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Going organic

This September, Soil Association Certification, the UK’s leading organic certification body, will promote Organic September, the annual, month-long celebration of all things organic. Clare McDermott, Business Development Director, talks us through the impact switching to organic can have on people and the planet

Organic September 2019 comes at a pivotal time, with the climate and health crises at the top of the news agenda, and people across the country eager to know how they can reduce their impact on the planet through what they buy and eat. At Soil Association Certification, we’ve always been passionate about organic, explaining what organic means and how it can help people make sustainable choices that are better for the planet and for themselves, and Organic September has been our flagship campaign for over a decade.

Put simply, organic is food as it should be. This means grown or produced using fewer pesticides, no artificial additives or preservatives, animals that are always free range and farmed without the routine use of antibiotics, and with absolutely no genetically modified ingredients.

Better for the planet

Organic September has always been about getting as many people as possible to find and try organic products, but this year, with the climate crisis at the front of minds, we want Organic September to be a springboard to help citizens make changes that support the planet. By going organic, shoppers are making a sustainable – and easy – change that can have a huge impact in the fight against climate change, and the research backs this up. Studies have long shown that wildlife is more abundant on organic farms – around 50 per cent more, in fact – while if all farming in the UK went organic, pesticide use would fall by around 98 per cent and at least 1.3 million tonnes of carbon would be taken up by the soil each year – the equivalent of taking nearly 1 million cars off the road!

And it isn’t just the planet that would benefit from going organic. An important study released this year by the French think tank, IDDRI, showed that a future European farming system based on organic principles could provide a sufficient and healthy diet for a growing population, alongside tackling climate change, phasing out pesticides and benefiting wildlife. All we need now is for government to get behind organic and help it to meet the growing demand from shoppers for healthy, sustainable and traceable food.

It’s nutritionally different

Choosing organic isn’t just a sign that you take the health of the planet seriously. Ground-breaking research has found significant nutritional differences between organic and non-organic food, both in meat and dairy, as well as fruit, vegetables and cereals.

Scientists found that organically grown crops not only contain higher levels of antioxidants – as much as 68 per cent higher – but they also reduce the intake of potentially harmful pesticides, nitrogen and cadmium. Separately, research has also found that both organic milk and meat contain around 50 per cent more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than non-organic. This is thanks to organic standards requiring livestock to be outside wherever possible, and to have a high percentage of grass and forage in their diets. Organic dairy also has more desirable poly-unsaturated fats than non-organic, and these nutritional differences also apply to organic dairy like butter, cream, cheese and yogurt.

This is evidence that what farm animals are fed and how the soil is treated affects the quality of food we eat. You can be confident when eating organic that you are benefiting climate health by supporting a way of producing food with a lower impact on the planet, but your intake of key nutrients will also be higher as a result of the way the food is produced.

It’s not all food and drink

Organic certification isn’t just for the food we eat. Beauty and wellbeing products, as well as textiles, can be certified to give reassurance that they are sourced and produced in a sustainable and ethical way. The uninterrupted growth over the past eight years of the certified organic and natural beauty market is testament to the fact that more shoppers are beginning to understand the benefits that organic offers, from skincare to supplements to menstrual health.

To give shoppers confidence that the beauty products they buy are genuinely produced in the most sustainable and environmentally-friendly ways, Soil Association launched standards for organic cosmetics – the COSMOS standards – in 2002. Beauty and wellbeing products are able to have organic claims on the pack without being certified, unlike organic food and drink, and often contain only small amounts of organic ingredients, as well as potentially harmful additives like parabens or phthalates. To be sure what you’re buying is truly organic, make sure any beauty product has an organic certification logo, as this means it has been inspected to meet organic standards at every step of production.

As the sustainable conversation builds, this year’s Organic Beauty & Wellbeing Week, from 9 September, will show the power of certified organic beauty and wellbeing products, and we will be calling on brands to use nature responsibly. We also hope shoppers will make one small swap to organic this September. When you choose organic beauty products, you can make a world of difference by choosing a method of production with transparency and integrity at its heart, and this is a message we want to celebrate this Organic September.

How you can get involved

There is a huge number of ways you can increase the organic in your life, both this Organic September and beyond. Organic September Saturday, on 14 September, is the day that independent retailers and health food stores will be opening their doors, with many hosting talks, demonstrations and offers. These retailers are often the experts in organic, so if you’re interested in finding out more, your local retailer is well worth a visit.

The key thing to bear in mind is that small changes really can make a big difference. We don’t expect everyone to immediately switch to a fully organic diet – although that would be great! As well as making one small swap in your beauty regime, small changes in your weekly shopping basket, like swapping non-organic for organic milk, help to support a farming system that benefits wildlife, improves soil health and produces nutritionally different food and drink. There’s never been a better time to make the switch – what are you waiting for?

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