Why Are Organic Products So Expensive?

With the best intentions in the world as a green consumer, it’s easy to get put off when you compare the price of organic food with regular mass-produced products. People who are on a limited budget may have the inclination to buy their groceries ethically, but when we stand in the store and check out the prices of our ethically-produced food, it can be tough to make a decision to stay green and add on an extra twenty percent to our weekly grocery bill.

Just as free-range foods cost more than battery-farmed produce, or Fairtrade products can cost up to thirty percent more than other types of foods, so organic produce tends to be significantly more expensive than other forms. There are a number of reasons for this, and understanding the rationale behind it can make it much easier to make an informed purchasing decision and reduce the sting of the increased cost.

Compensating for reduced crop yields
On average, an organic crop yields approximately twenty percent less than a conventional crop, due to the fact that the growers do not rely upon pesticides and chemicals to enhance the return on what has been planted. This means that agricultural methods are less rewarding when it comes to gaining value for money through the farming process. Some crops such as potatoes can yield as much as forty percent less when farmed organically, and this cost has to be recouped from the sale of the produce.

Accommodating higher production costs
It costs more to grow organically than it does to rely on chemicals, and this cost is incurred through the labour taken to produce a decent crop. Factors such as weeding add to the overall time and effort taken to produce a great organic crop, and labour-intensive farming needs to be funded. Onions and carrots need to be carefully looked after when they are grown to organic standards, taking up much more resource than conventional mechanisms.

Mitigating the cost by balancing it with environmental risk
This said, the cost to the environment is significantly higher when it comes to traditional famring methods. Pesticides and fertilizers can make our living expenses shoot up through increased medical treatment needs, and experts suggest that using agrochemicals such as methyl-bromide can deplete the ozone by up to twenty percent. This in turn leads to higher risks from skin cancers, so the price overall is balanced by going organic. When we look at the cost of producing a crop such as strawberries using chemicals, people do not factor in the expense of treating people who have adverse medical reactions, so the true weighing up of organic versus traditional methods of farming is not currently an accurate figure.

When all the hidden costs to the environment and our health are taken in to consideration, buying organic suddenly doesn’t seem so expensive, does it? It’s an established fact that buying organic produce is better for the environment, and better for us in the long term, so it’s worth stretching the budget a little in order to buy green, ethically-produced and healthier foods.

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Ethical And Green Investments

We’re all interested in financially sound investments which help our money to go further. But how many of us are concerned about the ethical nature of our investments? And how can we be sure that the institutions and financial agents responsible for managing our money are using the financial resources we’ve entrusted to them in a transparent, responsible and accountable way?

If you are committed to leading a more green and ethical lifestyle then it probably makes sense to review your financial investments. Making the right investments will ensure that your money is working hard for you – and also for the environment.

A niche market?
There’s a common misconception that ethical investments are a niche market. But things are changing, and financial markets are beginning to recognize the demand from consumers for green investment products. Just as you can now expect to choose from a range of ethically sourced produce in your local grocery store or supermarket, you can now also access a range of financial products with strong ethical credentials.

The First Affirmative Financial Network, LLC (FAFN) is an independent investment advisory firm registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and operating in all 50 states. It support a nationwide network of investment professionals who specialize in serving socially aware investors, and can help you find an adviser near you. From savings accounts to investment funds, pension schemes to mortgages, there is a wide range of ways to secure a positive social impact from your finances. Ethical investments are a powerful way to invest in the future, reaping sustainable, cleaner and greener profits with considerable potential for long-term growth.

In the UK, the Sustainable Investment & Finance Association (UKSIF), recently co-ordinated National Ethical Investment Week – using it as a platform to promote and highlight opportunities for ethical investment. They also devised an ethical investment quiz to encourage people to reflect on their existing financial investments and attitudes towards ethical financial products. According to UKSIF, there is ample evidence that well-managed green investments can perform as well as, and in some cases, even better than other investments. A great reason to diversify your portfolio!

