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(CNN) -- CNN.com asked users for their thoughts on the rise of organic foods, recycled products and eco-friendly ingredients. Here is a sampling of the responses, some of which have been edited:
Many don't see the importance of buying organic because we have become so far removed from the source of our food. Since our food chain has been out of sight and mind for so many years, the quality has plummeted to dangerously low levels. Buying organic is the only way I can ensure that the farmers and food producers who I support are creating healthy, nutritious food without damaging the soil with pesticides, herbicides and genetically engineered crops. Usually what I buy does not even cost more but if it does, I am much happier to spend a few cents on food that has more flavor and that will not add to my cancer risk as I get older. Every time I go shopping I have a chance to vote with my wallet. For too long we have blindly given our money to companies presuming they will provide us with the best quality food while preserving the soil and water for future generations. I'm not that naive anymore.
Like everyone else, I spend thousands of dollars each year on food. Every dollar that I spend acts as a "vote" for a particular company and its food production practices. Because of the amount of money involved, I think that this is a great opportunity to create a better environment, provided I know the environmental practices of each company. That is where organic labeling is helpful. Many food companies are damaging the earth by considering short-term profits rather than environmental sustainability. These companies are only responding to consumer demands for lower-cost food. The more consumers demand environmental sustainability in food production, the food companies will respond. We live in a "consumerocracy." I choose not to buy any animal-based products. Once I learned that animals are nutritionally unnecessary, and learned that it takes several times as much resources to obtain food from animals, I stopped buying animal-based foods. A majority of this nation's crop yield goes towards feeding animals. Even if farming practices did not change, we could decrease our use of fuel, pesticides and fertilizers by one fourth (more by some estimates) if we all decided not to eat animals.
One thing buying organic does is it tends to keep more of the revenues local. Many grocery stores in my area have organic produce sections that are supplied by local farmers. I also get my milk from Royal Crest Dairy. The milk is fresh, coming from the cows a maximum of two days prior. It is delivered to my door in trucks run on natural gas. Each week, they collect the empty containers to be sterilized and reused. The cows are guaranteed not to have been treated with growth hormone, and the milk is tested constantly to maintain that standard. How can this not be better? They recycle, they use cleaner-burning fuels, and the cows aren't artificially altered with drugs that can cause health problems. I'm just a consumer.
Due to my food allergies, as many fruits, vegetables, meat and milk products are bought organic as possible. I have been eating mostly organic foods for the last three years and will have to do it for the rest of my life. We use recycled paper products as much as possible. We recycle all plastic and deposit bottles. I would like to recycle paper, but there is no facility for that nearby. I have been recycling since I was at least 10 years old and plan on doing it always. Either way, this is not a fad. It is a vital way of life. I also prefer to purchase vehicles with high mpg when I need a new vehicle. I put my money where my mouth is when I say I want to protect the environment.
My awareness to what we were doing to ourselves and our planet by through the foods we eat and the products we consume began when my first baby started having allergies to processed foods. At 3 he was diagnosed autistic and we have found the only way to keep him functioning is through fresh, organic foods and through clean air and water. So now we do everything we can to live a planet- and body-friendly lifestyle (while still living in America).
My husband and I have been pescetarian for eight years, eating minimal dairy and only sustainably harvested seafood. We use "green" cleaning agents, conserve water, have two rain barrels to capture roof runoff for our landscaping, buy recycled-content products and recycle as much as possible, even bringing recyclables home from the office weekly. If the product has wasteful packaging or is not designed to be less-invasive from "cradle-to-grave," we won't buy it. Our landscaping is improved with compost and slow-release nitrogen fertilizers only and utilizes plants that require little supplements to thrive. We buy no fur or leather, little wool. Organic foods appear to be unreliable but we buy them depending on product. We eat a lot of soy-based products: milk, cheeses, snackbars, powdered soy protein, etc., and enjoy them very much. Our efforts make a difference. It's like having the right to vote: Shame on you for not voting. So, shame on you for not being an informed consumer and capable recycler. Europe and their finite space has been in on this for years and years. The U.S.'s manifest destiny attitude is working against creating an efficient and productive consumer/post-consumer America. We need to make a difference and we'll continue to be a part of that change in mindset.
