Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What Do Organic People Look Like?

What do organic people look like? By organic people I’m talking about the kind of people who live green, eat healthy, and care about local sustainably grown food. After finishing our Buy Fresh, Bike Local Ride on Saturday we arrived for a lovely catered lunch at Dickinson College Farm. The food was freshly picked from nearby farms, the chefs were local farmers and caterers, the plasticware was compostable, and everything tasted scrumptious. But as we lingered over our triple berry pie with homemade ice cream, we looked around and my dearest husband pointed out that we didn’t fit in. Everyone else was a Boomer or a Gen Y (is that what those young whipper snappers with all the tattoos are called?), but there were very few of us between the ages of 35 and 45.

I wouldn’t for a minute suggest that this is because my generation doesn’t care about the earth, the local farmers, or their health. I just think they are busy. I know we are. It took no small amount of finagling to free up the day, secure child care, and squeeze in the training rides, to make this lovely morning possible. We may not have time to tote the Buy Fresh, Buy Local banner at public events, but we are carrying with us as we shop. People of all ages are making small decisions every day add up. As they say, “no snowflake ever feels responsible for the whole avalanche.” The times are changing and most companies are taking notice and making changes of their own.

People are becoming more and more aware of the need to eat better food (and I’m not just talking calories) and live more socially responsible lives. How and where your food is grown has become a concern of people from every generation (well, maybe the under 10 set doesn’t care so much where that cheese curl came from). This is good for all of us. The economic impact of people choosing whole grains, locally grown produce, and grass-fed meat is becoming apparent. The Money section is Sunday’s paper reported that whole wheat bread has finally overtaken white bread in sales. Our grocery store circular has an entire column on the first page devoted to the locally grown produce they sell. Grass fed, locally grown, certified organic, no GMO, antibiotic & pesticide free have all become part of the common language for many of us.

Sure I can still stroll through my Wal-Mart and observe lots of people who are not worried about where or how their food was made, let alone what it’s made of, but their numbers are shrinking. And yes, the cynic in me questions whether to trust big business with the organic label. But I believe we’ll get there. This is just gonna take some time. All real change does.

I’m consistently surprised by the types of people I meet who share my concern for the health of the planet and their family. They’re no longer the crunchy-granola type, left-leaning folks – they are people from every walk of life. Being organic is not red or blue, it’s green. Some people have come to it because of health concerns, something they read or watched that changed their view, or by the clear evidence around us. For many of us it’s just an awakening to the impact we have on the future – ours and our children’s.

I always cringe when a friend or acquaintance who knows about my passion/obsession (depends how you look at it) for organic living apologizes for their choices – “I know I shouldn’t be eating this” or “I’m sorry I brought the Styrofoam” or “This isn’t organic” or the worst, “I feel awful I feed your child this - fill-in-the-blank- chemically laden, artificially created- treat.” I don’t want to become known as the organic nazi, because I’m not. My kids scarf up the unnaturally colored freezer pops and transfat filled snacks as fast as the next kid. I totally get the need to balance the what you children want with your budget and your conscience.

I understand that this organic life is not a priority for everyone. It wasn’t always a priority for me. It’s taken quite a few years to arrive at this level of commitment. I’m not here to judge anyone. I’m just here to offer information, encouragement, and maybe a little nudge to your conscience. Any change, no matter how small, is good in my book, and even no change is fine too as long as the level of awareness has been raised. So when my priorities irritate someone or make them feel guilty that’s a sign that change is afoot. If we feel guilty, we must know that there’s a better way.

What kind of people live this organic life? All kinds, at different levels, in different ways, for different reasons. And that’s OK. At least we’re moving in a good direction.

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