Micro-financing: A uniquely social return on your investments
Micro-financing has also taken off in recent years, and KIVA is one non-profit that has taken the concept of ethical micro-finance to a whole new level. KIVA aims to alleviate poverty by connecting social investors with ambitious social entrepreneurs. Through a global network of ethical micro-finance partners, KIVA enables social investors around the world to learn about local community projects that require investment. Currently there are over 700 community projects awaiting investors – and the sheer diversity is incredible. From restaurants to taxi services, education projects to housing loans, there’s an ethical investment opportunity for everyone!

Investors can pledge money online to support their chosen project, and this is transferred as a loan to the local entrepreneur, who is then supported to invest the money and eventually repay the loan in full. This enables the investor to either withdraw their original investment, or re-invest in another project.

To date, KIVA has facilitated over $175m in social investment loans, and funded almost half a million social entrepreneurs to set up or further enhance their own businesses. To find out more about KIVA, and to start your journey towards a greener financial portfolio, visit www.kiva.org/.

The Lowdown On Water Conservation – Save The Planet And Save Money Too!

With population levels expected to increase exponentially over the next 50 years, water is one of our most precious natural resources. But when it’s quite literally on tap, it’s easy to slip into bad water usage habits which can result in significant and unnecessary wastage – not to mention astronomical utility bills. So if you’re looking for some great ideas to help conserve water, we’ve compiled our top 10 tips for saving water below.

Top 10 ways to conserve water
Take these 10 easy steps to reduce water consumption in your household:

• Turn off the faucet or tap. When you’re preparing vegetables, doing the dishes, shaving, washing your hands or brushing your teeth, be sure to turn the faucet off. Many of us have got into the habit of leaving water running when we’re doing basic household chores or taking care of our personal hygiene. Running water is really not necessary for most of these tasks. Reminding yourself to turn off the tap is a great way to save gallons of water.

• Check for leaks. Some water leaks can go undetected for months. So be sure to check the integrity of taps, pipes and radiators in your property. One easy way is to take a water meter reading in the morning – take off for the day, and then check your meter when you get home. If there’s been a change in the reading, you’ve probably got a leak! Find it and fix it.

• Water-saving toilets. Believe it or not, toilets can guzzle up to 30% of your household water supply every year! Toilets have come a long way, and many new models include a dual-flush function, which allows you to select a half or full flush, thereby saving more water than conventional WCs. If you have an older model, why not fill a bottle with sand and stones and place it in your toilet tank to displace water and reduce the flush and fill of your tank.

• Avoid baths, take shorter showers. It might be hard to give up your luxurious candle-lit bath. Showers are more efficient by a mile – you can rinse and switch off, lather up, and then switch on again to rinse…and you’re done. Half the water, half the time!

• Change your shower head. Some shower heads can release up to 80 gallons of water per minute, depending on the design. So, measure your shower output and if you’re surprised by the results, you can easily purchase a low-flow showerhead for between $10 to $100.

• Invest in pipe insulation. Insulating your water pipes helps to deliver hot water fast, and keeps your water hot – especially in the morning, when the shower is in demand! Pipe insulation is widely available, cheap and easy to install.

• Stay cool. Keep a jug or bottle of cold water in the fridge. This will help you avoid running the tap until the water runs cold.

• Full loads only. When you’re using the washing machine or dishwasher, always aim for full loads. Most machines now have options for half-loads or economy cycles that will use less water – but where possible, avoid switching your machine on until it’s completely full.

• No butts. Purchase a water butt to collect rain water from your garden. You can use the water you collect to feed your lawn and flowers, as well as cleaning the patio or washing the car.

• Be water aware. Small changes in water usage and consumption can make a huge difference to your pocket – and the planet. Share your water tips with others and encourage them to join you in conserving one of our most important natural resources.

Cut Your Energy Bills

Consumer Reports magazine outlines a few ways you can save $1,500 per year on your energy bills.

