5 Ways to Reduce Pesticide Consumption – Without the Cost of Going Organic
June 27, 2022
by Stefanie Friend, R.H.N. (nourishedyou)
Pesticides and herbicides in our foods have been a growing concern for quite some time, but public awareness over their negative implications on our health has risen sharply over the last couple of decades. Disturbing studies continue to link many of these chemicals to negative health outcomes including cognitive decline, hormonal disruption and fertility issues, not to mention chronic diseases such Parkinson’s disease and cancer. But for many, the cost of going organic is unsustainable, and downright unaffordable. The good news is, harmful chemicals can be largely avoided in other ways which will not only benefit your health, but also your wallet.
Grow your own garden
By growing your own vegetable garden, you get to oversee the process from start to finish and know exactly what you’re putting into your body. Furthermore, gardening can be therapeutic and rewarding, and the fruits of your labour are more nutritious than their store-bought counterparts. Mass produced fruits and vegetables are generally grown in nutrient depleted soil which leaves the resulting produce nearly devoid of their typical vitamin and mineral content.
Beginning your garden with nutrient packed soil from a local nursery is a great place to start (we like Klassen Landscaping), followed by selecting seeds of a variety of fruits and vegetables you know your family will enjoy. Don’t have a backyard? Deck planter boxes can be easily found to purchase (or easy to make if you’re handy!) and can produce more than you think. Indoor herb gardens that sit on a windowsill are also a great option as fresh herbs also offer a myriad of health benefits. The West Coast Seeds website is my favourite source for buying organic non-GMO seeds, and for providing a variety of gardening tips and resources.
Buy Local and Visit Farmers Markets
Buying local does more than just support your local producers! You can often find ‘organically grown’ produce at local farmers markets for a fraction of the cost of ‘certified organic’ produce from the grocery store. What’s the difference between organically grown and certified organic? Simply, a big price tag for growers and consumers.
Growing certified organic produce comes with many additional costs to the farmer, which are then passed down to the consumer. On top of that, the grocery store adds
markup, further increasing the price to the consumer. By purchasing ‘organically grown’ produce – which is produce grown by local farmers/community members without the use of chemicals – you can save money by cutting out the middle man, and the inflated costs of buying certified organic. You’ll also be supporting your local community and eating fresh and nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables harvested at their peak. Sounds like a win-win-win to me!
Tip – plan your meals around what you buy from the farmers market, not the other way around. That way you’ll be more likely to use what you bring home, and won’t be frustrated if you’re unable to find certain produce items at the market. Recipes can be easily found online by googling “Swiss Chard dinner recipes”, for example.
Dirty Dozen and Clean 15
“Pesticides can prevent large crop losses and will therefore continue to play a role in agriculture. However, the effects on humans and the environment of exposure to pesticides are a continuing concern.” - quote: World Health Organization
Each year, the Environmental Working Group puts out a list called the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15. As a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment, the EWG formulates this list annually based on scientific testing done on the most popular produce items found at the supermarket.
This handy guide lists the top twelve pesticide-contaminated produce items in order of highest to the lowest. Conversely, its clean 15 counterpart lists the produce least contaminated with pesticide residues. Sticking to only purchasing conventional produce from the clean 15 list, and occasionally splurging on organic produce from the dirty dozen list, will save you some cash.
Take off your shoes before you come in the house
As trivial as this his seems, this small task is crucial to reducing pesticide and other harmful chemical exposure. According to one government funded study in the United States, traces of pesticide residue can be tracked into the home via your shoes for up to a week after exposure to pesticide-treated areas. This is especially dangerous to children who spend time more time playing on the floor, can’t keep their hands out of their mouths, and whose tiny bodies can’t detoxify the chemicals as efficiently as adults. What’s even more disturbing is that certain pesticides known as persistent pesticides take a long time to break down in the environment and can accumulate in the body. Take off your shoes!
Cleaning pesticides off of conventional produce
If learning about the harmful effects of chemicals in our environment and what we are exposed to via our food supply is stressful, you’ll be relieved to know that simply washing your produce before consuming can remove a moderate portion of residues. I prefer to wash my produce as soon as it comes home – before it goes in the fridge or the fruit bowl. Storing it properly will also help it stay fresher for longer. In order to clean pesticide residues off of fruits and vegetables, you can either use a store bought fruit and vegetable wash, or simply by mixing 1 part apple cider vinegar to 4 parts water. Give the produce a good scrub with a brush or your fingers, and rinse off.
In the end, each individual’s genetic expression and lifestyle factors will be key players in the development of illness or disease. But by being aware of what we are exposed to on a day to day basis, and reducing our exposure to harmful and toxic chemicals, we can pave our way to a healthier future.