Get Your Organic On
You may be wondering how you can get started on an organic path. You may be concerned about looking after your family’s health. You may be primarily concerned about your contribution to environmental damage.
Whatever your motivation, this starter guide will guide you towards some simple and very easy to implement changes you can make to your lifestyle right now to Get Your Organic On!
I’m Julie Gibbons, an organic enthusiast based in Scotland. I have been blogging about my almost everyday family’s organic life for over five years at www.organikal.com.
When I started out, I thought that organic meant buying food with a label but over the years I’ve come to understand that going Organikal is an approach which applies to most aspect of our lives and which often doesn’t arrive with a label or any other certification.
If you enjoy this guide, then please do keep in touch with me at the following fine internet locations:
The Organikal Kitchen
Like you, I don’t have time to slave away in the kitchen 24/7, but I want my family’s meals to be fresh, nutritious and chemical free : for our physical and mental wellbeing and the health of the planet (not forgetting the producers, growers & pickers).
Two important reasons to choose an organic kitchen (via The Soil Association)
Well-being : Hydrogenated fats and controversial additives including aspartame, tartrazine, MSG are banned under organic standards.
GM-free : Genetically modified crops and ingredients are banned under organic standards. You may be surprised to know that over a million tonnes of GM crops are imported each year to feed non-organic livestock which produce pork, bacon, milk, cheese and other dairy products.
Have you thought about banning the supermarket?
Over 60-70% of the UK’s food production passes through the hands of the Big Four supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsbury, Safeway and Asda). This is not good news for food producers or consumers.
We officially banned the supermarket back in 2006 and we no longer spend money on incongruous, surplus and expensive items when we shop. We’re increasingly aware of where our food and other household items come from, how they were made and how they got to us. That’s not to say that we’re never to be seen in a supermarket anymore. I could use all manner of excuses, but it’s probably suffice to say that our modern lives mean that sometimes we’re in there marvelling at how big it is, how much shiny stuff there is – and justifying the meal for two for £5 – we’re only human, right?
You might be interested in this report about how green your supermarket is. And if you’re looking for an alternative, here are some ways you can avoid being the willing consumer;
1. Join your local organic veg box scheme and prepare to work a little harder to make sure its a success for you as fresh organic farm produce won’t last as long as the artificially preserved stuff from the supermarket. Plan your menus for the week to make sure you use the contents wisely and make time to deal with your delivery as soon as you can as you do need to store your veg box contents properly to avoid putting them straight on your compost heap. Take these precautions and you’ll avoid a veg box disaster.
2. Visit your local farmers market for some seasonal produce that’s low in food miles and eco footprint. Make friends with your suppliers and let them know about your likes and dislikes. Ask questions and remember that some produce that isn’t certified organic may actually be less intensively and aggressively processed than some that is.
3. Order online from specialist suppliers or sign up to a site such as Organikal affiliate supplier The Ethical Superstore, where you can choose to shop by your particular ethic. Ordering online from a shopping list is a great way to avoid buying stuff you don’t need and if you choose to buy in bulk, you will also help reduce the packaging and food miles associated with frequent trips to the shops.
If you simply can’t get what you need without visiting the supermarket, then please substitute ordinary groceries for the organic version - but remember to favour goods from independent organic suppliers. On the issue of local produce, did you know it is perfectly legal for supermarkets to disguise foreign products by using ‘Union Jack’ or ‘Produce of the UK’ stickers to indicate that the products have been processed/packed here? And likewise, that produce grown in the UK can be sent abroad for packing and processing and still be sold as the local option?
Our local supermarket is The Co-operative and they have a very clear food ethics policy. Find out about your supermarket’s policy and ask questions/make suggestions if you notice things you’d like to change.
Eat your greens!
1. Gain control of your physical and mental nutrition and grow your own organic greens in your kitchen.
Sprouting seeds make a highly nutritious crop, available all year round, for little money and even less effort. These little gems are alive with vitality and stuffed full of vitamins and proteins to provide you with essential nutrients for your body and mind’s health.
