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Make one wish this Christmas - go organic

18th november 2014

When you buy organic, whether that’s the turkey and trimmings, your daily moisturiser or that Pukka cuppa you are about to enjoy, you are not only choosing a smarter way to shop for you and your family this Christmas, you are doing an incredible thing for the wider world we live in.

The choices we make over the festive season about what goes on our plates, the presents we buy, what we wear and what we put on our skin have far reaching consequences for our health and environment, not just here at home but across the globe.  These little choices can add up to make a big change. 

So what’s so special about organic?

Organic means transforming the way we eat, farm and care for our natural world, from your meat, fruit and veggies, to your clothes and beauty products. It's about working with nature, not against it. For a product to be called organic it has be produced according to comprehensive standards that are verified by independent certification bodies like Soil Association Certification.  

Food for thought

Around 30% of our individual carbon footprint is made up of our food choices, so what we eat this Christmas is the single most important way we can reduce our environmental impact. Choosing the most climate-friendly produce means supporting sustainable agriculture and buying organic, local and seasonal food.

Organic farms have 50% more wildlife than non-organic farms, with 30% more species. These wildlife havens provide homes for bees, birds and butterflies, which in turn help wildlife numbers to flourish up the food chain, from small mammals like voles and hedgehogs right up to birds of prey and foxes.

Organic farmers also use natural processes such as energy from the sun to fix nitrogen in the soil, crop and livestock rotations, and natural predators for pest control. Under organic standards there is a strong focus on animal welfare which reduces the need for drug treatment. It’s also generally considered a more energy efficient system of food production, mainly because it does not use inorganic nitrogen fertiliser, which is made from petrochemicals. If all UK farmland was converted to organic, at least 3.2 million tonnes of carbon would be taken up by the soil each year, that’s the equivalent of taking nearly one million cars off the road.

Christmas dinner with a conscience

Around ten million turkeys are sold in the UK each year, and of these, 90% are reared intensively, spending their short 15 week lives in windowless, crowded sheds. If you want to make sure that your turkey has been fed a healthy diet, had access to the outdoors and is not from a factory farm, then ensure it's organic. No system of farming has higher levels of animal welfare standards.

This extends to the trimmings as well. Eating organically this Christmas means you can avoid consuming pesticide residues, GM ingredients or unnecessary food additives. Over 300 pesticides are routinely used in non-organic farming. Worryingly these can remain in some of the food we eat, despite washing and cooking.

We all know the saying, ‘you are what you eat’, but for organic food this really is the case. Research from Newcastle University has shown that organic crops are actually better for our health as they contain a significantly higher concentration of nutritionally desirable nutrients such as antioxidants. Putting this simply, switching to organic fruit and vegetables could have the same benefits as eating one or two more portions of your recommended five a day. What’s not to love about that? The research also showed that organic crops have lower levels of the toxic heavy metal cadmium as well as lower pesticide residues – all in all better for you and your family.

Opting for organic wine may also help lessen the chances of a hangover during the festive season, as supporting a more natural system of farming means you will be consuming less sulphur, which is linked to those headaches the morning after. If you are a lager drinker, the average non-organic farmer is estimated to spray hops up to 14 times each year with an average of 15 pesticides. Avoid these by looking for the Soil Association logo and be sure your pint has been produced organically.

Eating an organic diet on a budget this Christmas is easy if you get creative in the kitchen and rethink your shopping list. By eating less meat, buying dried goods in bulk and signing up to an organic box scheme you can make a difference to both your purse and the planet. 

Dream of a green Christmas

Nearly a quarter of the world’s insecticides and 10% of pesticides are sprayed on cotton but with many high street retailers now stocking organic, it’s easier than ever to give green this Christmas.

Organic textiles are grown without the use of harmful pesticides or genetically modified organisms, promoting a healthier farm and environment.  The Soil Association certifies to the Global Organic Textiles Standard (GOTS), which is the international gold standard for organic textiles processing. The whole supply chain, from field to final product is certified, and environmental and social standards apply throughout processing. There are now thousands of GOTS certified textile and garment businesses worldwide so head to your high street to see which retailers are going green.

Beauty products are a failsafe gift when it comes to last minute present buying so why not give someone the gift of organic beauty this Christmas?

Our skin is the largest organ and what we put on it can be absorbed in tiny amounts. The impact of the daily cocktail of substances we put on our skin is only just beginning to be understood and while one product may only contain tiny amounts of certain undesirable ingredients, the cumulative effect of applying multiple products is a cause for concern. What’s more additives in these products can end up in our water systems and remain in the environment for some time.

Unfortunately, unlike organic food, there are no legal standards for organic beauty or textiles products, meaning that some companies choose to label a product as organic, even if it only contains 1% organic ingredients.

Soil Association certified organic beauty products use plant extracts grown without pesticides, ensuring what you put on your skin has been checked and meets the strictest standards for organic purity and integrity.

So this Christmas, why not go organic and give a little back in this season of goodwill?

Emma Reinhold, Trade Relations Manager

Emma Reinhold is Trade Relations Manager for health & beauty and textiles at the Soil Association, focusing on the business development, relationship management and marketing of both sectors. She has over a decade of experience in the beauty and fashion industry, most recently working as the editor of a leading international trade beauty publishing group.