I try to buy products with not a lot of excess packaging, refuse plastic bags at the store, and make it a point to recycle as much as possible. Any time I go to throw away a plastic cup or bag, I think that that bag is going to be around in the trash for the next couple hundred years. I don't feel comfortable contributing to trash that will last longer than my life span. People always ask, "How does it really make a difference?," but I know I can only be responsible for my own actions and conscience. And I wouldn't want to know I was excessively contributing to the problem. That, and I know a journey of a thousand steps begins with a single step.
Since I live in a community that is landlocked (the only way out is by plane or boat), I feel that recycling is very important! I teach my child and my students to do things that are "good for the earth." I recycle at home. We have bins in the garage to collect tin cans, aluminum, plastic bottles, glass and mixed paper. It is one very small extra step in the daily routine. We haul it to the recycling center ourselves. Also once a month our community has a hazardous waste recycle day -- old paint, computer monitors, etc. At my school (a medium-security juvenile treatment facility), we are building a composting system as part of our gardening project. When I have a choice I choose organic. I don't always have that choice in Juneau. Organic growing helps put nutrients back into the soil and I support those farmers who choose that method. And it tastes better! There are about 450 families in Juneau that order a box of organic fruits and veggies each week via air freight. It is an extra commitment to do all the chopping and cooking, but I have learned to cook things that I would have never tried before -- if I even could have bought it in Juneau! The gardening project at my school is still in the formative stages, and the goal is to teach my teenage boy students about organic gardening and that gardening takes planning, planting and patience -- something that our immediate gratification society is short on these days. Gardening makes you slow down, observe nature and really enjoy the fruits of your labors.
I've been into natural/organic foods since I worked at a natural foods store in the 1970s. What do I have in my pantry and fridge? To name a few: Santa Cruz organic apple/blackberry apple sauce, Hunt's organic tomato products, Annie's natural raspberry vinaigrette, Imagine organic chicken soup, and Ben & Jerry's sorbet. I'm amazed what products I now find at my local supermarket. And I do read the ingredient list on products. The environment is very important in my purchasing decisions. I recycle as much as I can, and my huge recycling can is overflowing when it's picked up every two weeks. I think organic will continue to be a factor to more and more consumers. Look at the number of Whole Foods supermarkets in the country today. With some cancer rates rising, I think consumers will demand more organic choices as there continues to be evidence of a link between some foods and cancer.
I make every effort to purchase organic products for my family. Virtually all of our produce, dairy and meat/chicken/soy products are organic. I feel very strongly that organic foods are not only healthier but are the environmentally responsible choice. We also recycle as much as possible. Often our recycling bins are much more full than our garbage cans. If everyone does their part, small as it may seem, the positive impact on our environment will be immeasurable and the legacy we leave or children will be much different than that our parents left us.
My family shops for organic, locally grown vegetables when they are in season. The rest of the year we purchase organic for our children's vegetables and fruits most of the time, except when the cost is 50 percent higher or more. Then it becomes unfeasible to afford these products. As far as milk, eggs and soy milk go, we purchase exclusively organic despite the price premium. We rarely eat meat products, so it is relatively easy to find organic products for the majority of our diet.
I am so proud of my community as it recycles all plastics, as well as the normal paper products, tin cans, milk jugs, etc. We love to recycle and compost and feel good when we can keep things out of the local landfill. There is no way that this is a passing fad -- buying local, green, organic and consuming less/producing less waste is the way of the future. Haven't we damaged the earth enough already? We are constantly striving to improve our contribution and are shocked that some people still think it is OK to throw away things like tin cans and pop bottles that are so easily recycled. We also live in North America's first solar heated community, so we are well on our way to feeling like we are minimizing our ecological footprint as well as living a positive example for our children.
