Organic and fairtrade products: are they part of your shopping list and do you think it’s just another marketing argument?
People, you can’t live with them you can’t live without them though many seem to think or would prefer to employ automatons. People are a massive resource and hence massive drain in terms of needs i.e. supply and demand, everything from food to living/entertainment space. Mechanization increases but people are still needed and they still need jobs and it’s damned hard to find the right people because an increasing amount have been introduced to the ideas of pay they don’t need to top up with ‘benefits’, timetables that don’t run them ragged, safer buildings/tools , sick time, time to have babies, family emergencies etc. What to do, what to do and in many cases the only thing possible; go abroad/outsource.
Competition makes the world go round, keeps the market place fresh and free from monopoly? It’s easy to see the benefits of competition but people are people so monopolization doesn’t stop; pit two or more suppliers against each other and you have a bidding war effectively setting the prices you will pay. What can producers/suppliers do? Exterminate/undercut the competition a lot of the time but some team up and say this is what it costs to make plus justifiable overheads. We need to make what we make and sell sustainable, we need to keep our economy and environment accessible and not outprice ourselves and if sh*t happens like damaged crops we need to know we’ll have some security and assistance from other growers who can pick up the slack and provide for us too, like we would for them. That is fairtrade and community trade. We also don’t want to damage our health and land or have to kill ourselves and our families because the GMO seed we were encouraged to buy doesn’t yield crops that reproduce/well and so have to keep buying neither do we want further restrictions on natural pesticides/fertilizers and forced use of agrochemicals; that is organic, or at least not GM. The ‘trick’ of organic marketing? You’re asked to pay more for what you would traditionally make/use if you weren’t making/using GM. The ‘trick’ with fairtrade is that it’s like minimum wage, it falls short in many ways and can make you dependent/limit your social mobility and yet many would say it’s better than nothing. I say do a bit of research at least and find out which companies/organisations you don’t mind your money supporting and show the companies whose practises you disagree with that you’ll be finding alternatives.
It’s not all about Organic vs GM; ‘organic’ means being certified and hopefully adhering to rules and guidelines from certain organizations. That doesn’t necessarily mean others don’t meet those/similar standards or are low quality just that the manufacturer couldn’t, wouldn’t or haven’t yet gotten organic status. Then there’s genetically modified (GM or nowadays GMO) crops. This can make it confusing with ingredients that either aren’t labelled ‘organic’ or ‘GM’ (if the ingredients are labelled at all) or aren’t one or the other.
Have you ever tried to grow those potatoes that you don’t/can’t eat but don’t want to waste? Leave the GM ones and see what happens, nada or next to nothing, even after months. Organic or in-betweeners (neither one or the other label) will do what they’re supposed to do and invert themselves into new.
Like anybody else I’m constantly confronted by things/people that question me and my way of life, it’s not easy or comfortable but I’m always looking to improve and my standards are high; even if I feel the desire to be defensive doesn’t mean I’ll ignore these things but it also doesn’t mean that I’ll specifically pay attention to them to demean them.
Fairtrade is another label but shouldn’t be, it should be the default. Think about every product you buy/use/consume and then think about every piece/ingredient in the composition and then the quantities needed for at least one population let alone the resources needed to make those. ‘Fairtrade’ makes up a tiny proportion of that labelled or not and for those who think of it as charity, why hasn’t it begun at home? We’ve got plenty of poor in this country, yet bargain fever has become rampant in the last decade and has taken haggling or scouring discounts/clearance/seconds as a normalcy for poor to just trying to rip of traders to get items as cheap as possible and it’s fun and fulfilling. That’s just added to cheapness over value and ‘fast’ items that that people feel even less inclined to take care of and keep in as good condition as possible.
From the above you can see that fairtrade and organic don’t just apply to food/drinks; think about cosmetics and clothing/fabrics for example. We can’t always buy from those areas so what are the other options?
- I donate clothing to various charities but I make sure to split them into two groups – saleable items and non-saleable items. I’ve found that a lot of charity stores are only interested in items that they can re-sell but many people have items that are no longer saleable, but still in good, wearable condition so for those clothes I’ve found places that give the items directly to the vulnerable, rather than sell them first.
- In London there are also some shops near me that took clothes and recycled them into new clothes themselves and then sell them.
- The local council picked up bags of clothing recycling if there’s a lot of them and there are clothes ‘bins’ (big recycle containers) for donations and recycling in local areas.
- There’s always local Salvation Army type centres and shelters.
- There are businesses that will collect clothes from your door if you use their bags to put them in – it’s best to find and contact them yourself though because there are a few of those who advertise door to door and then sell the clothes left for them.
