Between cultivating your compost pile, changing cloth diapers, and perfecting your recycling schedule, you may not have had time to research the basics of going organic. But there are some things you should know before you buy. Allow us to demystify the details.
Most common food items—fruits, vegetables and meat—are treated with synthetic fertilizers to ensure rapid growth and production. Choosing organic options can lower exposure to harmful pesticides and insecticides, says Elisabetta Politi, MPH, RD, LDN, CDE, nutrition director at Duke University’s Diet and Fitness Center.
Not only is it important to monitor what goes into your body (especially while pregnant or breastfeeding), it’s crucial to take note of what goes onto your baby. Chemicals that touch the skin find a way into the body and into the bloodstream, says Roy V. Thomson, MD, of Clinch Valley Physicians in Richlands, Virginia. Parents will want to choose products approved by the United States Department of Agri- culture (USDA), which only certifies products that do not contain non-agricultural ingredients (like parabens or phthalates). The same goes for household cleaning products.
Adopting an organic lifestyle also lowers gas emissions and stimulates the local economy by supporting nearby farmers, both of which have a positive effect on baby’s health now and in the future.
All green words are not created equal. When shopping for food or products, you might come across various terms that seem to have similar meanings. Here, we define the differences.
- Organic: Goods grown and produced with no chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, pesticides or growth stimulants. To carry the organic seal, the USDA ensures the product is made up of at least 95 percent organic content.
- Made with Organic ___: Goods contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients. This category does not sport the USDA seal.
- Some Organic Materials: Goods may contain less than 70 percent organic ingredients.
- Natural: Goods are not synthesized or chemically altered. They contain no artificial colors or flavors and no synthetic additives can be used in their production.
Many grocery stores conveniently provide healthy organic and natural choices, though Politi admits that the downside can be the expense. For cheaper green options, the best place to look is your local farmers market—a place where growers come together locally to sell their products to the masses. Georgia Organics, a member-supported nonprofit organization that provides sustainable agriculture and outreach, describes ways to maximize the farmers market experience.
By arriving early, bringing a reusable bag, asking questions, seeking out organic-certified farmers, and checking out what’s in season, a shopper can take advantage of the full benefits of a local market.
Eco-conscious families really looking to save a buck can seek a community supported agriculture (CSA) program in which members sign up with a farmer to receive a “share” straight from the farm. Generally, households will take home a box of produce once a week for the duration of the farming season. These types of programs provide fresh, seasonal food for families while supporting the farmer’s income and establishing trust between buyer and grower. CSAs also provide educational opportunities for children by introducing new produce ideas and allowing them the experience of seeing where their food comes from.
When weighing the options of going organic before, during and after baby’s arrival, do what works best for you and your family. You may decide to go organic entirely, or you may just incorporate one or two natural products into your routine. With each eco-step you take, no matter how big or small, your healthy decisions teach a vital lesson to your little sprout.