Boy, that sounds like something a Republican would say. But I’m getting madder and madder at the retailers who are hopping on the organic bandwagon without a true social conscience. (Whole Foods, I’m talking to you.) Then there are the Food Nazis who are all holier-than-thou about buying organic, but are missing the big picture. Both these groups are what put a big smile on the face of the guy above (find out more about him here).
What’s made me acutely aware of the fallacy of “Organic Tunnel Vision” is “The Hundred Mile Diet” where you attempt to source as much of your food as possible from within a 100 mile radius of where you live. (Ideal Bite has a good article on the program here.) The premise is — and many environmentalists support this — that eating seasonally and locally is much better for the earth than just blindly buying organic. 1) You reduce oil use by not buying, say asparagus out of season and shipped up from Chile, 2) you keep your dollars in your community, and 3) if you are buying locally and in season, chances are, you are going to end up with mostly organic anyway.
But it’s not as easy a message to get across as you would think. As I found out today at Whole Foods. Granted I never should have gone to what we affectionately call “Whole Paycheck”, but it’s bigger than the small shops I usually go to, so I thought I’d have a better chance of finding all the stuff I needed for a dinner party. Big mistake. Sure, there were miles of aisles, but as I pushed my cart past them, it seemed every other selection of produce was cutely labeled “Conventionally Grown”. As in: “not organic, grown with pesticides, probably from the same source Safeway uses.” But the prices still reflected the “three times normal prices at least” Whole Paycheck mark up. Even when I found the organic versions, they were largely labeled “Product of South America”. Brussels Sprouts from South America? When Watsonville just 60 miles to the south of us has miles and miles of brussels sprouts pumped out at the rate of three harvests a year? (And surely some of them are organic.) Definitely not fitting my 100 mile criteria.
How do they get away with this? Because even the hard core OrgaNazis are buying into the Whole Foods hype — “Damn the transportation costs and Organic Uber Alles.”
This became painfully clear at the sugar aisle where, as I worked my way down the many choices of sugar, I saw that my way was eventually going to be blocked by a Radical Vegan. You know the kind you can recognize from fifty paces by the wooly vaguely ethnic hat and the pinched, disapproving mouth. (And what a Vegan was doing planted in the sugar aisle is still something I’m puzzling over.)
So there I was going down the aisled picking up every sugar choice and finding it didn’t fit my 100 mile criteria. There was Demara Sugar from the Dominican Republic, beet sugar from Minnesota and, worst of all, something called “Vegan Sugar” shipped all the way from The Republic of Malawi. (That’s Africa, by the way, and probably represents the furthest point you could get from San Francisco other than Inner Mongolia.) Finally, blocked by the Vegan, I spotted C&H sugar. I know C&H stands for “California and Hawaii”, but the refinery is 25 miles away in Richmond, so I thought I’d better check that label. I stood patiently for about five minutes waiting for the Vegan to move, but she showed no intentions of allowing me by. Finally, I politely asked, “May I reach past you to that sugar.”
She fixed me with a beady stare: “That’s CANE sugar. There’s vegan sugar further up the aisle.” It was clear, she had positioned herself here to stop the uninitiated from making the politically incorrect sugar choice.
So I made the cardinal error. I tried to explain my own political correctness. “Yes, I saw it. But it’s from The Republic of Malawi which is thousands of miles away. I’m trying to reduce my carbon footprint by buying locally.”
“Do you NOT understand that there is Vegan Sugar up the aisles?”
“Yes, but I don’t want to be responsible for the oil it takes to bring sugar from Africa when I can buy local sugar from Richmond 25 miles away.”
By the way, she was still barring the aisles, arms crossed.
“I only put Vegan products in my body and you should, too.”
“Well, I’m not interested in leaving a trail of Saudi oil from Africa to here to be politically correct. Can I get by you and have a packet of that locally produced white poison please?”
I’ll never win this war. But I think I aquitted myself well in the latest battle.
Moral of the story: Read labels. Buy local. Buy seasonally. Most of the rest will take care of itself. And if you are a Radical Vegan, you shouldn’t be eating sugar anyway.
This post is a Golden Oldie from 2008. Due to a bad case of flu, and in keeping with my eco consciousness, I’m recycling. Yeah, it works for blogging, too.