- There’s also quite a few social alternatives for passing on clothes nowadays; ‘swap meets/parties’ are becoming increasingly popular and shops that will pay you for giving them items. There are public ones and private ones where friends organize a get together at somebody’s home and swap clothes, it can fun to look into each other’s wardrobes so to speak and swap clothes with each other. The public ones are cool as well because there’s so much to choose from. Each public one will work differently but they generally give you an amount of points or currency value for the clothes you bring in and donate and then you can spend that amount on the clothes available. Or some have a barter system where you can offer a piece of your clothing for something of similar value with someone else if see someone with an item of clothing you like.
- Then there’s vintage fashion shops and fairs/fayres – some where you pay a small admission fee and then explore and spend to your hearts content (some of them even sell by weight which is awesome) but you can also sell items. Vintage shops will often buy nice second hand pieces as well. Local fairs of any type are easy to donate too as well e.g. school jumble sales or anyone doing a fundraiser.
- There’s also the option of selling your clothes through places like auction sites (e.g. eBay) or simply giving them to family and friends.
- Or if you’re like me you keep clothes as long as possible, you have socks leftover from when you were a kid, you handwash (or many who have washing machines use ‘gentle washes’), you have lot’s of hand-me-downs and hand-me-ups whereby people borrow/take your clothing.
- However as many of you probably do already; if you want to buy new on-trend items voucher/coupon websites very helpful and cashback sites where you register, sign in and then shop ‘through’ them i.e. they have the major shops connected to their website and you click on the links to the shops that you would normally go to via the cashback site. Then when you make your purchases you get cashback and/or rewards.
Back to Food
We’ve seen a rise in comlady munity if not fairtrade in the form of foodbanks, something I admire and advocate though it doesn’t always go as well as it should. Mum & I qualified for a foodbank at one stage, well we probably almost always have but had never been spoken to about it or looked into benefiting from them ourselves though I have donated (I’ve lived by an old Indian adage of splitting income roughly into quarters; to taxes, family, charity and yourself; unfortunately I’m the only living Indian I’ve known to do that). We were excited that finally we might have something different to eat, more than small portions and not have to stress/worry about food for the week. We’re vegan but many people don’t know what that means traditionally let alone what it can entail in today’s age of food sensitivities so I spoke to a lady there in advance to find out more and to explain our situation; usually they chose people’s food for them (4 carrier bags a head) and either left it to be collected or delivered it but sometimes people chose for themselves. They decided it was best for us to do so and agreed that since we wouldn’t be taking some items that it would be ok to take more of others. We went and didn’t think there’d be much accessible to us but tried not to have any other expectations other than we were just grateful to have the opportunity but were amazed at the variety they had and so many items that would could eat. We got on really well with the staff there and obviously they supervised us picking our items. We walk a 6-mile roundtrip to town so asked for the items to be delivered and they confirmed they would be so by the other shift the following day. Lo and behold it was pouring down the next day and said shift were in a rush so knocked, left everything outside and drove off before I opened the door; we;d been eagerly awaiting the day since we’d only taken some rice crackers and peanut butter for the day before (as wisely advised by the staff we’d met since you have to eat every day) but we were dismayed to find that they gave us 1 person’s allowance and 2/3 of of that had been replaced; the whole lot was a typical vegetarian ‘order’ with things like rice pudding, custard, sauce with fish in it, cosmetics etc and items we didn’t need such as toothbrushes and cloths. So we called and I spoke to the lady who I’d originally spoken to who said to return the items and get more suitable ones. We lugged it all back but unfortunately were not met by that lady or the staff we’d met but the staff who’d repacked our bags and they did not like it one bit. They were all talking about us and when I tried to ask one a question she told me not to talk to her, she wasn’t dealing with us. I went to the one ‘dealing’ with us and she said that because of our ‘irregular and oversized’ order they’d had a meeting and changed the rules for everybody and now there was an itemized list that all people going there had to adhere to, no exceptions. I said that wasn’t necessary and not fair to everybody, perhaps we could just fix the situation, but the fact that we’d brought back the whole delivery so as to start again and not keep anything/get more than others it gave them (yes all of them) ammunition to pick apart why we wouldn’t accept things that they thought we could/should have due to their notion of ‘vegan’ and how we should prepare those foods if we didn’t want to go the normal route. Then not only did she supervise us, she escorted us to the items on her list whilst they all continued to talk&whisper and she kept going on about the amount of sweetcorn we took “13 tins, 13 tins – how many do you need? We can’t let you have more, we have to think about everybody, there’s more people than just you, you can’t take from them” in increasing volume and cut me off every time I tried to answer. I finally got tearful and upset enough to almost have to yell over her “What size were those tins and what sizes did you replace them with?” Stumped she went back to the pack and conferred… At the same time one of the staff from the first day we’d visited arrived and greeted us but was told not to talk to us, she said “they’re ok, I met them the…” She couldn’t finish “that’s enough (name), we had a trustee meeting last night about this and decided on a new process.” Then oh dear, it turned out that the sweetcorn we had chosen were 2 sealed packs of 6x100g tins plus an extra that had been separated. They replaced those with 3x400g tins… Yep, no problem there really was there? She said there must have been a mistake, they must have mixed up the deliveries, I replied she could have just called us if she had any qualms about our order instead of changing everything as that would have prevented the situation and she actually agreed but said that it was too late. I agreed it was and told them we’d just continue living off seaweed, thank you for the opportunity and sorry it turned out this way, we didn’t mean nor want to cause any trouble; and walked out.
