Organic This & That

I didn’t always believe in organic products, especially way back when the concept was still pretty new.

The idea of paying more for food didn’t make sense to me, because I believed that what I was buying was just as healthy and tasty. I continued to believe this for a long time. What about the use of pesticides, you might ask, which is certainly a valid question and one that warrants consideration.

Long story short, my opinion has changed. I actually purchase organic produce now, but I pay attention to the list of foods that are grown with more pesticides that others, things like strawberries, potatoes and peppers. Cost continues to be an issue for me, as it is for many people. What changed my mind? I have grown more concerned about my health, and that of my family. Plus, as I’ve been exposed to more and more of the issues concerning sustainability and the environment, I’ve simply evolved.

Not only to I often purchase organic produce, I have become increasingly aware of what other toxins might inadvertantly be introduced into my home, whether in furnishings, fabrics, cleaning products or personal care items. While I am by no means 100% converted, I have made small changes where I can and I have increasingly incorporated eco-friendly, sustainable products into my work.

While organic isn’t necessarily ‘green’ the two are closely related, because they share a common concern over what goes into our bodies, our homes and the environment. For an item to be labelled organic, it needs to meet certain federal regulations; the term is generally applied to food products (i.e how it is grown, or prepared) and household items such as organically grown cotton or linens which have been fabricated into bed linens and bath towels.

Which is where it can get interesting. I recently purchased a wonderful, plush set of organic towels for the Master Bath. They are truly luxurious. Yet here’s the catch:  they are so thick and plush that they require two separate loads in the washer (instead of just one) and extra time in the dryer, which means a higher electric bill. At a time when many of us are trying to reduce our energy usage, and our impact on the environment, it seems I’ve done the opposite. Which means this purchase, while organic, was not exactly ‘green’.

Then again, there are many ‘levels’ of green. Small steps are often more realistic and easier to achieve, such as buying organic products, or switching to compact fluroescent bulbs. You are still doing your part to help the environment. Of course, this doesn’t address the issue of what to do with those compact fluorescent bulbs when they need replacing – and this is a big issue! (Because they contain mercury, they are considered a hazardous waste item and can’t be disposed of in the regular trash; your local utility can advise you on proper disposal).

Speaking of the home environment, as an interior designer I have personally seen how the green movement has affected the field of interior design. Initially dubious that high standards could still be maintained while ‘going green’, the industry has seen more and more new products come on the market that are not only beautiful, but good for the environment, and the health of our clients.

Which brings me to an important point:  many people believe that being eco-conscious means sacrificing beauty and comfort in order to save the environment, which is simply not true. Yes, organic and/or eco-conscious products may cost more intially, but the long-term savings are potentially huge. If you are faced with choosing between paint, carpeting or furniture that will off-gas toxins into your home, versus a healthy option that will not affect the well-being of your family, which would you choose? It’s a personal choice, yes, but one wth a long-term impact.