Choosing an organic lifestyle means avoiding, as far as possible, the use of artificial chemicals and processes. It means living in harmony with nature, understanding the interrelatedness of all living things, and attempting to maintain balance and moderation for our own sakes as well as for the future of our planet. Organic living, enthusiasts claim, can enhance our physical
, mental and emotional wellbeing at the same time as benefitting the environment.
So what does it mean in practical terms? For most of us, the first thing that comes to mind is food
. Organic foods are produced using sustainable methods of soil and water conservation, with natural rather than chemical fertilisers and pest controls. Crops are minimally processed and free of genetically-modified organisms. Animals are housed properly, are free to move about, and are fed healthily – they are not given drugs, antibiotics, hormones or other chemicals to speed up their growth.
Organic foods tend to be fresher than other foods, have usually travelled shorter distances to reach the point of sale, and contain few or no preservatives. Their vitamin content is often higher and they generally taste better – which is why many top restaurants prefer to use them. Research indicates that eating organically could be associated with a lower risk of developing some degenerative diseases, while consuming products containing harmful chemicals can result in an increased risk of cancer, reproductive problems and neurological damage. And making organic choices means we're doing our small bit to help our dying planet – the chemicals, pesticides and methods used in conventional agriculture are desperately destructive to nature, and their cumulative effects are taking a serious toll on our increasingly fragile eco-system.
Legislation regarding the identification of organically-produced goods is still at an early stage, but labels
might show one of two levels of classification – either 'organic certification', which means the produce and farming methods have been inspected over at least three years to verify organic authenticity, or 'organic in conversion' which means the verification process is underway. Of course, many producers of organic food don't seek certification at all, and simply offer their produce at local farmers' markets or small independent stores. Your best bet is to speak directly to the supplier wherever possible to find out what methods of production have been used; and as far as labelled foods go, read the label carefully – the product should contain no more than five or six ingredients, and none of them should be unpronounceable preservatives or chemicals!
The organic lifestyle doesn't end with the food you buy – for ultimate control over quality and cost, you could consider growing some of your own, in pots or window-boxes if you don't have a garden. This could lead to the recycling of household waste too if you were to make your own compost, raising your eco-credentials even higher and maximising the nutritional value of your produce.
Increasingly, you can choose to buy organic textiles – bedding, towels and clothing made of natural fibres like cotton, hemp and bamboo which have been produced using sustainable methods. Such choices are kind to the environment and kind to our bodies, avoiding toxic dyes and processes and harmful chemicals which may be absorbed through our skin. You can use biodegradeable cleaning products and organic toiletries and cosmetics – those which are free of petroleum by-products, artificial colours and fragrances, preservatives and other chemicals. Even pet-care is becoming eco-friendly, with the option of organic shampoos and flea-treatments. For a comprehensive listing of organic producers and suppliers of a wide range of goods, as well as the latest news on the topic, visit www.go-organic.co.za
We've become used to the luxuries and the convenience provided by chemicals and artificial processing, so making the change to organic can be challenging. It can also seem more expensive, particularly in respect of food, as organic methods of production tend to be lengthier, more labour-intensive and more costly. However, this could encourage us to mindfulness and moderation and could even save in the long run, if we end up spending less on healthcare. Considering that our bodies ideally are well-tuned, self-healing, biochemical miracles, it makes sense to use products and eat foods which are grown, produced and made without the use of artificial – and harmful – chemicals or processes.
Choosing the organic lifestyle means becoming careful, conscious and mindful. It means paying attention to what we're putting into and onto our bodies and homes, and understanding how those choices impact our planet and its future as well as our own health and wellbeing. It's doing what we can, in whatever small ways are possible, because we believe each one of us can make a difference.