Alfalfa sprouts in particular are one of nature’s superfoods. If you’re vegetarian you will find these an invaluable addition to your diet, providing many elements you would otherwise only find in a food supplement tablet – particularly vitamin B12 (only available in a handful of other plants).
The great news is that kids also love growing and eating them – and their versatility allows you to use them in salads, stir fries and sandwiches.
Herbs on your windowsill is another option for growing your own ingredients in the kitchen but be warned, they won’t survive forever inside – herbs prefer full sun! However a temporary pot of self-grown basil, parsley or mint can be guaranteed organic, and will certainly get you started thinking about growing more of your own.
For a helping hand to get started, please consider taking the One Pot Pledge.
2. If you’re not already vegetarian, consider reducing your meat intake. A new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) states that global sustainability will “only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products“. Quite a responsibility, huh?
The Organikal household is vegetarian (although personally I have been an on/off veggie for the last 25 years, sometimes consuming meat when visiting friends or relatives or when travelling). Whatever the case with your family, decide on your policy towards eating animal products and don’t forget to tell others about your special dietary requirements!
If you’re not yet willing to go all the way, then consider joining a programme such as Meatless Monday or join in with Treehugger’s Graham Hill and become a Weekday Vegetarian. Here he is explaining the concept:
Reclaim your tap water!
Bottled water isn’t at all ecologically sound, never mind the question over the safety of chemicals leaking from the plastic into the water. Have you seen this video from The Story of Stuff and Free Range Studios yet? It makes the environmental case better than I can.
You can get started immediately;
1. Invest in a water filter – either a jug system, or fit one onto your tap. We are known to have a plentiful supply of fresh, clean water here in Scotland, but filtering it helps to remove some of the unwanted particles and improve the taste. There’s no need to be concerned about the waste cartridges, either. For the last 15 years water filter company Brita has been recycling and you can return your 100% recyclable filter cartridges at plenty of local stores.
2. Avoid using plastic bottles and invest in a safe alternative for water on the run. There is some debate about the danger posed here, but as Organikals we prefer to reduce the risk.
3. When you’re in a cafe or restaurant ask for tap water : in France, it would be unusual for you not to be given a bottle of chilled tap water automatically in a restaurant. Save yourself some cash, and ask for a jug of tap water when you next sit down to eat out.
The Organikal Home and Garden
Our home and garden are organic and our purchase of utilities and gadgets takes account of their environmental impact.
You want a clean and beautiful home without sacrificing the planet, or your health. You know there are alternative suppliers of products and services for your household that will make a genuine difference, but you don’t want to be ripped off.
You’ve probably already made some basic changes to your home, such as replacing regular lightbulbs for energy saving versions. You may also have taken care of the bigger jobs such as loft insulation, however, there are some basic everyday changes that you can make that are so simple, they’re often overlooked.
Get rid of the chemicals!
Look under your kitchen sink…. How many different brands of cleaners do you have? Have you read the ingredients list? Scary, isn’t it? The truth is, you really don’t need all of those toxic ingredients to keep your household clean.
1. Start afresh and get rid of all of your harmful products. Don’t throw away those toxic chemicals, though. Give them to some friends or family or donate them to your local voluntary organisations. It saves them going down the drain or straight into landfill. If you keep them lurking under your sink, you might be tempted to use them!
2. Replace them with some basic organic supplies. Not convinced you can get by on some bicarbonate of soda and a toothbrush? Then look for some eco alternatives next time you shop. And we’re not just talking cleaning solutions here : there are eco alternatives for everything from kitchen foil* and baking parchment* to floor mops* and rubber gloves*.
3. Don’t forget to check your garden shed – neonicotinoid pesticides are contained in many common or garden products and these ingredients have been directly linked to the decline of bee numbers. Everything from Baby Bio House Plant Insecticide to Bayer Provado Systemic Ultimate Bug Killer. Check this list and stop using them straight away!
Probably one of the most important jobs you can do is toget composting. Compost is composed of kitchen and garden waste, and forms the basis of organic growing – using sustainable natural resources to create a healthy garden bursting with life.
