Going Organic: What You Need to Know

Get the details.

Taking the plunge and incorporating more organic products into your weekly shop seems fairly straight forward, right? Organic is undoubtedly better in terms of nixing unnecessary and unhealthy chemicals and hormones from our diets, but the additional costs might have you reaching for conventional products. We totally get it. Where does going organic make the biggest difference? We've laid it all out for you below.

Purchase with purpose.

You've heard the organic spiel a thousand times — better for you, better for the planet — but why does it matter to you? Think about what aspects of buying organic matter most to you and tap into these motivations when you head to the store. Considering the reasons that motivate you to be a more conscious consumer rather than the price tag makes the decision to go organic more of a no-brainer than an internal debate.

Do what you can.

You may not be able to do a total overhaul of your home, revamping up your makeup kit and cleaning products with greener products, in one fell swoop or buy all organic all the time, and that's okay. Work with what you've got.

Buying a little bit every time you shop is better than opting out entirely. Make the switch gradually, picking a few organic items each time you shop or replacing conventional cleaning and beauty products with organic options when they run out.

If you have a few extra bucks to spare, opt for organic meat and dairy in addition to produce, which are hormone-free and tend to have a higher quantity of omega 3s. If your budget is tight, do a little prioritizing with the help of the EWG's “dirty dozen" (strawberries, apples, spinach, etc.) and “clean 15" (avocados, asparagus, kiwi, etc.).

Educate yourself.

Knowledge is power, people! And the more you know, the better equipped you'll be to make informed decisions about what foods and products deserve a place in your cart and on your shelves. The farmers' market is an incredible resource for a variety of reasons. Not only are prices competitive with those found at the supermarket (good news for your wallet), but there exists the opportunity to engage with the very people that grew the vegetables, raised the chickens and so on and so forth. Don't be afraid to ask questions!

And when you do have to hit the grocery store, a bit of Googling can reveal a lot about a brand or the ingredients used in their products. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) offers a wealth of information about food, farming and a variety of consumer products, while the Good Guide and Think Dirty are great tools for sussing out which products contain not-so-good-for-you ingredients.

Know your labels.

“Natural" and organic are not the same thing. To use the term organic, a brand or product has to be certified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). When something is labeled organic, it means it was produced without synthetic chemicals or fertilizers, genetic engineering, radiation, seqage sludge or antibiotics.

The term “natural" is also regulated by the FDA, but can mean a variety of things depending on where you live, the food manufacturer and the store carrying the product. Typically it means that a food is not altered chemically or synthesized in any way and is derived from plants or animals.

Play it safe and skip over packages that bare the “natural" claim and look for items with the USDA organic green seal.

Another thing to look out for are the stickers on produce. By looking at the first digit on a produce sticker, you can tell whether it was conventionally grown, organically grown or genetically modified.

  • Conventionally grown produce uses a 4 digit code, and starts with a 3 or 4.
  • Organic produce uses a 5 digit code and starts with a 9.
  • Genetically modified produce uses a 5 digit code and starts with an 8.

Recognize that organic isn't always the better option.

Being a conscious shopper goes far beyond buying organic. It also requires taking things like shipping, seasonality and production process into account. Organic fruit starts to lose its appeal when it's out of season and has been flown in from the other end of the country. Sometimes a locally grown or produced option is the better choice.