“Cut your spending – save the world,” read the headline in the Globe and Mail. I spotted this while tidying up and realized I was stacking papers I hadn’t finished and probably wouldn’t get a chance to read: material that went from tree to print and will be recycled without being read.
“Sometimes it’s a challenge to winnow the truth from the marketing.”
The members of Canadian Organic Growers are an ecologically conscious and responsible lot. We know that shopping just for the sake of it leads to a waste of natural resources; overflowing landfills; and pollution from the manufacture, shipping and disposal of products. But what about organic consumption?
As editor, I receive promotional material from various companies that want free advertising. I get catalogues from big box stores announcing the latest line of gas-guzzling garden tools. I get press releases about sprays that can kill any living creature unfortunate enough to land in your garden (well, maybe not your garden, but in the gardens where chemicals reign). I get folders of information about farm shows, garden expos and agricultural fairs. Lately, I’ve been getting something new glossy catalogues filled with airbrushed skinny women sporting organic clothing.
Before recycling these catalogues, I flip through them and end up with mixed feelings … like how I feel when I see Californian organic lettuce at the supermarket in July.
Of course, it is great to see a demand for organic cotton. Every time a major retailer decides to sell organic clothing, the acreage of organic cotton increases. Conventional cotton is usually heavily sprayed, genetically engineered and grown in huge monocultures. Organic cotton is a wonderful alternative.
Then why am I bothered by these catalogues, as I am by organic cake mixes made with white flour and white sugar, and the picture-perfect organic food imported from around the world? To me, these reflect both the success and the failure of the organic movement.
We’ve succeeded at getting more people interested in organics but have they changed their buying habits? Does it matter whether an organic product is needed or not, or if it helps the local community? Do we consider the environmental cost of a product—from growing, processing, shipping, using and eventually disposing of it?
“Perhaps this is the role of organics—to bring the farmer’s face and the planet into the decision.”
I think that many people care about these issues. But sometimes it’s a challenge to know what to do, and to be able to winnow the truth from the marketing. Perhaps this is the role of organics—to bring the farmer’s face and the planet into the decision.
This issue focuses on “growing companions.” Initially we thought the pages would be filled with articles about beneficial organisms, but we expanded it to include the people who help us garden, including children and apprentices. I would like to go even further and suggest that the people who eat organic food are also our growing companions. From soil fungi to honeybees, to apprentices to customers at the farmers’ market—organic farming is a relationship with the earth and its inhabitants.
I hope that people who buy organic cotton clothing don’t feel the need to replace it every season as fashions change (though this does mean more organic clothing in the used clothing stores where I shop!). I hope that people who buy the imported organic food also support local farmers by going to a farmers’ market or joining a CSA. And I hope we all cut our spending on things that don’t matter but invest in what does—nourishing food, local communities, and a healthy environment.