Throughout this month, the Soil Association has been encouraging us to ‘organic our Septembers’. If you’ve already taken the hint, then feel free to smile a smug smile while the rest of us try and get involved before the kicks and punches signalling the start of October literally kick off.
During September, the Soil Association has been peppering the social media-sphere with the hashtag #OrganicSeptember in an attempt to encourage as many people as possible to make small changes, with a wider aim of making a massive difference in areas such as health, animal welfare and the wellbeing of the environment.
Not small beans then (although we’d bet they’re organically grown).
Hayley Coristine, 32, has been working in the communications department of the Soil Association for just over a year, so we thought she’d be a top person to lift the compost pot lid on the #OrganicSeptember initiative, and offer a few helpful tips for anyone thinking of moving towards a more organic way of living.
Tell us a bit about how you got into working for the Soil Association.
I have a background in both communication and environmental science, which helps a lot.
In previous roles, I worked on projects that looked at the presence of pesticides and chemicals in the landscape and what I found out really shocked me. They are literally everywhere, on the UK’s farms, in our rivers and streams, in our soil – they’re just so persistent.
That never really sat right with me, especially because I knew it was possible to farm without using these harmful chemicals, by farming organically.
What does the Soil Association do?
We’re the UK’s leading membership charity campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use.
Can you tell us a bit about the campaign?
Organic September is the UK’s celebration of all things organic. With more people looking for healthy, ethical and local food, Organic September makes it even easier to eat and live well, with inspiring tips and recipes using good ingredients.
We’ve been encouraging people to ‘Organic’ their September this year by making a small change to their everyday shopping to help our planet – because swapping to organic food has huge benefits for people, animal welfare and the environment.
We’ve also been partnering with independent, online and national retailers in the UK to make it easier for people to achieve their small changes.
What has been the response?
It’s been really positive! We’ve been running a big #OrganicSeptember campaign on Twitter and have had loads of response so far. It’s really exciting to see so many people taking part.
What are the major personal benefits to moving towards a more organic shopping list?
One of the main reasons that people say they prefer organic food is for health reasons, and because there are fewer pesticides and chemicals in organic farming. Lots of people also say they prefer organic food because it tastes better, too.
What are the wider benefits?
Last year, scientific evidence found nutritional differences in organic vegetables, fruit and cereal crops – so there are good reasons for going organic.
Plus, organic farms are havens for wildlife, with more species of birds, bees, butterflies and wildflowers than non-organic farms. And organic is also better for animal welfare.
So by switching to organic bacon or pork, more pigs will keep their curly tail and stay with their mother for much longer; by switching to organic eggs, more hens would have access to grassland and not be at risk of painful beak trimming.
Together, each of these small changes can make a big difference for generations to come.
Why does organic produce always seem to be more expensive?
It’s not always more expensive – you can often find organic store cupboard items like pasta, oatcakes and passata, for example, at the same price or sometimes even less.
Where it is more expensive, it’s because you’re paying for the extra care that farmers place on the environment and animal welfare.
What are the cheapest options if money is tight, but you want to move towards more organic produce?
For organic produce, go seasonal. Signing up for a weekly box scheme is a great way to get local, seasonal and organic fruit and veg delivered straight to your doorstep.
A veg box will give you a great base of fresh ingredients, not to mention save you time on shopping. Farmers’ markets are a great place to go too – and equally, organic produce is available in retailers like Aldi and Lidl, so there are loads of options for affordable fruit and veg.
What are the easiest things to grow organically?
Courgettes and carrots are a great place to start!
Five small change ideas from the Soil Association to get you on the road to organic living (and scoffing).
1. Switch to organic milk.
Organic milk is naturally different: no system of farming has milk with higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids or higher standards of animal welfare.
2. Eat less, but better, organic meat.
Organic animals enjoy the very highest welfare standards of any farmed animals. They are fed a GM-free diet and graze on organic pasture where pesticides are severely restricted.
3. Switch to organic beauty.
There are currently no legal standards for organic beauty so some products may be labelled ‘organic’ even if it doesn’t always stand true. Look for the Soil Association symbol to make sure that what you put on your body is as important as what goes in it.
4. Sign up for an organic veg box.
Organic farms support 50 per cent more wildlife than non-organic farms, so you’re not just treating yourself to the best of British produce, you’re also helping to protect bees, birds and butterflies.
5. Brew an organic tea or coffee.
Organic tea and coffee is grown without the use of artificial pesticides and fertilisers. This not only reduces the farmers’ exposure, it also means healthier soils and more habitats for birds and wildlife.
To find out more about the Soil Association and the work it does (as well as access a shed-load of special offers and ideas for organic lifestyles), visit http://www.soilassociation.org.