The environment is the main factor in my purchasing decisions. Not only are organic foods good for the environment, they are also good for the body. I think that the rise in consumers going green does have a good amount to do with many celebrities taking an interest in it. For that reason alone I believe that it could be a passing fad for many people.
I purchased an electric bike earlier this year to both help the environment and improve my fitness level. I charge the bike using a 15-watt solar panel. The panel also powers a light in my backyard shed, an electric, battery-powered lawn mower and an electric weed trimmer. This all does add up and makes a difference in reducing the demand for carbon-based fuels. Furthermore, my example has led others to consider installing solar panels, buying electric bikes and electric battery-powered lawn mowers. The multiplier effect of our actions can be enormous.
Organic and packaging have become paramount in my home. The inundation of chemicals in the growing, processing and storage of our food and the connection to health issues is just starting to be understood. I go out of my way to shop at stores carrying a large amount of organic products, am in the process of cleaning out as many plastics as I can out of my life, have installed a chlorine filter on my shower, only drink reverse osmosis water from my kitchen filter, and sleep on organic cotton sheets. Our bodies weren't designed to deal with all the foreign "input" from food, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, cleaners, pollution, etc. They are on overload -- my gut (both proverbially and in actuality) tell me most of these "created" things are bad in the excess we are absorbing them. Obesity, allergies, asthma, MS, lung cancer in non-smokers, liver disease in non-drinkers, unexplained skin rashes and eruptions. Our bodies are trying desperately to cope. I increase my recycling with every opportunity, carry my own bags to the store and buy fewer plastics. I am minimizing my exposure but am far from fanatic or obsessive. I hope this all isn't a fad, I hope it is more of an awakening, a beginning of people realizing their impact on the world.
I refuse to by organic food. I come from a farming community and know the difference between the organic fields and fields that have been properly treated. Organic fields often look insect ridden and unhealthy. Same with meat. I would never eat organic meat, the animals do not look healthy, so I do not see how the meat could be good for you. I do not believe crops and animals should be overtreated, but if there's a problem (sickness, insects, etc.) the problem needs to be fixed (e.g.. pesticide, antibiotics, etc.) As for recycling, I believe it is very important. There's no excuse for not recycling because recycling centers are everywhere nowadays, not to mention it helps slow the use of natural resources.
In order to move away from the environmentally destructive processes of conventional food production and manufacturing we need to support alternative processes by buying organic and recycled goods. Admittedly, it can be more expensive to "buy green," but it doesn't have to be. Begin purchasing food from a local farm. Many times these vendors offer pesticide-free goods at a reasonable price, and buying local means your money stays in your city's economy, strengthening your community. Reduce, reuse and then recycle. Before purchasing anything consider whether or not you really need it. After you've finished with an item, "recycle" it at a thrift store, and close the loop by shopping at thrift stores. When you shop at thrift stores you're buying "recycled." After these two changes, which will cost you nothing and will probably save you money, then buy recycled goods. Much landfill space is taken up by paper, so start by buying recycled paper towels or toilet paper to have the greatest effect. Remember, when you buy recycled not only are you saving raw materials, but you're also saving the energy it takes to make all new products. We can make a change if we vote with our dollars.
I do believe that in purchasing vegan goods I am making a difference. I purchase more than only organic goods, but I am a vegan. I think that the processes that are currently in place to supply the mass market with food is sometimes just unacceptable (i.e. adding so much sugar and trans-fats and animal products to foods where it is entirely unnecessary). I would say that I "eat green." I know other people would be much healthier to adopt a similar diet and taste for food.
While buying foods that have not been sprayed directly with chemicals seems like a good idea, it does nothing to ensure that organic vegetables haven't been grown in soil with a past history including herbicides, pesticides or other worse chemicals. Many traditional farmers merely switched over to organic farming when they found out how much significantly more profitable it was! Produce can suck up chemicals in soil just the same as being sprayed by them. I believe that pesticides and herbicides have saturated our food chain and everyone is exposed to them in one way or another. If you buy organic produce you may or may not be reducing your exposure -- it's essentially a crap shoot. We consumers don't get any assurance of the farmland's past history. This is a major flaw in the organic industry and why I believe that buying organic produce is just throwing money away.
