Is organic motherhood just a status symbol?

Nov 17, 2010 at 9:04 a.m. ET

Considering the over-processed world in which we live, it is clear that we need to get back to basics and attempt to live a simpler life. Living an organic lifestyle seems like the obvious choice.

organic egg

Unfortuantely "organic" -- like many buzzwords today -- has begun to take on a pop culture significance that can sometimes be at odds with its true meaning. It has become a marketing label that adorns everything from food to clothing to toys to a style of parenting. And it has become a standard with which parents judge one another and make each other feel inferior. It's time for us to take a closer look at the real meaning of organic and shift our focus from the veneer of superiority it affords us.

Organic is a marketing strategy

As the recent controversy over factory-produced organic eggs reveals, not all organic foods are created equal. Many large corporations are capitalizing on the trend and selling "organic" foods whose quality is dubious. While it is obvious that eating foods without added antibiotics, hormones and pesticides is not only better for our bodies, but better for the earth, it is also clear that when the very same corporations are selling both conventional and organic products, serious oversight is necessary.

Earth-Friendly Alternatives

Supporting small organic farmers doing clean business is a wonderful way to leave a smaller carbon footprint on the Earth, as well as to enjoy high quality food, clothes and other products. However, organic products typically carry a much heavier price tag. Here are a few other options for getting high quality, eco-friendly products outside of buying only goods with the organic label.

  1. Buy local. Not only does buying locally grown food use less fossil fuels simply by eliminating food air miles, but it can be just as high or even higher quality than products bearing the organic label.
  2. Buy Fairtrade. By supporting Fairtrade, you are ensuring that the people working to produce your products are being paid fair wages and enjoying healthy and safe working conditions.
  3. Grow your own food. If you live in an area where you have the space to garden, consider growing your own vegetables and fruit. You will be in control of your growing practices and can ensure that your food is of the highest quality.
  4. Reuse, reduce, recycle. Instead of spending an arm and a leg on everything the local baby superstore suggests you need, share your resources among friends. Everything from highchairs to cribs to baby slings to clothes can be passed along and reused. And what a pleasure it is to see your beautiful hand knit blanket getting more than one generation's worth of use!
  5. Make your own products. As author and food activist Michael Pollan says, "At home I serve the kind of food I know the story behind." When you make your own food, you can decide whether you want to sweeten your salad dressing with problematic ingredients like high fructose corn syrup or something more natural like raw honey or agave nectar., while still avoiding the exorbitant price differential.

Get Back to Basics

Rather than blindly succumbing to the latest pop culture fad, take the time to examine your reasons for choosing products bearing the organic label. It would be a mistake to fall prey to this marketing trend that can also foster elitism, as not everyone is wealthy enough to afford such a lifestyle. Remember that the true definition of organic is alive, simple, healthful and close to nature. Forget the labels and embrace your own inner organic.

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