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Is Something Missing From the Organic Movement?

Earth Day, 2009 has passed. The popularity of the organic lifestyle or green living has traveled far and has reached international proportions.  However, are we missing a major organic/green component?

The organic lifestyle has become a new way of life for politicians, celebrities and consumers. In fact, support for protecting our climate and environment has become an international bandwagon that continues traveling throughout the US and the world.

As a result of increased organic/green product sales and strong media support, the organic bandwagon continues to tour our planet. However, the definition of organic living has been revised for several years by organic/green industry organizations to include social responsibility. Many of us are unaware that organic living is connected to social responsibility, yet the organic bandwagon continues its journey past Earth Day 2009 with much of the public uninformed.

Where did this concept of social responsibility come from? How do we define and describe it? How do we apply it in the course of our daily lives?  What is the real connection between social responsibility and our environment in the first place?  As we answer these questions and remove the familiar organic wrapping, we’ll find the spiritual soul of the organic movement.

The concept of social responsibility evolved from organizations that support the organic industry and the public.  They include the Organic Trade Association (www.ota.com), Green America (www.coopamerica.org) and several others. These organizations provide a great deal of consumer information through online resources  such as the “Organic Pages Online” the “O’Mama Report” (OTA), “The National Green Pages” and “The Green American” (Green America).

Every organic/green company that submits a membership application to Green America must provide evidence of meeting standards of environmental and social responsibility. If they pass this screening process, they become a member of the “Green Business Network” and receive the prestigious Green America “Seal of Approval for People and Planet”. This level of commitment for “people and planet” is recognized by the organic industry and by knowledgeable green consumers searching for a reliable organic company.

Social responsibility can apply to social justice, including fair wages and working conditions.  However, it is best defined as our willingness to “assume responsibility for others”. In addition to supporting workers, this phrase frequently refers to “charitable giving”.  Charity implies deeds of compassion such as volunteering in a soup kitchen, donating financial support  for environmental preservation or simply providing a few words of encouragement to someone in need.

Why are many people and the media unaware that organic/green speaks to social responsibility?  Despite the efforts to inform consumers by the organizations mentioned earlier, it appears the message is not being received. Perhaps part of the problem is that many hear the message but don’t see the connection between the protecting the environment and social justice.

So what is the connection between the two concepts?  The answer relates to who we are and how we set our priorities. Are we willing to sacrifice our personal needs for the sake of helping the environment or others in need?  This is the essence of an organic lifestyle. Green/organic living connects with social responsibility because they both develop from the same source regarding right and wrong.

An organic lifestyle is based on actions or deeds of compassion towards our planet and its inhabitants. Our thoughts and feelings govern our deeds and actions.  When our thoughts are positive it leads to feelings of compassion, hope, and courage.  What we think of ourselves and others are linked together by our spirit.  When we remove all the wrapping we find a positive spirit is the soul of the organic movement. It generates our conscience about right and wrong and drives us to make personal sacrifices for what we believe is right. It is the source of our concern about the environment and others in need. When we have self esteem and compassion, it provides us with the positive energy to care for our planet and to assume responsibility for other “passengers on Spaceship Earth”.

The Human Spirit and the Organic Movement

“The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery – not over nature but of ourselves”. Rachel Carson

Organic living spread its initial roots years ago to preserve our environment. In recent years the definition of organic or green living has expanded to include compassion for our fellow man. We still hear about preserving our environment.  However, we also hear about providing philanthropic efforts for the less fortunate as an essential component of an organic lifestyle.

At first glance, protecting and preserving our environment doesn’t seem to be directly related to how much we gave to the heart foundation last year. Buying pesticide free organic fruits or organic cotton apparel means supporting a cleaner and healthier environment. Reducing our air and highway travel diminishes pollution and our carbon footprint. All of these deeds on behalf of the environment may even enhance our self esteem and make us feel good. The dollars we can afford to give to our favorite charity or the time we can spare to volunteer seems barely related to pollution.

What did Rachel Carson mean when she spoke about mastering ourselves and not nature?  Organic living is all about personal sacrifice, changing our lifestyle and what we are willing to give up for what we believe. A green lifestyle relates to what we think about ourselves and our feelings of compassion for our planet and our fellow man.  What is the source of our feelings of compassion for others and the environment? The answer lies deep within our minds… the human spirit.

Our spirit provides each of us with the drive and desire to grow and become better than what we are. This unique capacity for positive thinking and spiritual growth facilitates “progressive evolution”. In other words, positive thinking can evolve into positive living. A positive lifestyle can result in social responsibility which leads to compassion for our fellow man.

Compassion is demonstrated through our deeds and actions.  Charitable giving is compassionate thinking in action. It means personal sacrifice and setting priorities based on how much we are willing to give despite of our own needs. Giving of ourselves is the real meaning of compassion. Today this concept is shaping the last branches that have grown from the seeds of environmental preservation planted years ago.

