buying organic: the dirty dozen & clean fifteen

Being an environmentalist at heart and by education, purchasing foods with its associated environmental impact in mind is a priority for me. This is the primary reason of why I am a vegetarian. Eliminating meat from my diet reduces my carbon footprint by not putting my dollars towards an industry that largely contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. But what about organic? The answer to this is less clear to me. If you're interested in learning the pros and cons of organic farming practices, checkout my blog post on this very question. Perhaps the largest barrier to buying organic is cost. If money wasn't a factor, I would buy 100% organic, 100% all of the time. Unfortunately as a recent college grad headed into more school, this is not the case. Nor is it the case for many of us.

Because I am still very much concerned with how pesticides will affect my health as well as the health of the environment, I do believe that the benefits of organic produce are too important to be ignored. While I cannot buy all organic, it is possible to be a smart consumer and strategically buy organically grown fruits and vegetables without breaking the bank. The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen are lists put out by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) each year that helps consumers know which fruits and vegetables are best bought organic and which are okay to buy conventionally. The Dirty Dozen includes produce that have the highest reported level of pesticide residue- these fruits and vegetables are the most important to buy organic. The Clean Fifteen is a list of produce that contain the least amount of pesticide residue and therefore can be less of a priority to buy organic, especially if you're on a budget. For more information on these lists click here.

So if you want to go organic, but are concerned about cost or overwhelmed by not knowing where to start, focus on buying organically grown produce that is included in the Dirty Dozen and rest easy about the produce included in the Clean Fifteen. Scroll down to see which fruits and vegetables fall in each category.

the dirty dozen: 

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Cherries
  8. Grapes
  9. Celery
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Sweet bell peppers
  12. Potatoes

the clean fifteen:

  1. Sweet corn
  2. Avocados
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onions
  6. Frozen sweet peas
  7. Papayas
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangoes 
  10. Eggplant
  11. Honeydew melon
  12. Kiwis
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Grapefruit

    It's important to remember that organic agriculture is only one piece of the puzzle, purchasing food locally and in season is just, if not more important than buying organic. Often small, local farmers cannot afford the USDA organic label, even if their farming practices are organic. This post is not merely advocate for buying organic, but for doing what you can to making healthy and environmentally conscious food purchases that also considers the local and seasonal. I hope you've found this post useful and insightful! Stay tuned for more tips and strategies on how navigate food purchases as an environmentally conscious consumer!