When a food is labeled as “organic,” it means that there were no pesticides or chemical fertilizers used in the production process.
Whether you are a gardener or a consumer – or both – it is important to understand what organic means, what foods you should buy organic, alternatives to pesticides and herbicides, and how harmful pesticides and herbicides can affect us and the environment.
An organic lifestyle is a more natural and sustainable way to live. It not only saves you money in the long run, but also improves your health, well-being and longevity.
So, how do you adopt an organic lifestyle at home?
Switch to Natural Herbicides/Weed Killers
Weeds are considered unwanted plants in a garden, field, lawn, etc. Common unwanted plants include dandelion, pigweed, and bindweed. These types of plants tend to take the nutrients away from the desired plants.
Certain weed killers have been known to cause cancer, specifically Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This type of cancer affects the lymph nodes, which are a part of our body’s immune system. The lymphatic system flows throughout the entire body, getting rid of waste and fighting infections.
While the scientific research is still ongoing on some of these chemicals, there seems to be general consensus that exposure to some phenoxy herbicides may increase your chances of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Additionally, several jurisdictions in more than 25 countries have banned the use of Glyphosate, the most common ingredient in widely used herbicides.
Glyphosate is a known carcinogen (can cause cancer), so it’s best to stay away from products that use this ingredient in high concentrations, or to avoid it altogether.
Steam and Electricity
Two natural alternatives to herbicides include steam weed control and electric weed control.
Steam weeding is where steam at a temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit is applied to weeds to destroy the cell membrane. Electric weeding is similar, targeting unwanted plants with a high voltage of electricity to kill them.
Switch to Natural Pesticides/Insecticides
As a gardener, you probably want an organic garden, or for your garden to be as organic as possible. You don’t want these harmful chemicals on or in your food, but you also don’t want bugs and other pests to destroy your plants. What do you do?
Essential oils seem to be the remedy for everything nowadays, but they actually work!
Eucalyptus, for instance, is really popular when it comes to keeping bugs away. This oil deters several insects. Neem oil, extracted from the fruit seeds of an evergreen tree in India, is also considered to be a natural pesticide. It kills aphids, mites, and whiteflies.
Himalayan Pink Salt
Mixed with water in a spray bottle, this salt deters spider mites.
While this tea offers many health benefits to humans, it’s actually pretty toxic to certain insects. It contains pyrethrum, an oil created by the flower, which attacks the nervous system of insects.
It’s important to note here that chrysanthemum tea, Himalayan pink salt, and essential oils are not harmful to humans in small amounts. Large concentrations of these (and really anything) can be harmful to us. Always use these products as directed.
Buy Organic Foods
If you are not a gardener or a farmer, you probably still want to buy all organic foods.
Organically grown foods tend to be more expensive than their non-organic counterparts. Fortunately, there are some fruits and vegetables that are still considered safe if you don’t buy the organic version. They are referred to as “The Clean Fifteen”.
The Clean Fifteen
The “Clean Fifteen” is a list of foods believed to have the lowest concentrations of pesticides. As such, they are considered safer to buy conventionally.
When buying the non-organic version of these items, you’re likely to have less pesticide residue.
The Clean Fifteen list varies, but they’re usually fruits and vegetables that you have to peel before you eat. These include produce such as:
- Mangoes, Pineapples, and Kiwi
- Cantaloupe, Honeydew Melon, and Watermelon
- Grapefruit, Oranges, and Lemons
- Sweet Corn, Sweet Peas, and Onions
- Potatoes, Avocados, and Papaya
The Dirty Dozen
On the other hand, there is some produce that you will want to always buy organic. Even after washing, these tend to still have pesticide residue. This list varies slightly too, but it’s almost always produce with an edible peel, such as:
- Tomatoes (all), Sweet Bell Peppers, Cucumbers
- Spinach, Celery, Lettuce
- Apples, Pears, Cherries
- Peaches, Nectarines, Strawberries
There are many more, including grapes, milk, and some would even consider buying organic potatoes, since potatoes have a thin covering.
These are just a few ways to live an organic lifestyle. You can also use organic and natural cleaning products in your home, beauty and personal care products, and supplements.
As always, use everything as directed!