I would say the top three things an individual can do to live sustainably are as follows:
- Recycle, Reuse, and Compost
- Conserve Energy
- Eat Organic
The Generation Organic Bus Tour came to the UAlbany Campus on Monday and this young group of farmers are setting out on a mission to change the way Americans eat. They want us to eat organically.
Most people are scared when you hear the word organic. I know I was before I first learned more about it. Lots of people think hippies and crazy environmentalists are the only ones who eat organic. I used to. I used to think people were getting fooled into buying a tomato that was labeled organic, but was exactly the same as the regular tomato sitting right next to it. Little did I know that those days are long gone. There are strict guidelines as to what can be called or labeled organic. The USDA will only label something as organic if it is made of 95%-100% 0rganic ingredients. Other companies will label products as organic, but the USDA has rules about that too. Someone who mislabels a product as organic can be fined up to $11,000 by the USDA. So, that myth about organic food is dispelled. But what does organic mean? No pesticides? Is that it?
Organic means so much more than you might think. Here is a link to the complete list of USDA requirements for organic farming: http://bit.ly/dABQM0. The USDA is very, very strict, about how a farm must be run, the quality of the soil it must use and maintain, and where the farm obtains its livestock and seed. A farm must be re-certified as an organic farm every year by a USDA approved certifying agent. No genetically modified crops can be planted, and no pesticides or man-made fertilizers can be used.
As you can see, the quality of organic food is reliable and significantly different that food produced on conventional, industrial farms. But the largest concern most people have about organic food is the cost. While on general “going” organic does cost a significant amount more, you must take other factors into account. Organic food, especially meat, often comes in smaller package sizes. Why is this? Organically raised animals are not pumped full of antibiotics and steroids, so the muscle mass of the animal is inherently going to be smaller; the same goes for produce. (For more info read here: http://bit.ly/doJ0q4)
What also must be understood is that eating organically does not just mean eating organic food. Eating organically also consists of a natural, healthy diet. According the USDA, the average male aged 19-30 only needs 6 1/2 ounces of protein (meat, beans, nuts, seeds, etc.) and the average female 19-30 only needs 5 1/2 ounces! With many restaurants offering 7, 12, and even 21 ounce steaks, it is easy to see how far our culture is from organic. (The USDA’s new Food Pyramid explains this in much higher detail: http://bit.ly/SkcnN.)
Eating organic is not just buying organic food, it is being healthy, conserving our natural resources, and even can help reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere. What steps are you going to take to “go organic”?
- Jeremy Grunstra