HURRICANE Ophelia will bring gale-force winds and choppy seas to Spain's far north-western region of Galicia in the early hours of this Monday morning. The tropical storm reached the Portuguese islands of the Azores...
Eco-living: save the planet and reap the rewards
Is it worth spending six euros to buy a kilo of tomatoes? What does synthetic fabric feel like on the skin? Are cities the best place to live? Environmental associations differ in the advice they dish out, but they all agree that organic and planet-friendly products are consumed more and more these days.
IN EVERY town and city there is, and always has been, a herbalist who traditionally practiced as a doctor specialising in natural medicine, giving remedies for illness based on plants. These are either applied directly – taken orally – or indirectly, on the body – balsams and creams, for example.
These establishments have grown in number and popularity and nowadays they are more like small natural-product supermarkets where you can find almost any product that bears the label ‘organic’.
However, what many people don’t realise is that buying on the market can be as healthy as making your purchases in these shops, and reading labels is not a sign of being a hypochondriac, but that of being responsible both for your own well-being and that of the environment.
Healthy food is directly linked to healthy people. Those who are careful about what they put in their mouths are less likely to be ill and if they are, recover quicker. But not all tomatoes are the same and not all make-up has the same effects.
Every time you buy anything, you should read the label. In the case of fresh produce, it is not always necessary to go to the herbalist to do your shopping since in the market and in greengrocers’ shops they are obliged by law to display the origins, calibre and as much information about the product as is necessary to help you weigh up the pros and cons of buying it.
And in addition to this, you should think about the cost and method of production. That is, bananas from Costa Rica may be all well and good and perhaps their taste is as good as any other, but you should work out the cost to the environment of transporting them over such a long distance, and whether the crops from over there are grown in environmentally-friendly conditions. And then, of course, you have to consider whether the household budget will stretch to it.
If there’s anything that is painfully obvious within all this, it’s that eating healthily is not always synonymous with eating on a budget. But at times it is worth making the effort to analyse the cost of secondary factors.
Here’s an easy example. A kilo of oranges in a local supermarket might cost, say, 80 céntimos. The label indicates that they come from Morocco. They come in a red net and they taste extremely tart, so to make juice with them you’ll probably end up adding sugar.
If you work back from the point where the oranges are displayed in the supermarket, taking into account the fact that they are still very acidic when you get them home, you can more-or-less work out that they were picked off the tree at least two weeks before being put on sale. The result is that the juice doesn’t taste the same, with or without sugar.
Also, the level of vitamins will never be the same as oranges picked at the height of ripeness, and you don’t know how they were produced and packaged, or what happened to each orange before you take them off the shelf.
Oranges bought off the market are more expensive – sometimes, they cost almost double – but they taste better, don’t need other ingredients added to them, do not require transport time, and storage time is reduced by half because they are locally-grown.
The cost to the environment is considerably less because not so much combustible fuel is used and their handling time is reduced, since from farmer to consumer there are, at most, two middlemen: the co-operative, the packager and the market place. And if you buy them in a village, you might find they are sold directly from the farmer.
In summary, someone who is a bit
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