The tip of the iceberg of that situation? They’d packed a delivery note with the items that mentioned God 4 times and how if we’re thankful it should be for His mercy and generosity through His workers (the foodbank) and supporters and that He has charity and love for all. Obviously not for vegans.
Community trade is a great thing in society but it has be organized fairly, as a whole we people have not matured or moved on from the ego, for all our enlightenment and good intentions fairtrade is not the norm.
Food Sensitivities – Higher Quality and Organic aren’t Myths
As we develop in and from childhood we are weened onto many foods that we wouldn’t otherwise digest/digest well; I’ve spent much of my life de-acclimatizing and I find I’m no longer immune to many ingredients that I could previously eat without obvious issues; part of that is probably due to getting older but I’ve also been careful not to get to a point in my life where the digestion goes (inflammation, gas, acid) and overall health steadily follows suit from blood pressure to disease. Other than sleep, digestion accounts for a huge amount of our time (& energy).
- I’ve always been unable to eat GM fruit/veg unless cooked; my gums, tongue, cheeks, throat swell up and itch like mad – even my teeth feel irritated because of that and sometimes it affects my nose.
- I can regularly consume cacao; it aids my digestion and I don’t gain weight. Cocoa does not help as much, it still counters inflammation but does not fully ease or remove gas or quickly pass the ‘food’ that caused the issues through the system, I also gain weight.
- The same goes for refined oils; I love oil and know that it isn’t a case of saturated vs unsaturated but more of overly processed and refined vs organic or raw/virgin. Unrefined helps my weight maintenance or even indeed makes me feel hungrier quicker but refined has the opposite effect.
- White sugar – this is a recent development; I can eat molasses, muscovado, demerera to my heart’s content but refined White sugar = a downer. I can have a bit and you’ll be hard pressed to not have any in foods you buy but even a packet of crisps with it as one of the main ingredients can lead to days of me sat with my head on the table, unable to concentrate, feeling out of it and not able to move about much.
- White salt – again I have no problems with rock salt/Himalayan Pink/Red/Black salt, Epsom, Bicarbonate of Soda, Nigari (specially extracted), I’m a little wary of sea salt due to pollution but am ok with it but refined White salt? Forget it.
- GM and low quality pasta and sometimes even rice (cereals and grains) can cause indigestion for days as well, not the case with organic and higher quality grains. I even get that from sprouting unless they are wholegrains.
- I stopped eating artificial colourings, flavourings, preservatives; most E-numbers and gelatin at age 13 so when I see them used commonly even in things like dried fruit that doesn’t need them (and if really necessary a little oil would do) I avoid them.
- Raw vs traditional methods of heat preparation/cooking – I’m not a raw foodist but do believe that the more you heat (and moreso for microwave ovens) the more damage you do to the food. Given that I do cook food I’m not prepared to have even less nutritional value available to start with GM ingredients.
Organic does Not have to mean having a Big Budget
Many of you have probably heard of/use is MoneySavingExpert; on the food forum there are lot’s of people who post about deals/sales/clearance and there are some dedicated members that regularly post about organic food they find/look for which is very helpful and of course you can add your own. There are also sites that specialize in food that is past their sell by (but within ‘use by’) and best before dates but are still fine to have.
Buying in bulk really helps too, moreso from places that sell wholesale to the public or if you buy over a certain amount, plus member deals.
Money isn’t the only currency; just like we write reviews for vouchers/points/digital cash, there’s also exchange, bartering, cashback/point schemes; it was those that really helped me through being freegan for a year.
I haven’t starved yet.
