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Organic September

Emma Heesom

The Soil Association's Emma Heesom talks to the Ecologist about what this year's Organic September campaign is all about and how everyone can make a small change and a big difference.......

There are lots of different reasons why people choose to buy Organic produce - from reduced chemicals and pesticides to concerns about animal welfare - but there are also lots of reasons and misconceptions that stop people from buying organic too.

It is for this reason that this year's annual month-long focus on organic is a little bit of a break. The Small Changes, Big Difference campaign is asking people to make a small change to their shopping habits by switching one household item to organic, to create a big difference to our planet. 

For example, if just 12 families with an average bread consumption made the small change to swap their bread to organic, an area of land quarter of the size of the Wembley Stadium football pitch would become a pesticide-free haven for wildlife.

What this campaign shows is how a small change will also make a big difference to the lives of farm animals. No other system of farming has higher animal welfare standards. Organic is free-range and encourages the animals' natural behaviour.

If twenty families switched to organic milk, another cow will be free to range on clover rich organic pastures; if two families switched to organic bacon, one more pig will keep its curly tail and stay with its mother for much longer; and if one family switched to organic eggs, a hen would have access to grassland and not be at risk of painful beak trimming.

Certified Organic products are inspected so that you know what you're getting (and not getting) in your food and drink. If 10,000 people switched to an organic breakfast for just one month, an extra 40,000 organic eggs could be produced.

Of course we buy food primarily for fuel, and hopefully to enjoy the taste and flavour but when choosing organic consumers also know they are protecting and investing in our planet and supporting animal welfare. This campaign shows how simple it is for one individual to have an impact.

It's not just food for thought though. Last weekend (7th & 8th September) saw the first ever Organic Beauty weekend. Promoted via social media and supported by national brands such as Neal's Yard and Pai Skincare the weekend offered opportunities up and down the country for consumers to get hands on with organic beauty and know what to look for.

When the Soil Association did research into high street products claiming to be natural or organic we were horrified by the greenwash out there. Our research has revealed many products labelled "organic" and "natural" available on the UK high street contain harmful ingredients found in antifreeze, floor cleaner, oven cleaner, car oil and ingredients banned in children's food and toys. The Soil Association believes consumers are being misled and is calling on the health and beauty industry to use terms like ‘organic and ‘natural' accurately or not at all.

In the US, a court injunction has prevented Organix hair products being sold in the state of California from 1 September 2013 because they were found to be misleading consumers. Organix hair products do not contain any organic ingredients. Under Soil Association organic standards, any cosmetic or beauty product sold as ‘organic' must contain at least 70% organically produced ingredients. Organix hair care products remain on sale in the UK and worldwide and the Soil Association is calling for UK retailers to take action and stop this greenwash.

But it doesn't stop on the last day of September - we can all continue to make a big difference by making a small change like switching the milk in your cereal to organic or even by switching your daily moisturiser, or choosing organic wine! By changing at least one product in your household to organic we all can help to make our planet more environmentally friendly. Buying organic not only makes a difference to sustainable food, animal welfare and the wider environment but it's great for your body too!

No matter what your small change is you will be making a big difference and every time you make one, tell us on our website or tweet us with the hashtag #SmallChanges. 

I am a bit of a baker in my spare time, I already use organic dairy in my cakes and often organic flour but I am going to pledge to use organic cocoa, chocolate, coffee and vanilla too.

That's my small change, what's yours?

Emma Heesom works for the Soil Association and is Communications Manager for Organic September & Duchy Originals Future Farming


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