I try to buy organic whenever possible. As I've gotten older, I've noticed my friends and family falling ill with various forms of cancer and other genetic diseases that experts think may be triggered by common chemicals like pesticides and animal hormones used in agricultural practices. I've also gone vegetarian because my body can't handle whatever hormones they're giving animals these days. It's surprisingly easy to go vegetarian if you're dedicated to it, and there are lots of imitation products to help life-long meat eaters ease into a vegetarian lifestyle. I also recycle and am pushing my employer to start recycling drink bottles and cutlery. I work in a large facility and there's no active recycling program for these materials. They tout that they've got one of the greenest operations in their business, but it could be even more comprehensive. I and a group of my colleagues are working on the inside to change that. I'm planning on going even further to reduce the amount of garbage my household puts out by obtaining an indoor worm bin to help break down some of the food wastes that I can reuse outside. It seems like such a waste to have food going to a landfill where it could take hundreds of years to breakdown once its been covered over.
The environment factors into almost all of my purchasing decisions. Organic produce is a top priority when it's affordable (I just can't justify paying $3.50 for a single green pepper). I also look closely at the packaging and will pick items with recyclable or minimal packaging over packaging that wastes resources. I recycle and compost all I possibly can, and reuse items where possible (empty orange bags can be crafted into great scrubbies!). I believe I'm making a difference. When I use the dumpster we share with our neighbors, I'm amazed at how little trash we generate compared with our neighbors who don't recycle at all. Their family of six will fill a 4-yard dumpster in a week, where the two of us have one 13 gallon bag per week. My big question is -- how do we get more people to recycle? How do we make it sexy so people will do it?
We have been going steadily "greener" in my household for the last five years or so. I was appalled to learn about the additional hormones I had been feeding my daughters in their milk and meat from a young age because the animals have been given these substances. Eating vegetarian is not enough: conventional fruits and vegetables have been soaked in pesticides. Yes, I hear they are "safe." No, I do not believe it. I choose organic milk, meat and produce wherever possible, because, even though they are more expensive, I know they are generally free of chemicals. I also prefer local organic, because we don't help the earth by shipping a few mangos halfway around the world in the off season, even if they are organic. Our family recycles everything that we possibly can: plastic, cans, glass, paper. My younger daughter has saved school notes and papers that are blank on one side for several years: when printing out rough drafts of paper or things like Mapquest directions, she will use the "backs" of these papers, rather than a new piece of computer paper. Need I add that all our computer paper is the recycled brand? We also recycle clothing and other items by donating them rather than throwing them away. If a towel is just beyond even donating, it becomes a cleaning cloth until it is shreds. We take Styrofoam peanuts to the local UPS store if we are not shipping anything ourselves. By the way, the results of your paper shredder make great packing material: just don't use your old shredded checks! Years ago, when our youngest was still in diapers, we moved from northern New Jersey where municipal recycling pickup had just gotten into full swing, to a small Southern town where they recycled nothing. In an effort to reduce our trash, I switched my baby from disposable diapers to cotton ones -- you know, the kind you have to wash. I would swear an affidavit that this is why she is an environmental science major in college even as we speak! It is more than just being green: it is about being responsible stewards of the world we have been given, which includes ourselves. But we all know what Kermit the Frog had to say about this: "It ain't easy bein' green."
The way you have linked recycling and organic foods in this article is interesting because whole food and natural food markets should be leading the way in recycling, but "waste" so much with the extensive use of non-essential plastic packaging and plastic throwaway tableware, just as one example. I reuse and recycle absolutely everything that I can. I am disappointed that my town (and most towns) have such "limited" recycling programs. I struggle but do succeed in finding places to take most of my stuff. With all the money that federal, state and local governments spend, they certainly could come up with more comprehensive solutions to this worsening problem.
