In a conversation with some girlfriends, I was talking about how 95% of the food we buy is organic. I haven’t been as fastidious with keeping up with how much we actually spend lately, so they were pretty astonished when I gave them the ballpark number of $400-$500/month. I know that I could do better, and probably give them hope that they too, on their meager budgets, can also eat all organic.
One friend said that she’d rather save on food and use the extra money to pay off debt. I get that. But it also got me to thinking about the true cost of things.
There are a few reasons why I don’t budge on the organic issue (or for that matter shopping at New Seasons Market, a locally owned grocery store that sells mostly organic food, and is probably the only grocery store where one can find mostly grass-fed beef, without buying 1/2 a cow). I know that my support of the organic food industry is vital to supporting other causes I also support – like local farmers, and sustainable, environmentally friendly practices. I also know that the toxic load in human beings is substantial and want to limit that, keeping in mind that my health and well-being is my responsibility, not my HMO’s. (Actually, we don’t have any health insurance right now, but you get the point).
My understanding of why our economy has taken the turn it has – a strange practice of infinite production with unlimited resources coupled with the continual printing of money then being loaned to the gov’t at a high interest rate, low wages/high cost of living, and corporate greed – makes me wonder if the price I’m paying for organics is what I’d actually be paying if we lived in a society that valued sustainable practices.
When I think about why something is cheaper at another place, I ask myself, “Why?” The answer is as simple as thinking about charging someone for a sweater I’ve knitted myself vs. how much one might cost at Target. Sometimes, the yarn alone costs $30-$60. Then, if I were to charge minimum wage for hourly work, the cost of my time might be $50-$100, depending on who fast I could knit. So, if I wanted to actually make a living knitting sweaters, I would have to charge over $160. If you can get one at Target for $20, are you going buy mine? Probably not.
But what is the future cost of producing a $20 sweater vs. a $160 one? If you think of the origin of the materials, the tools used, the environmental impact alone should be enough to make you pause at the check out. What is the cost to one’s conscience? I’m forever seeking balance, trying to appease my conscience, but at the same time, remain practical, since, money doesn’t grow on trees (no matter how much money the Fed prints).
It is true, I’m rather an idealist and purist. I know that I’m not any more likely to stop factory farming, pesticide use, and slave wages any more than a vegetarian is going to stop animal cruelty by simply not eating meat. But at the same time, I can hope that I’m one of many, and that perhaps together, we can.