4 reasons why organic food is better for you... and the planet

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One of the advantages of adopting a zero waste lifestyle is that it can lead to an improvement in your overall health.

In a bid to avoid excess packaging (most of it plastic) you’ll find yourself consuming a diet largely made up of wholefoods.

As well as eliminating mountains of waste, this means you’ll dodge all of the preservatives, additives and hidden sugars that are in most processed, packaged foods. Win-win!

Not only will your health benefit from a diet of wholefoods, if you opt for certified organic produce, the planet will also be better off.

Organic food is grown using sustainable agricultural methods without the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, which is considerably kinder to the environment.

Sarah Butler is the co-owner and founder of Organic Angels – an organic home delivery service based in Melbourne, which she has run alongside her husband, Scott since 2006.

Today, we speak to Sarah about why eating organic food is so important, how you can eat organic even if you’re on a budget and why it’s so much better for not only your health, but also the health of the planet.

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How did Organic Angels all start?

Organic Angels was inspired around the time we were about to introduce solid foods to our first son. I come from a hospitality background, so was a foodie at heart and was reading more into the benefits of organics.

When it was time to feed my son, I sourced organic for him, as like many new parents I wanted to give him the best nutritional start to life, with high quality food free from pesticides, chemicals and artificial hormones.

Over time we noticed the difference in eating organic, so we searched for where we could access fresh organic produce online and have it home delivered, as I loathed supermarket shopping.

At the time there was not the ideal service out there, so we started Organic Angels from our home kitchen in 2006, delivering 10 boxes a week in our station wagon.

Why is it important for people to try and eat organic produce?

There is more to eating organic fruit and veggies than just the health benefits of eating food free from pesticides and artificial hormones. Eating organic helps bring the powerful connection back to our food by knowing where your food comes from, where it’s grown and by whom.

Eating seasonally gives us the gift of a wide variety of fruit and veggies at different times of the year, ultimately giving us the nutritional value we need for that season.

Food grown at the optimal time and season produces higher yields, which is then cost-effective and results in very flavorsome food.

I believe we all have a part to play in helping to heal our land and making conscious choices around food helps bring about that change.

Choosing food from safe, sustainable and healthy farming methods promotes biodiversity, conservation and helps preserve natural wildlife. So, there is a greater importance that as consumers, we can make a difference in the world.

For those on a budget who may only be able to select a few items, which produce would you recommend trying to buy organic?

For those on a budget, I’d recommend integrating organic fruit and veggies into your weekly shopping slowly make the conversion. A small change will make a big difference and once you have tasted the good stuff, you won’t turn back, and your body will thank you for it. Our small mixed boxes are a great box size to begin with.

Unfortunately, supermarkets have driven food prices down so low, they no longer reflect the real cost of food. Organic is the real cost and the only sustainable way and I think many consumers are starting to see the truth in this.

What challenges have you faced as a business owner?

We were early adopters of creating an online shopping solution for organic consumers, and in the beginning the main challenge was gaining trust with consumers that they can safely order online, and trust that the produce we source is 100% organic.

To overcome that in 2008 we became a certified organic retailer with the ACO (Australian Certified Organic) and have been ever since. Our certification gives the consumer the assurance that they can shop with us fully knowing that all our fresh produce is sourced from certified organic or biodynamic farms. We’re committed to supporting certified organic growers and producers, and we never substitute with conventional produce.

The other challenge is we’re picking the produce for the customer, rather than them picking and choosing themselves at a supermarket. The fresh box system changes the attitude from, ‘What do I need to cook this week?’ to ‘What can I create from this box of seasonal produce?’, which opens customers up to explore other foods and recipes.

These days no one second-guesses ordering online and there has been a huge shift and education around sourcing locally and eating organic for health, nutritional benefits, flavour and for the benefit of our environment.

It’s the movement of conscious consumers wanting to return to feeling connected to their food.

Why is sustainability so important to you? What are some of the sustainable practices Organic Angels uses?

We care deeply about our beautiful planet, and believe as a business we can make a positive impact and help our customers do the same.

It is important because change happens from the ground up, and our business is a vessel to create that change. Living sustainably is important in every area of my life, so this flows into Organic Angels.

We are always looking at how we can improve, but currently we use reusable boxes for all our deliveries. We ask customers to leave their boxes out when they’re expecting their next delivery so our drivers can return them and they can be resued.

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We use minimal packaging and absolutely no plastic – we use certified compostable and biodegradable bags instead.

We have minimal produce waste as we have very good systems in place to ensure we buy what we need, but when there are scraps and leftovers, we donate to Oz Harvest.

We have also collaborated with our local council to link in with keen gardeners who come and grab boxes of scraps for their compost and chickens.

We also have an Eco Home section with lots of plastic-free products and we’ve worked with one of our bread suppliers so that bread is no longer in plastic bags.

A lot of our food waste is generated when fruit and veggies aren’t stored correctly and go bad. What are some of your tips for keeping produce fresh?

One tip I have for leafy greens, as this is the common one left to wilt in the fridge and tossed out is this: whether it is kale, silverbeet, spinach or lettuce, soak in cold water, wash away any dirt, drain and spin dry or gently towel dry, and store in an airtight container or damp produce bag in the fridge.

This will make it stay crisp and fresh for longer.

Thanks for your time, Sarah!