Many of you may be thinking what the hell do I eat and would be surprised at just how varied and sophisticated my palate is and how I don’t find it restricted at all in terms of foods that I can eat, the limitations are not in my choices but the availability/accessibility or mostly the lack of opportunity to have them like those animals you see being pushed away from the food they can see all over the streets in their faces but not being one of the chosen.
Those who say they don’t have money to burn but still do. Priorities.
Mum & I forage and don’t find it shameful or embarrassing. Plenty stare and talk about us like we’re crazy whilst they go past usually with shopping bags or in big or pricey cars. Granted I live in the New Forest now so there’s a ton of vegetation but most still rely on supermarkets and to an extent their gardens, there’s a distinct lack of green grocers in this town though there are farms/nurseries (there’s an M&S, Waitrose, Tesco & 99p Stores and a mixed product market on Saturdays) and the council spend a lot of resources clearing and cutting back the flora as well as making the place pretty with decorative plants/trees; if government just planted obvious food growing plants/trees instead or even just fruit trees there’d be a lot less hungry people but that wouldn’t be good for business and people buying into established energy hungry processes is more important than the immediate poverty need. Better to buy a whole load of industrial scale grown food, make it more well travelled than the people, radiate and treat it some more, rely on people neither understanding sell/use by/best before dates, nutritional tables or that food doesn’t need to be ‘pretty’, and them wanting it as cheap as possible than having them realize there’s lot of free food around if they know where/how to look and show etiquette in their picking habits i.e. not going into people’s gardens, not destroying plants and not taking too much. What happens to all the food/plants that aren’t bought or needed – mostly destroyed/dumped.
When you look at the back of a book or toilet roll what do you see? Is there an FSC or similar ‘renewable’ ‘sustainable’ ‘well managed’ etc sign/label on there? Yeah we know the downsides of forest management but we also know the downsides of deforestation and yet what do you prefer – good quality paper and wood or mdf/wood filler and false economy bog roll that disappears quickly, the price is higher for one unless you budget, moderate your use and look after your items well but it’s better than the other isn’t it? The same goes for food – do you prefer wholefoods or foods filled with filler (like cellulose ironically)?
For many food and all the items they put in/on/through their body pale in importance to other obligations and hobbies but ultimately you only have yourself to rely on in this life and I figure the less you care about the things that directly/immediately affect you at the very least, the more you are robbing yourself… Of your consciousness, your health, yourself.
What’s the Alternative if Not Fairtrade and Organic?
Those of you who grow your own fruit/veg/herbs and even animals without GM and hormones; would you go back to/give it up for supermarket equivalents and I don’t mean the ‘luxury’ stuff ?(Though growing & asking for less/simpler processes is ironically seen as luxurious/more pricey.) I’ve tasted the difference between juicy, sweet fruit and the dry, fibrous, weak tasting (especially in comparison to organic farms I’ve been to), barely or over-ripened supermarket fruit that sometimes hasn’t had the benefit of sunlight.
People are people – the majority of this planet live in abject poverty and I don’t agree with the ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ (I’ve been told that how many times myself and it’s one of my aims never to say that anybody except perhaps those who’ve though it ok for others) GM thinking that they should be mollified with low grade & cast offs. I’ve come across production people here wanting to hire women so they can pay them less and those with the mentality that those they import off abroad have it good nowadays ‘they can buy this on this day, that on that day, this many times a week‘ yet they can buy it any or all the time almost anywhere. If we don’t use our power & influence with purchasing decisions, thinking such things are luxuries that can’t and shouldn’t be afforded until one’s situation is better then I don’t think we have the right to wonder why wages are low or stagnant whilst prices rise – why? Because most think that way and it adds up, we’re not one person – we’re part of a very large group/family and within that are groups living off each other. I prefer fair/community trade in this world model we live in and I prefer what I consider ‘cleaner’ organic or high quality ingredients/items, I’m not in to buying anything whether cheap or expensive that has likely come from a sweatshop or underpaid overworked adult labour and I don’t want to push traders into buying from them at practically cost price either. I don’t think blood, sweat, tears, greed and ripoff should go into it. We can’t expect with one hand, take with the other and think things will get better.
The purpose of this was to simply provide personal experience, ideas and scope – things that can easily get lost in the subject as we get used to advertising campaigns. I’ve not gone into studies because when I read those it’s usually for specific things and not getting caught up in the hysteria, there’s results that come out in favour or against all of the sides and much is dependent on the sponsors. Like everybody else I try to just keep going but I also try to live/be real positive change and not just pontificate about it, that’s why I have my body and mind afterall 🙂