My Fussbucket partner Kristin recently watched Al Gore’s movie on global warming called “An Inconvenient Truth.” Since then this whole business about the frightening state of the environment has been bugging her. Makes me think they were on to something with the title of the movie.
She’s decided she wants to start a Green Parenting Group and has proposed the idea on a parenting listserve here in Seattle. This is from her post:
I haven’t been a big environmentalist, but I am getting motivated to take
responsibility for my family’s impact. I also want to look at what I’m
teaching my kids about consumption and their interconnection with
everyone (and everything) else. Since I’m so new to this whole thing,
I’d love to meet up with other families working through these projects
I think this is a great idea. If it takes off, I’m hoping Kristin will report back here on her progress and give us some words of wisdom. In the meantime, I remembered this article from the NY Times last month on smart ways to eat organic without breaking the bank.
The key is to be strategic in your organic purchases. Opting for organic produce, for instance, doesn’t necessarily have a big impact, depending on what you eat. According to the Environmental Working Group, commercially-farmed fruits and vegetables vary in their levels of pesticide residue. Some vegetables, like broccoli, asparagus and onions, as well as foods with peels, such as avocados, bananas and oranges, have relatively low levels compared to other fruits and vegetables.
So how do you make your organic choices count? Pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene, whose new book “Raising Baby Green” explains how to raise a child in an environmentally-friendly way, has identified a few “strategic” organic foods that he says can make the biggest impact on the family diet, the article says.
1. Milk: “When you choose a glass of conventional milk, you are buying into a whole chemical system of agriculture,’’ says Dr. Greene. People who switch to organic milk typically do so because they are concerned about the antibiotics, artificial hormones and pesticides used in the commercial dairy industry. One recent United States Department of Agriculture survey found certain pesticides in about 30 percent of conventional milk samples and low levels in only one organic sample. The level is relatively low compared to some other foods, but many kids consume milk in large quantities.
This reminds me of the time I was in the grocery store before I had kids and the woman in front of me had a cart filled to the brim. I watched as she unloaded her stuff and was increasingly horrified to see not one, not two, but three gallons of milk on the conveyor belt. I asked her about it and she said her kids drank milk all the time. I considered suggesting she buy herself a cow instead.
2. Potatoes: Potatoes are a staple of the American diet — one survey found they account for 30 percent of our overall vegetable consumption. A simple switch to organic potatoes has the potential to have a big impact because commercially-farmed potatoes are some of the most pesticide-contaminated vegetables. A 2006 U.S.D.A. test found 81 percent of potatoes tested still contained pesticides after being washed and peeled, and the potato has one of the the highest pesticide contents of 43 fruits and vegetables tested, according to the Environmental Working Group.
Yuck. I didn’t know this. They look so innocent all dirt-covered and funny-shaped. Okay, organic potatoes it is.
3. Peanut butter: More acres are devoted to growing peanuts than any other fruits, vegetable or nut, according to the U.S.D.A. More than 99 percent of peanut farms use conventional farming practices, including the use of fungicide to treat mold, a common problem in peanut crops. Given that some kids eat peanut butter almost every day, this seems like a simple and practical switch. Commercial food firms now offer organic brands in the regular grocery store, but my daughter loves to go to the health food store and grind her own peanut butter.
We’re lucky not to have the dreaded peanut allergy in our house (although the jury is still out on Sascha). But every school I know of has at least one kid who is allergic. Growing up, my brother ate peanut butter sandwiches everyday for about seven years. These days, Sage is lucky if he gets one a week because he can’t bring it to school in his lunch.
4. Ketchup: For some families, ketchup accounts for a large part of the household vegetable intake. About 75 percent of tomato consumption is in the form of processed tomatoes, including juice, tomato paste and ketchup. Notably, recent research has shown organic ketchup has about double the antioxidants of conventional ketchup.
Ketchup? What are we Ronald Reagan? Frankly, I’m more disturbed by this: “For some families, ketchup accounts for a large part of the household vegetable intake,” than I am about this: “Recent research has shown organic ketchup has about double the antioxidants of conventional ketchup.” But whatever. Eat organic ketchup.
5. Apples: Apples are the second most commonly eaten fresh fruit, after bananas, and they are also used in the second most popular juice, after oranges, according to Dr. Greene. But apples are also one of the most pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables. The good news is that organic apples are easy to find in regular grocery stores.
Yay, apples! For a complete list of Dr. Greene’s strategic organic choices, visit Organic Rx on his website.
Now for an amusing and unrelated segway: Greenpeace wants to name a whale and has gone to great lengths to dream up a long list of 29 earth/crunchy names (Paz, Manami, Libertad, etc.) for people to vote on.
The 30th name? Mr. Splashy Pants, with 65 percent of the vote and garnering 16 times the votes of the leading next contender. “Based on the earnestness of the rest of the site, this appears to be an unintended consequence of enviro culture clashing with popular culture,” writes my friend Jon at the National Resources Defense Council, who I thank for the tip. “Run,” he advises, “Cast your votes.”
UPDATE: Check out Kristin’s new blog – “Going Green Family.” It’s got tips on going green for the holidays and easy ways to make your home more eco-friendly.