Why should you compost? At the very basic level, composting saves waste from going to landfill and reduces visits to the tip. More importantly, it allows you to feed vital nutrients back into the soil, naturally nourishing the plants and wildlife that lives in and around them.
You can use compost anywhere in your garden to improve the condition of the soil and provide food for your plants. It’s the ultimate ‘upcycling‘ project!
Consume mindfully & ethically!
Feeling ripped off by your energy supplier but not ready or able to install your own renewable supply? There is an alternative. You canswitch to Organikal Affiliate Good Energy - they’re the UK’s only dedicated 100% renewable energy supplier.
Before making any new purchase for your home, visit your local recycling centre, car boot sale or auction house or scour sites likeFreecycle to reuse what some one else doesn’t want.
Or perhaps what you want or need is available to borrow – Ecomodo is an online marketplace that lets you lend and borrow each other’s everyday objects.
The Organikal Apothecary
Our health and personal care choices are safe for us and the environment.
We are aware beauty is more than skin deep and and what we put on it, also goes in it. Our ‘medicine cabinet’ is small and you prefer to create wellness rather than mend illness, using natural remedies.
Avoid the Advertising Greenwash!
Check out what’s on the ingredient list on your favourite products. Just because the organic or natural label is on it, doesn’t mean what’s inside is natural or organic. The high street is particularly guilty of using misleading labelling to sell you their products. And what’s in it isn’t usually good news :
Don’t just accept an ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ label – become an informed purchaser. If you’re unsure about the potential for harm by any ingredients, then consult a database.
Reduce, or DIY and Spread Your Message
You’ve got so many bottles and jars of lotions and potions that you could start selling them. Even blokes don’t escape these days. But do you really need them all? Nah, of course you don’t!
I’m constantly amazed at how little stuff I really need for a healthy regime and how much stuff creeps into my bathroom that I don’t need – especially gifts from lovely friends and family.
How can you tell the wonderful people in your life that you’ll only accept high quality, truly organic products? It’s worth thinking about!
Making some of my own products takes care of some of my beauty and personal care. I haven’t yet figured out how to do all of it all the time, but when I do create my own stuff I like to use edible organic ingredients – did you know that about 60% of all substances we put on our skin is absorbed by it?
When I’m not making my own, then I like to buy products where there’s no doubt about the quality but of course, sometimes being rigidly organic just doesn’t work.
We choose Dr Bronner’s soap for most of our shampooing and bodywash needs, supplemented by unrefined sesame oil for most moisturising and many healing effects. It’s amazing what just two products can lend themselves to!
Trial and error – experiment, but be aware and informed. Organic perfume, cotton wool, deoderant, suncare and more - seek and you shall find.
”The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” Thomas Edison, Inventor
Sadly, Edison’s prediction is yet to come true and our modern healthcare system relies on pharmaceuticals to mend you.
According to a House of Commons Health Committee report in 2005;
About 650 million prescriptions are written each year in the UK by GPs alone. Medicines cost the NHS in England over £7 billion every year, 80% of which is spent on branded (patented) products…The interests of pharmaceutical companies and those of the public, patients and the NHS often overlap but they are not identical.
From the same source;
[the UK pharmaceutical industry] has been estimated to fund 65% of all health-related R & D in the UK.
Hardly impartial healthcare I think it’s safe to say. So what can you do? You can take preventative measures and reduce your reliance on the pharmaceutical industry.
1. First off, you can choose to reduce the toxins you consume, absorb and breathe in by choosing organic. You can also make life-affirming health choices like eating more organic fruit and vegetables (and reducing your consumption of animal products) and selecting more nutritious ‘super foods’.
2. Secondly, you may wish to participate in more mindfulness activities to decrease stress and improve your quality of life. Findings in a study published in Health, Education and Behaviour reveal that doing some yoga and meditation at lunch can help people reduce stress at work.
3. Finally, drink more water! The standard advice given is to drink eight glasses of water a day for general vitality. There is some researchthat “chronic dehydration is the root cause many painful degenerative diseases, asthma, allergies, hypertension, excess body weight and even some emotional problems including depression“.