My recent downshifting challenge may have finished, but there are still plenty of other things going on over the next couple of weeks. Organic Fortnight has just kicked off and runs from the 3rd to 17th of September. Interestingly, this year the Soil Association, the registered charity which supports organic farmers and producers, has a big frugal agenda on its hands. It says it wants to challenge the impression among shoppers that organic food is ‘elitist’. The theme of 2010’s Organic Fortnight is to present organic food as ‘accessible and affordable’ and, as a result, the Soil Association is asking its members to encourage consumers to switch their usual products for organic alternatives.
You might not be surprised to hear that sales of organic produce have taken a bit of a hammering during the economic downturn as people try to save cash by buying cheaper products – downshifting, in other words. UK annual sales at the end of 2009 were down nearly 14 per cent, although this decline dropped slightly to -11.5 per cent in the year to 18th April 2010. The Soil Association is hoping that shoppers will be persuaded by its arguments that organic food is not always more expensive and that, even when it is, it’s worth paying extra for our ‘well-being’, to improve animal welfare and protect the environment.
Not just anybody can set up shop selling ‘organic’ food. The definition of organic is that the food has been grown or produced without the use of pesticides, artificial chemical fertilisers, GM ingredients and that farm animals aren’t subject to the routine use of drugs or ill-treatment and are allowed to free-range. Certification is highly stringent – producers have to jump through hoops every year to comply with organic rules and regulations at considerable cost to their businesses. One organic producer I’ve met has described it as like ‘sitting an A-level each year’.
But is organic really superior to non-organic produce and just how affordable is it? Over the next week, I will be switching my usual supermarket buys for organic ones and comparing their cost and performance. I have to admit that I agree with the notion of organic food in general – after all, I really see the difference between DJ’s home-grown fruit and veg, which he grows without the use of sprays and chemicals, and shop-bought produce. And I dislike the idea that any animals have been ill-treated simply to put food on my table. However, in the past the price of organic items in the supermarkets, or at least my impression of it, has sometimes put me off buying them, so I’m looking forward to finding out more.
Last but by no means least, I also wanted to bring your attention to something else which is happening this week. Mrs Green, who runs the popular environmental site called Myzerowaste.com, has designated this week Zero Waste Week. Sponsored by Tetrapak and supported by celebrity chef Brian Turner, Zero Waste Week is geared to helping us learn how to reduce the amount of rubbish we throw away and cut food waste. The intrepid green campaigner is trying to get as many people as possible to join in with the challenge and to leave comments on her site. So, if you fancy slimming your bin, you can find out more about it at the links above.
I will be undergoing my very own green challenge soon in October and hope to get lots of hints and tips from Mrs Green and other environmentally-conscious bloggers. In the meantime, I’ll be reporting back later in the week on my organic food shopping foray. Wish me luck!
Do you think organic food is affordable? Are you prepared to pay more for produce grown without the use of chemicals or that promotes animal welfare? Leave a message and let me know.
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