill alone is probably close $500 each month, if not more (including diapers, other baby crap and smoked salmon – cannot live without smoked salmon, man it sucks to be inland). If you are in central PA check out Village Acres Farm CSA: http://new.villageacresfarm.com/cms/

  9. We’ve bought organic for many years too, but more importantly we buy from our local farmers market and are starting to buy from a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). It is dirt cheap compared to the Grocery store. The fruit and veggies are larger, some stay fresher longer (despite the preservatives added in the stuff sold at grocery stores), and the taste is noticably more fuller (word?). Our main thing is to buy locally. Most local, small-scale farmers follow organic practices but aren’t certified, cause of the cost like (I think) Max was saying.

    Another misnomer is that organic food is pesticide free. As my many friends in agroecology here at PSU will tell me. Organic means organic pesticides. Even the amish are in on it here!

    But organic is better than non on the average, but supporting local CSA’s is a world better! For an upfront payment $545 (we also do the egg share for $60) we get 12 lbs. of fruits and veggies in season every week from mid-May to the end of November. They also have a winter share which we haven’t done yet. I have a family of 4 and our grocery bill alone is probably close $500 each month, if not more (including diapers, other baby crap and smoked salmon – cannot live without smoked salmon, man it sucks to be inland). If you are in central PA check out Village Acres Farm CSA: http://new.villageacresfarm.com/cms/

  10. We’ve bought organic for many years too, but more importantly we buy from our local farmers market and are starting to buy from a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). It is dirt cheap compared to the Grocery store. The fruit and veggies are larger, some stay fresher longer (despite the preservatives added in the stuff sold at grocery stores), and the taste is noticably more fuller (word?). Our main thing is to buy locally. Most local, small-scale farmers follow organic practices but aren’t certified, cause of the cost like (I think) Max was saying.

    Another misnomer is that organic food is pesticide free. As my many friends in agroecology here at PSU will tell me. Organic means organic pesticides. Even the amish are in on it here!

    But organic is better than non on the average, but supporting local CSA’s is a world better! For an upfront payment $545 (we also do the egg share for $60) we get 12 lbs. of fruits and veggies in season every week from mid-May to the end of November. They also have a winter share which we haven’t done yet. I have a family of 4 and our grocery bill alone is probably close $500 each month, if not more (including diapers, other baby crap and smoked salmon – cannot live without smoked salmon, man it sucks to be inland). If you are in central PA check out Village Acres Farm CSA: http://new.villageacresfarm.com/cms/

  11. We’ve bought organic for many years too, but more importantly we buy from our local farmers market and are starting to buy from a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). It is dirt cheap compared to the Grocery store. The fruit and veggies are larger, some stay fresher longer (despite the preservatives added in the stuff sold at grocery stores), and the taste is noticably more fuller (word?). Our main thing is to buy locally. Most local, small-scale farmers follow organic practices but aren’t certified, cause of the cost like (I think) Max was saying.

    Another misnomer is that organic food is pesticide free. As my many friends in agroecology here at PSU will tell me. Organic means organic pesticides. Even the amish are in on it here!

    But organic is better than non on the average, but supporting local CSA’s is a world better! For an upfront payment $545 (we also do the egg share for $60) we get 12 lbs. of fruits and veggies in season every week from mid-May to the end of November. They also have a winter share which we haven’t done yet. I have a family of 4 and our grocery bill alone is probably close $500 each month, if not more (including diapers, other baby crap and smoked salmon – cannot live without smoked salmon, man it sucks to be inland). If you are in central PA check out Village Acres Farm CSA: http://new.villageacresfarm.com/cms/

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