Awakening and developing the human spirit has certainly been an integral component of many religions, charitable organizations, and foundations all over the world. For example, the Anthony Robbins Foundation is committed to the passionate pursuit of a better quality of life. They are focused on self-empowerment, spiritual growth and selfless charitable giving. They have successfully accomplished their continuing mission through the development of products and programs based on the efforts of “an international coalition of caring donors and volunteers”. The Robbins Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation and similar organizations have been implementing green compassion before it was called green. Likewise green companies are starting to assume their eco-friendly role toward spiritual growth, positive thinking and charitable giving.

For example, one green company, Live Life Organics, provides organic cotton clothing. This family-owned company focuses on spiritual growth and positive thinking by displaying inspirational messages on their apparel such as “Be Compassionate…True Beauty”.  They also have a charitable giving program including volunteering in the community and donating their organic clothing for environmental education. They also provide funds to the Anthony Robbins Foundation, the Kennedy Krieger Institute and other charitable organizations.

Organic living requires green compassion. An evolving human spirit is the source of our compassionate thoughts and deeds. Progress requires that our collective spirit of compassion is in harmony with the needs of our planet and our “fellow man”.
Will your spirit join others in extending a hand of compassion?
“This is a deeply spiritual issue…Do we want to spend more time trying to care for our fellow man or do we want to just pursue more virtual reality? That’s the issue before us…and it’s being played out in the world of the environment.” Ed Begley, Jr.

Organic Tees, Organic Vegetables and Hula Hoops

Will all the hype about buying organic tees and vegetables ultimately turn out to be a passing fad like hula hoops? Will organic cotton clothing and organic tomatoes follow the path of the yoyo and the Edsel?

Let’s view this question from a broader perspective.

An organic lifestyle has become a new way of life for politicians, celebrities and consumers throughout the world.  Supported by green political parties (Australia, United Kingdom, Finland, etc.) to organizations like Green America and Britain's Green Choices, protecting the environment has grown exponentially in popularity. Many celebrities (Julia Roberts, Leonardo DiCaprio, Adrian Grenier, etc.) are speaking out in support of our environment and an organic lifestyle.

An organic lifestyle has become particularly appealing around Earth Day where it is accepted as much as hot dogs and apple pie (organic of course).  Every year on April 22nd there is enormous support from the media including internet bloggers, magazines, newspapers and network television commentators. Organic clothing and organic food are derived from pesticide free organic agriculture, accounting for much of their popularity. Organic apparel is featured at the finest fashion stores including Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York, and Fred Segal.

Other varieties of organic goods are now available including organic baby and organic yoga products, toys, beauty supplies, bedding, gardening merchandise and services. Organic goods and their retailers are described by industry/consumer organizations such as Green America and the Organic Trade Association. Both of these agencies provide the eco-oriented public with the latest information and resources on organic issues and related government legislation.

Many “green” companies specialize or incorporate the production of recycled and/or recyclable merchandise. These include all types of products such as children’s toys, doggie toys, tires, paving, shoes, clothing, paper products, and mirrors.  The use of recycled products has become a component of business and leisure days throughout the world.

Alternative energy producers represent another component of green industry. They can provide clean reusable energy while they continue to make technical advances every year. Utilizing the fusion power of the sun, the growing solar industry has created many products that generate heat or electricity. Their devices include solar batteries enabling us to recharge our ipods, solar calculators and solar water heaters. Their solar panels can heat and cool our homes and offices while providing electricity for our space program.

Alternative energy producers, as well as the organic clothing, food and recycling industries, create products to protect us and our planet. They are the farthest thing from a passing hula hoop fad. On the contrary, they’re here to stay providing us with a slice of grim reality that we’re far behind schedule. Consider the following:

  1. Without the benefits of organic agriculture we may be ingesting small quantities of carcinogenic pesticide residues, antibiotics or growth hormones that accumulate over a lifetime.

  2. Recycling preserves our essential natural resources and reduces waste.

  3. Our energy production has been a carbon based, fossil fuel operation for many years. The consequences have been the combustion of natural resources, pollution of our air, water, and soil, and loss of plant, animal and human life.

  4. Burning carbon based fossil fuels has increased greenhouse carbon dioxide emissions affecting climate and weather with potential disastrous consequences to our future survival.

  5. Dependence on foreign oil has huge political and economic consequences.  Alternative energy can progressively replace fossil fuels. This strategy can be a boon to our economy by planting us firmly on the road to energy independence. It will also create new jobs for the expanding solar, wind and geothermal industries.

As a symbolic gesture to a green future, our new president recently revealed his intention to plant the first organic garden on the White House grounds. We hope this historic garden will serve as a shining beacon in the storm of economic, health, and environmental issues that confront President Obama and his successors.

