As more and more of us seek to minimise our individual impact on the planet, choosing organic can offer a simple, effective way to be more sustainable in our daily lives.
This month, the Organic September movement aims to draw attention to the many benefits of organic food and farming, which include supporting biodiversity and wildlife, helping to combat climate change, providing the highest standards of animal welfare, and reducing exposure to pesticides.
Did you know there is also more carbon stored in the world’s soils than in the plants, trees and the atmosphere combined? Organic farming creates healthy soils by nourishing them with compost, nitrogen-fixing crops, and crop rotations. As a result, organic farmland stores more carbon (on average 3.5 tonnes extra for every hectare), and organic soils are around 25% more effective at storing carbon in the long-term (source: Riverford).
There are plenty of reasons to get involved with the Organic September movement; here’s a list of some of my favourite ways to show support, from drinking organic wine, to eating an organic breakfast, to getting back to nature.
18 of my favourite ways to support #OrganicSeptember
1. Join the organic movement – Whether you’re taking your first steps to live more sustainably, or you’re already a keen organic advocate, joining the wider community is a great place to start if you care about nature-friendly food and farming. Sign up for regular emails from the Soil Association for practical tips on sustainable living that can help make a world of difference.
2. Get to know what organic really means – Did you know that organic food has to follow strict legal standards detailed above to make sure it’s always better for animals, wildlife, soils and plants? Those growing and making it also have to be rigorously inspected at least once a year – learn more about the hard work it takes for something to carry the organic symbol.
3. …and find out why it matters – Built on the principles of health, ecology, care and fairness, no other defined system of farming and food production comes close to delivering so many benefits for wildlife, society and the natural world. Read up on the reasons why organic farming is better for people, plants, animals and the planet.
4. Make one small swap – We drink around 100 million cups of tea and 95 million coffees a day in the UK; think of the huge impact it could make if all of us made a small switch to organic for our daily cuppa. Alternatively, you could make the most of home working by switching to an organic breakfast every day – check out my recipe for organic apple & almond butter bircher muesli for some inspiration. You could also switch up some of your store cupboard items and get home delivery on organic ingredients using sites like Organico, who offer 20% off your first order.
5. Sign up to an organic veg box scheme – Enthusiasm for veg boxes rocketed as we looked for options for home deliveries during lockdown, but there are so many other benefits to subscribing to an organic fruit, veg or meat box. Both Blaencamel Farm and Riverford are popular choices locally, and you can also check out this local veg box guide to find a scheme near you.
6. Get to know your eggs – Standards for Soil Association certified organic laying hens have been given the gold standard by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) – the highest of any farming system in the UK. Next time you shop, looking for the logo and choosing organic is one easy way you can make sure you’re opting for higher welfare. Learn more about what this means in practice for hens in the UK.
7. Support your local independent – Organic food is just one part of a ‘whole systems’ approach that looks at all aspects of our food and farming systems. Buying organic food from independent shops is an important way to support businesses in your neighbourhood, fostering home-grown knowledge and boosting your local economy.
8. Support the chefs – Across the country, many chefs work hard to put organic on the menu. Support them by eating with restaurants who source from organic growers and producers. In Cardiff, I am a huge fan of Nook, where they source most of their seasonal veggies from Paul’s Organic Veg (pictured in the header for this blog post).
9. Find organic food on a budget – Organic can sometimes be more expensive, that’s why the Soil Association campaigns for greater organic farming subsidies and incentives for farmers to switch to nature-friendly farming systems to bring costs down. However, there are still many ways to get hold of organic on a tight budget – get some top tips here.
10. Eat with the seasons – Find out what organic fruit and veg are in season this September, because eating more seasonally is a great way to reconnect to the rhythm of the natural world, as well as reducing the food miles of what’s on your table. Those who grow at home (or sign up to a seasonal veg box scheme) will know that the courgette glut continues until October, whilst the last of the broad beans are still being harvested. Meanwhile, Broccoli’s peak season hasn’t quite arrived yet, but September is a great time to buy cauliflower, celeriac, kale, leeks, pumpkin and of course, butternut squash.
11. Bake (or buy) some organic bread – Why not try your hand at baking an organic loaf the traditional way this month? If you’re new to sourdough baking, this starter from Vanessa Kimbell is a good entry point. Alternatively you could pick up an organic loaf from Alex Gooch or Pettigrew Bakery, to name just a couple of local options.
12. Find joy in nature – Organic is all about harnessing the incredible power of nature, so reconnecting to the everyday wonders of the natural world is an important step in reconnecting with where our food comes from. Whether it’s a weekend walk amongst the trees or a local foraging expedition – get out to enjoy nature this month, and reawaken your appreciation for it.
13. Eat less & better meat and dairy – Making better food choices for the planet doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop eating meat altogether. Whilst for the sake of planet we must stop eating meat that’s been intensively farmed (where animals are kept indoors and bred to grow abnormally quickly) there is still an important role for sustainably produced meat for those that want to eat it, and the Soil Association has the highest standards for animal welfare of any farming system in the UK. Find out more about how organic livestock farming can be better for wildlife and help capture carbon.
14. Drink some organic wine – Celebrate by cracking open a bottle of organic wine! Organic wine is booming at the moment, with a wealth of fantastic organic vineyards now cropping up in the UK. In the name of Organic September I was #gifted some wines from local Cardiff wine merchant Fine Wines Direct – including a few quaffable bottles from Château du Seuil. Co-owned and managed by Sean and Nicola Allison, their modern winery encompasses a total of 25 hectares of vines, all managed following organic certification with the objective of achieving a healthy vineyard at the same time as minimising the impact on the environment.
15. Support sustainable beauty – 7th September marks the beginning of Organic Beauty and Wellbeing Week. Look out for the Soil Association symbol to be sure you’re supporting businesses that don’t test on animals or use controversial chemicals, parabens and phthalates, synthetic dyes or fragrances.
16. Turn your garden organic – from peat-free compost to pollinator-friendly plants, create a buzz at home with these top tips for an organic garden; it’s one of the easiest ways you can champion healthy soils and biodiverse wildlife populations from the comfort of your home. You could also get involved with growing your own food by checking out the helpful resources and top tips on the Food Cardiff website.
17. Recognise your power as a citizen! We all have the power to change our food systems from the ground up. From what we buy to where we buy it, all the positive choices we make can add up to make a world of difference. Be a conscious consumer, and spend where it matters most.
18. Spread the word – Help spread the word about the benefits or organic this month by talking to friends and family, and using the #OrganicSeptember hashtag.
Big thanks to the Soil Association for the inspiration for this list!