The Beacon

Chapter One: Fresh Produce. Go Organic.

This is the third in a series of posts about how to green your life, week by week.

This week, thanks to Mindy Pennybacker’s Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth through Simple, Everyday Choices, I decided to make an attempt to go organic, produce that is. Living in Juneau, Alaska, a town of 30,000 people with no roads leading in or out, the only way to deliver produce is by plane or boat. Therefore, calling the produce here fresh is a stretch. Nevertheless, Juneau does get some produce, and some of it’s organic.  

I went to the local store and browsed the organic produce section. As most of you very well know, unless you are at a whole foods store the selection of organic produce is limited and often expensive. So why go organic? Shouldn’t eating greens be good for you no matter what? Yes, of course, but organic is much better for you and the planet. Organic produce reduces the amount of pesticides that we ingest and carry in our bodies. I always thought this wasn’t life changing, so who cares? After reading DOGT, I realized how many pesticides are used and the health threats they pose to humans and wildlife. The numbers are staggering. Around 940 million pounds of pesticides are used on American crops a year and 40 percent of these chemicals are linked to cancer or nervous system harm.

As I stand in sticker shock over the price of organic celery, DOGT pops into my head and I realize how pathetic it is that I would actually be willing to sacrifice my health to save money. I put the celery—and a couple of apples-- in my basket and continue to shop. Thanks to the practical tips in DOGT, there is hope for all you pennypinchers like me.  I couldn’t afford to buy everything organic, but I’ve learned to pick it where it counts the most.

DOGT is filled with very nice Choose it or Lose it charts. For produce, it lists the “toxic thirteen” fruits and vegetables that contain the highest amounts of pesticides when conventionally grown. You can slowly and effectively transition by purchasing organic produce from this list.

The Toxic Thirteen:

Apples, Bell Peppers, Blueberries, Carrots, Celery, Cherries, Grapes (imported), Kale/Collards, Lettuce, Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, Spinach, Strawberries.

The other top green produce option is locally grown, within 100-200 miles, which expends fewer fossil fuels in transport. There is a Juneau farmers market from June through mid-September, featuring Southeast Alaska locally grown and gathered fresh vegetables and fruits. And seafood:  we may be short on growing seasons, but wild Alaska fish is a top sustainable choice in DOGT’s seafood chapter.

 Do One Green Thing tells you what to ask for at farmers’ markets to get local produce that’s grown using sustainable methods, even if it’s not certified USDA organic. This includes avoiding synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, which saturate the soil and run off, producing oceanic dead zones. The book includes loads of resources and how-to’s, such as finding a farmers market near you on the USDA or at Local Harvest.

Honestly, I have not fully converted to buying organic, yet. However, I definitely stay away from the toxic thirteen and pay close attention to where my food is coming from. If the produce is from farther than a one-stop plane ride, I do not buy it. Remember, if you are going to do one green thing, go organic or local with at least one vegetable and one fruit!

For more tips and to ask questions of the friendly author, visit Mindy’s website, GreenerPenny.com.

Next week’s one green thing:  Saving energy with how you use your home appliances.

Will Race is Oceana’s Pacific Administrative Assistant.

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