How Organic Can Be Less Sustainable Than Conventional Farming
By now, we all know we should eat our vegetables - for our own health and for the planet's health, too. And in pursuit of a healthy lifestyle, our natural inclination may be to turn to organic produce as the clearly more sustainable choice. But hang on. Because you may be surprised to learn that, in fact, organic produce is not always more sustainable than conventionally grown produce. Here's why.
When Organic Isn't the Sustainable Choice
To be considered organic, crops must be grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. Those are all good things to avoid, as pesticides and other chemicals can have an injurious effect both on the environment and on our bodies, polluting water, eroding soil, and destroying biodiversity. But large-scale organic farming can actually increase greenhouse gas emissions due to the large swaths of land required to grow crops.
Size matters. According to a recent study published in the journal Nature, "organic peas, farmed in Sweden, have around a 50 percent bigger climate impact than conventionally farmed peas. For some foodstuffs, there is an even bigger difference - for example, with organic Swedish winter wheat the difference is closer to 70 percent."
Make the Sustainable Choice
So then, what's the sustainable choice? We recommend choosing local seasonal produce when possible, which cuts down on transportation emissions. Also, many small-scale producers actually do practice organic techniques but can't promote the fact because they're unable to afford the expensive certification process. So get to know your local farmers. Farmers markets are a great place to meet them, of course. Ask them about what methods they use. Chances are, they'll love to chat.