Choosing Organic Food For a Smaller Carbon Footprint

“Just one 320-acre farm going organic equals 117 cars taken off of the road or 1,462,500 miles not driven!” That’s the conclusion of Chris Hill and Greg Bowman, contributors to the Rodale Institute’s website which has been heavily involved in researching the impacts of conventional and organic farming.

Seems that buying organic food-be it oranges, carrots, soybeans, or lentils-can be an effective way of shrinking your carbon footprint and living green. That’s because organic farming is a powerful atmospheric scrubber. By cultivating diverse crops, organic crops are better able to sequester carbon. In otherwise, they serve as a carbon sink.

But why is growing organic food better at carbon sequestration than growing food conventionally with fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides? Over their 23-year comparison of organic and conventional corn-soybean farming systems, these were the conclusions gathered:

o Retention of organic matter: A general rule of thumb in farming is that the more organic matter is retained in the soil, the more carbon is sequestered. Organic farming generally makes use of animal manure and cover crops as a means of amending the soil; conventional farming on the other hand uses chemicals which deplete the organic matter found in soil. Pound for pound, organic farming adds rather than takes away soil organic matter and therefore helps to sequester carbon.

o Lower fuel consumption: Organic farming systems use about one third less fossil fuels compared to conventional cropping systems because of a lower dependence on heavy machinery. This lower dependence in fossil fuels results in fewer greenhouse gases expended to grow the same amount of food.

These two factors make for a great climate solution. In fact, if the US were to participate in the Kyoto protocol, it could meet 73% of its proposed targets by converting all 160 million acres of corn and soybean farmland to organic farming methods! That would be like taking nearly 60 million cars off the road.

So in addition to organic foods’ better flavor and higher nutrient content, organic food can help you lower your greenhouse gas emissions! Buying organic from the grocery store, therefore, is a great way to shrink your carbon footprint.

If you want to further enhance your environmental impact, grow your own organic food using, compost, natural fertilizers and soil amendments! This is a cost-effective way to get your daily nutrients and a fun activity for the whole family.

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