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What do I do when shopping?

When we first decide to ‘go organic’ we are faced with a lot to think about when deciding what to buy and what not to buy. A trip to the supermarket can be a mentally exhausting exercise. There are so many issues: food miles, excess packaging, local produce, additives, certification, animal welfare, plastic bags, GMOs, chemical residues, vegetarianism. But with practice many of these issues are easily assessed at a glance.

To make sure a product is ‘organic’, certification is the only method to use. While exported organic produce must meet the National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce, there is no Australia-wide regulation to control the labelling of organic food and produce sold in Australia. As a consumer you can:
Buy local produce

Check for the Organic Retailers’ and Growers’ Association of Australia (ORGAA) notice, if you are buying from an organic retailer
Choose foods labelled with one of the Australian certifiers for organic food
Check packaging for the grower’s name and certification number
Be critical of food that is labelled ‘natural’, ‘organic’, or ‘chemical/spray-free’, without any certification.
There are three rules for determining the ethical status of everything you buy:

1. Where did it come from?

Make it a habit to read labels to see where the goods were produced. As a general rule, the closer the site of production the less greenhouse gases will have been released during transit. If it is made in developing countries you may need to check the company’s operations in that country to make sure they are operating under Fair Trade regulations. This can’t be done in the shop but you can note details of products you may want to purchase regularly and then research the company before you go shopping again.

2. How was it produced?

Is it certified organic? Is the certifier an approved one? Is there a Fair Trade label? If you are buying meat, or animal products, ask yourself: ‘was this sustainably produced’? What kind of labelling is there to help you know the answer? If in doubt, don’t.

3. What is it packaged in?

Avoid unnecessary packaging whenever you can. If it is over-packaged, you can purchase the product, and then unwrap it, and leave the packaging with the management explaining you will not support excess packaging.