Buy Local, Buy Organic

Buying local and organic benefits the environment, your family and your community.  Organic food reduces the use of harmful chemicals and buying local reduces transportation emissions and supports local businesses and farmers in your community.  And organic food is healthier and tastes better!

Easy
Households: 1 completed, 1 committed
600
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Annual Savings
$0 - $200
Upfront Cost
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Energy and water savings

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  • Reduce the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides
  • Support local farmers and businesses in your community
  • Better tasting food!

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Overview

The Action
When possible, we will buy local and organic.
Is this action for me?
Yes! This action is for everyone.
When and Who?
This action can be done anytime by anyone.
How long will it take?
Quick - just a moment to look for the local or organic label.
What is the cost?
It depends. Local grown food can actually be less expensive, depending on the item and where you live. Organic food on average is more expensive, 20-40% or more, but again it depends on the item. Some organic items cost the same or even less.

Benefits

  • Reduce the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides

  • Support local farmers and businesses in your community

  • Better tasting food!

Resources

Information

There are many farmers markets and ways to purchase local produce!

Eating a plant-based diet is one of the most impactful acts you can do to improve the health of yourself and the planet.

The Basics

Buying organic reduces both climate emissions and the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides. Buying local helps reduce the energy spent to deliver food and other products to your local stores. Buying local also supports your community - studies show that locally owned businesses reinvest in the local economy at a 60% higher rate than big chains and internet retailers.

Checklist

Learn about the benefits of organic food
Check out the list of best food to buy organic
Buy organic when possible
Be label smart
Buy local - support local businesses
Buy in season

The benefits of buying organic

Buying organic has many benefits to both your family’s health and the environment.  Organic food is grown without harmful chemicals and pesticides, hormones and antibiotics, creating safer, healthier food for your family.  In fact, research has found that milk, cheese and yogurt from organic cows contains over 30% more heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids than non-organic alternatives and organic based food crops are up to 60% higher in key antioxidants.  

Chemical fertilizers used in conventional growing require the use of large amounts of fossil fuels and are harmful to our atmosphere.  In addition, a lot of the pesticides and chemicals used for conventional growing methods end up in rivers, streams and groundwater, contaminating water supplies and endangering many animals and bird species.  Organic farming methods avoid this, protecting our environment for all.  Organic farming uses natural fertilizing methods which keeps soil healthy and also helps to keep carbon in the soil and out of our atmosphere.

Best foods to buy organic

Organic products can sometimes be more expensive than their conventional counterparts.  If you are on a budget and need to prioritize which organic food to choose, there are a few foods to choose first that will have the most health and environmental benefit.  These foods have been found to have the highest levels of dangerous chemicals with conventional farming.  

  • Meat & Poultry - organic meat and poultry are raised without the use of antibiotics, a practice that has triggered a rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria.  Organic meat is also rasied withouth hormones.  Research suggests a strong connection with hormones given to cattle and cancer in humans.  Buying organic meat and poultry avoids both hormones and antibiotics.

  • Milk - the same as beef, organic milk avoids the hazardous hormones and antibiotics  used in raising cattle.

  • Fruit - strawberries, apples, grapes (including raisins and wine), peaches, imported nectarines and blueberries

  • Vegetables - celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, hot peppers, kale,  collard greens, zucchini and lettuce

  • Coffee & Chocolate

Some foods with the lowest levels of pesticide residues with conventional farming include avocados, pineapples, onions, kiwi, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.

Look for the USDA Organic label

Organic or “natural” labeling can be very confusing.  To make sure you are buying certified organic products, look for the USDA Organic label.  USDA organic certification means that at least 95% of the ingredients are certified organic.  Be wary of “made with organic” labels, as only 70% of the ingredients must be organic.

Labels that say “natural” are not certified organic and this label can mean many different things.  The one exception - if you are shopping at your local farmer’s market, talk with the local growers about their growing practices.  For smaller farmers it is often expensive to go through the process for formal organic certification.  Some use organic growing practices without the label.  Ask them for more information on their practices and use your best judgement when purchasing.

USDA organic certification requires farmers to follow strict practices and what can and cannot be added to the foods. For USDA organic meat, the certification requires that animals are raised in more natural living conditions than necessary for conventional meats. Their food must also be 100% organic and use of antibiotics and hormones are prohibited. For organic produce, the certification calls for the soil to be clean of prohibited substances, like most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, for three years prior to harvest. Finally, processed and multi-ingredient organic certified foods prohibit the use of artificial preservatives, colors or flavors.  

Buy local

Buying local supports local business and reduces the carbon emissions needed to transport products to your local market.  Look for "locally grown" or "locally produced” labels now used in many stores.  If you don’t have these labels, check the foods you buy most often and look for the location on the product labeling.  Nearly all foods will list the location of where the food is produced somewhere on the label.  This takes a bit extra time, but if you check a few items each time you shop, soon you will know where all your products come from.

Another way to buy local is to purchase foods that are in season.  If it is winter, there are likely no local oranges being grown.  Eating food that is in season helps to quickly identify foods that are more likely to be grown locally.  It also helps you to appreciate our seasons and the connection from our food to the earth.  On top of that, it saves money!  Out of season food is grown farther away and often costs more.  To find what foods are in season for your area check out this great seasonal ingredient map.