Is it Easy Being Green?

My daily adventures in attempting an environmentally-friendly lifestyle

Buying organic: a cheat sheet July 5, 2009

I am so loving all of the beautiful fresh produce available this time of year. I’ve been buying up fruits and veggies like they’re going out of style (actually, soon they will be–out of season anyway). But, this has also made my goal of buying everything organic a bit more challenging; some of the prices are hard to take.

So, I decided to learn more about what really are the most important things to buy organic, and what items I can get away with buying conventional and not feel like I’m poisoning myself. I had heard of the “Dirty Dozen” but could never remember what was on the list when I was at the store. Thanks to a handy pocket card I received from Green America, I now have the list with me when I shop, and hopefully soon I won’t need the cheat sheet anymore.

Here’s the list of what Green America claims are the most important produce items to buy organic:

  • apples
  • bell peppers
  • celery
  • cherries
  • imported grapes
  • nectaines
  • peaches
  • pears
  • potatoes
  • raspberries
  • spinach
  • strawberries
  • (A list put out by the Environmental Working Group I found includes lettuce, kale and carrots in place of raspberries, spinach and potatoes. Probably better just go with the list of 15.)

    I also came across a list of the fruits and veggies with the lowest amounts of pesticide residue. I’ll call these the “Discount Dozen”.

  • onions
  • avocado
  • sweet corn (frozen)
  • pineapples
  • mango
  • asparagus
  • sweet peas (frozen)
  • kiwi fruit
  • bananas
  • cabbage
  • broccoli
  • papaya
  • (The Environmental Working Group list also included eggplant, watermelon and surprisingly, tomatoes.)

    An obvious difference between the lists is that most of the items on the dirty list either have thin skin or no skin, while the items on the discount list have thicker skin that is removed. That’s an easy way to remember at least some of the foods. Environmental Working Group has a more in depth list of 47 fruits and vegetables and where they fall on the spectrum of pesticide residues.

    So far my only big change has been buying non-organic (but fair trade when I can) bananas. It’s good to know that if it’s not realistic to buy everything organic (as is the case for many of us) that there are options to help make buying all of that beautiful produce a little less stressful.

    Download your own cheat sheet from the Environmental Working Group. Happy shopping–and eating!