Headed to "All Things Organic™" show in Chicago

So I am headed to Chicago for the annual All Things Organic™ show in Chicago on Monday.  It's the largest organic industry tradeshow filled with tons of great new products, food and old friends from the industry.  This year is very special to me personally as I will not only be moderating a panel about "Culinary Trends", but I was also invited to be one of 3 judges for the 1st Annual "New Product Awards Competition".  The competition will recognize the best in new organic products with this new annual on-site competition. The first industry competition of its kind, these awards will recognize the finest organic products developed over the past year for the retail, foodservice and manufacturing markets in North America. I am honored to share the judging duties with Scott P. Silverman, Natural & Organic Category Director for Winn-Dixie Stores and Steve Schoultz Director of Contract Manufacturing for Sara Lee Corporation!

If you will be in Chicago for the show, I'd love to meet-up and say hello! The panel that I am moderating will take place on Tuesday June 17th at 10:30am.  The topic will be "Culinary Trends of 2009" and I am honored to have some great people as part of the discussion.  I will be joined by Chris Moyer from the National Restaurant Association, Chris Koetke, Dean of Kendall College's School of Culinary Arts and last but certainly not least my esteemed colleague Ashley Rathgeber who is Pizza Fusion's head "foodie" and R&D Secret Agent.  We will be discussing what the hottest trends to hit menus in 2009 will be as well as some other great discussion around the organic and local food movements which are both still as strong as ever!
Swing on by!

Going Raw... Part II

It's amazing how fast 4 weeks can fly by, especially when the last one was spent exploring Costa Rica's natural beauty.

Four weeks ago I embarked on a bit of "body cleansing" via a diet of eating only raw foods.  It was quite a challenge and I have a whole new respect for 24/7 raw foodies.  Angela and I worked our way into the cleanse by first consuming, donating, composting and "permanently hiding" all of the non-raw foods in the house.  This was important to our success and not having any tempatations laying around.  We invested in a Breville Juice Fountain Plus to assist us in the cleanse.  We did a ton of research online and even bought a great recipe book, "RAW FOOD: Real World" by Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis.  We had all the tools for a quick and easy 2 weeks as raw foodies!

OK... so on Day 2 we were ready for a big meal, complete with grill marks.  Yes, Day2.  This was not easy and it was at that time that I knew this was going to take a little more than will power.  Thanks to the "RAW FOOD: Real World" book, we were able to line-up a number of meals throughout the week.  We are also fortunate to have a Whole Foods a few blocks away as well as a great new market that specializes in RAW/VEGAN prepared foods. Glaser Family Organic Farms out of Miami is a renowned source for raw vegan foods that you can find in most Whole Foods as well.  We bought a bunch of their "breads" and sun burgers(which were my favorite).  Sun burgers were made from mushrooms, farm fresh herbs and sprouted sunflower seeds... YUMMY!  We were also eating a lot of raw almonds and walnuts for protein.  I admit that I flaked out a bit as it relates to keeping a diary of our 2 weeks on this cleanse.  I will post some of the recipes we used and genuinely enjoyed.  You have to remember, we were eating steak the night before we started this so it wouldn't just get thrown out of our refrigerator so our palettes were not "trained" to appreciate sprouted grain burgers in their place like a real raw foodie does.

After the third day, we noticed that our appetite had decreased considerably.  I noticed my tastes changing drastically and my hunger pangs were pretty much gone.  Most of my food was still going through me pretty fast but when combined with a few vegan supplements it was just one more step to assist in the cleanse.  We also started taking Garden of Life's raw nutrient formula which gave my body additional support.  Day 5(Friday) was a big challenge for us... it was our weekly Kickball game and it usually involves a bit of festive libations and caused us to eat some sushi and drink some beer, which is "brewed".  It was definitely a short fall of the wagon, but still a fall nonetheless.  (Who said we were perfect?)

We ran 13 miles on Saturday morning and decided we would feed our bodies whatever it needed that day to recover.  The biggest downfall that I've personally experienced in eating well, is to not listen to your body.  If you're craving something, don't be afraid to indulge, but use your head.  You wouldn't eat 5 bananas, why would eat 5 brownies? (I have and it's not fun) The long run on this morning was when I first noticed that my body was performing at a much higher level than before.  I had much more energy and my recovery time was greatly reduced.  This "raw thing" may just work out for the better.   Please don't forget that this wasn't an exercise in becoming a raw foodie, but to cleanse my body as we embark into the final stages of training for our marathon in June.  We knew that we would still eat meats and cooked foods after this, but this would launch us into a pattern of healthy choices.  (I started a pizza business... I LOVE FOOD!)

At the end of 2 weeks of a (mostly) raw food diet, I felt great.  Angela and I were ready for our trip to Costa Rica where we would be eating mostly fresh caught fish, organic fruits and veggies... and some delicious Tica cocktails.  We are looking forward to incorporating raw food into our regular diets a bit more.  I will post a few receipes shortly.