My brother-in-law died of complications of Parkinson's. We did a great deal of research and discovered that pesticides have been linked to this type of disease. Also, dogs who live in yards treated with herbicides have a much higher risk of developing malignant tumors earlier in life. Therefore our family eats organic as often as possible, uses no cleaning chemicals in the home or in the yard and tries to purchase items that are recyclable.
Over the last 10 years and since the birth of our daughter we have become much more aware of nutrition and buy both conventional and organic produce and products. Growth hormone in milk, antibiotics in meat, pesticides in vegetables all are very scary as we attempt to raise a healthy child. There is also an organic supermarket in town that no longer has that "health food store" nuts and twigs feeling. Although prices are higher, they are not exorbitant. Maybe if conventional supermarkets and producers become aware of the financial loss this means to them, they will reduce contaminants in our food supply. It's a shame that we even have to discuss contamination of our food.
First of all, would someone show me an inorganic meal plan. It is the misuse of words that suck people into some behavior change that leads to a lack of credibility for the messenger. Secondly, I do not think about the environment when I am shopping, I am thinking about the exorbitant prices I am having to pay in order to get items that don't live up to the ads. Case in point, $3 for a loaf of bread that is supposedly "whole wheat," except whole wheat flour is three-quarters of the way down the ingredient list disclosed on the package. Lastly, I don't buy into the idea that it's someone else's fault that our environment is taking a beating. The polluters are you and me. When was the last time someone said to a boss, "Ya know, boss, I could be doing almost all my work at home, using a computer link, and save $45 of gasoline a week to boot." The truth of the matter is that we are selfish. We want to ride around in a Hummer, eat out in restaurants three and four nights a week -- more gasoline down the drain -- and indulge our children with $150 tennis shoes. However, those kinds of changes -- work from home, etc. -- are politically impossible. We could take one year of the post office's capital budget and equip every address in America with Internet service, but what do we do with half a million unemployed postal workers? We could pass a tax law that would be a national sales tax and do away with the IRS, but we have half a million unemployed there -- plus the CPAs would cease to be needed. As long as we let "Washington" do it we are doomed. You want to have a positive impact on your environment, cook at home, carpool, vote for politicians who at least say they would reform energy and other departments. Bring back neighborhood schools and save tens of billions every year on busing our children across town. We spend every dime we make buying goods and services from China at Wal-Mart and wonder why we are unemployed and have a middle class that is disappearing faster than beer at a football game. Thank you for the opportunity to sound off.
The most important thing for me is to never eat beef that came from an animal that lived in a feed lot. Cows are meant to roam pastures and eat grass. Feeding them corn is poisonous to them, and the runoff of fertilizer used to produce millions of acres of corn has created a huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Moreover, the feed lot life is a horrible way to treat an animal. I was very influenced by the new book by Michael Pollan, "The Omnivore's Dilemma," which takes a close look at these issues.
Eating natural foods without a lot of processing is important to me. I support organic and am willing to pay a premium for it so long as it isn't simply processed food in disguise. I think you have to be very careful to read past the organic label to see if you are truly making a healthier choice.
From my point of view, anything positive we do helps preserve the known as well as the unknown, in the physical and spiritual worlds, in the real, dream-like, and fantasy worlds, in the world as "we know it" in addition to the scientific. Eat well, be more balanced, physically and mentally, the thoughts will be more healthy, those around you will be more motivated to be on the same frequency and in turn this adds to the spread of a more balanced vibration beginning with ourselves, and those immediately around us will undeniably be affected. This way more light will spread! Supporting healthy products and not false advertising is also important. Buy local. Support the real preservers of the earth and help the cause for the future. Think ahead seven generations at least! Do not buy corporate products using "healthy" as a means to way overprice them. Be smart. Peace!
I-Reporter Ferris Kawar sent in this photo of himself sitting down to a breakfast of organic cereal, soymilk and fair trade coffee.
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