If you go the cut your energy bills link and navigate the subsections that are linked to in the left hand column of the overview article.

con_nav_issue_cover-oct-09

The story delves into the myriad ways that most homes waste energy, emphasizing the financial cost of energy inefficiency and breaking down the different ways every home can become more energy efficient. Consumer Reports conducted a nationally representative survey of 2,014 Americans for the report and found some intriguing data on how people are and aren’t saving energy.

For example Shades of Green tells us 83% always run a full load in the dishwasher, 40% buy green cleaning products, 16% recycled a CFL, and only 3% use an alternative energy source, such as solar, wind, or geothermal.

It also talks about tax credits, energy audits and is really worth taking a look at.

A New/Old Way To Save Ink

A company called CoGen Media got in touch to tell us about a new product that will help save waste by helping printer cartridges last longer.

Probably invented to save money originally (it’s a great motivator), the ecoPrint2 software is becoming popular in America as way for schools, companies and individuals to be environmentally friendly. The software acts as an internal printer allowing you to automatically use less ink with your printer and even do things like print two pages per sheet without having to set it up each time.

ecoprintsave

So it saves ink and paper basically. Now I know the argument is that no printing saves even more ink and paper, and while I don’t print at all at home, at work it’s unavoidable. Businesses need to take their responsibilities more seriously and I would suggest, without actually being in a position to test it, that this sort of software, and idea in general, is a step in the right direction.

It does cost around $40 for the basic version though, so I’ll just be hunting for the ‘draft’ option on my printer I think. Go to Ecoprintsaver.com to find out more.

Green Store News: 10% Off At Nigel’s Eco Store, New Products From Green People and Get Ready For Festival Season With Ecotopia

Our good friends at Nigel’s Eco Store have got a nice offer on with 10% off eco gardening products below. Get in quick before April 19th and enter the code SpringEco at the checkout to save on things like the Paper Potter, Organic String on a stand, Potting Shed Collection and 100% Biodegradable Leaf Sacks. Remeber we’re giving away an Eco Office pack from Nigel’s Eco Store in our competition – the Great Green Giveaway.

And we’re also giving away stuff from Green People which I’ve learned was founded by Charlotte Vøhtz after she started making natural and gentle organic formulations for her daughter Sandra, who suffered from severe skin irritations. Anyway in May it’s got four new products:

Body Bliss Lotion – a rejuvenating lotion works to pamper the skin with Jojoba and Green Tea offering instant hydration for a super soft feeling.
Foaming Face Wash – a soap-free face wash for all skin types bringing added benefits with its unique anti-blemish formulation, helping to reduce breakouts.
Foaming Hand Sanitizer – a unique and highly effective organic formulation designed to provide immediate, natural antibacterial protection wherever you are, the perfect alternative to soap and water for those on the go.
Baby Foaming Cleanser – a multi-purpose cleanser in a handy pump dispenser formulated to be super mild and gentle on baby’s delicate skin.

And Ecotopia (another prize giver) has launched a green survival kit to help festival goers reduce their carbon footprint at events. The kit, which contains 10 essential items, costs £59.99 and includes everything you need to have a happy, healthy and eco friendly festival. All packaging for every item is either biodegradable or recyclable (which is a personal bugbear of mine so makes me happy) and includes:

Festival pack

Freeloader Solar Charger
Condomi Condoms
The Freeplay Kito LED Lantern
Badger Tangerine Breeze Lip & Body Balm
Kingfisher Toothpaste
Preserve 100% Recycled Toothbrush
Tushies Baby Wipes
Degradable Refuse Sacks
Natracare Organic Feminine Wipes
Toms of Maine Deodorant

All good stuff.

Do You Get Green Employment Benefits?

The excellent Sustainablog recently mentioned that “renewable energy companies are adding green benefits to their employment packages to align the company’s stated values with their company culture and to attract talent from traditional industries to the renewable energy industry.”

They fall into the categories of work related; transportation; residential; personal/well being; and financial. Take a look a the Sustainablog article for more information.