Organic September is a month-long celebration of organic farming, food, drink, beauty products and clothes. In the face of climate change, diet related ill-health and widespread decline in wildlife, the need to change our food systems has never been greater. As more of us are seeking to make choices to minimise our impact on the planet, organic can offer a simple, trusted way to be more sustainable in our daily lives.
There are many ways people can be involved with the organic movement this Organic September, from learning more about organic and agroecological ways of producing food and sharing this knowledge with friends and family, to supporting organic farmers in local communities and learning to grow your own at home.
The Soil Association has put together a list of other small things you can try, one for each day of the September – together, when working with nature, our small changes all add up make a world of difference. 30 Ways to Join the Organic Movement
Covid-19 has shaken our complacency about where our food comes from to the core. But more than ever, citizens are appreciating the world we live in and the fragility of our existence in it. All the research shows that people do not want to just let things return to how they were, and citizens want to make choices that will support people, animals and our environment. The Soil Association is the UK’s leading membership charity campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use.
What is organic?
There is lots of details on the What Is Organic and Why Organic pages on the Soil Association website. ‘Organic’ is a farming system and method of food production built on the principles of ecology, fairness, health and care. Organic farmers take a ‘whole system’, or holistic approach, to farming, that considers the entire food system, from soils and farm animals to the health of people, nature and the planet.
Choosing organic means:
- Supporting wildlife
- Helping to combat climate change
- Supporting high animal welfare
- Enjoying food as it should be
- Reduced exposure to pesticides
- Organic farms are havens for wildlife and provide homes for bees, birds and butterflies. On average, plant, insect and bird life is 50% more abundant on organic farms.
- Organic farming is better for bees, there are around 75% more wild bees on organic farms
- Organic farms are more ecologically diverse, organic farms are home to 30% more species of wildlife on average
Helping to combat climate change
- On average, organic vegetable farms, dairy farms, and mixed farming systems use less energy than their non-organic counterparts
- Organic farming tends to reduce energy use due to the avoidance of synthetic fertilisers
- If Europe’s farmland all followed organic principles, agricultural emissions could drop by 40-50% by 2050, with plenty to feed the growing population healthy diets
- Adopting nature-friendly farming along with other key changes to our food system could help keep global warming below 2°C
- Organic soils store up to twice as much water – this makes them more resilient in a changing climate
Supporting high animal welfare
- The Soil Association has the highest standards for animal welfare in the UK Organic standards mean that farm animals:
- Must have access to pasture (when weather and ground conditions permit) and are truly free-range
- Must have plenty of space (indoors and outdoors) – which helps to reduce stress and disease
- Are fed a diet that is as natural as possible
- Graze and forage naturally on organic pasture (grasses and other crops) where only natural fertilisers are used, and pesticides are severely restricted
- Must not routinely be given antibiotics.
- Organic animals are fed a natural, organic and completely GM-free diet
- Organic farmers always provide enough light, space and comfort to allow farm animals freedom to move and express their natural behaviours
- Organic animals enjoy plenty of fresh air and have space to graze and roam, satisfying their natural instincts
Enjoying food as it should be
- Organic food must be certified by law, so you can be assured that the product and ingredients come from verified sources
- Soil Association Certification certifies over 70% of organic food in the UK, and all organic farmers and processors are inspected at least once a year. The organic logo can only be used on products that have been certified as organic by an authorised certification body. This means that the product fulfils strict conditions on how it was produced, processed and handled at every stage., This means the organic label is the best way of assuring that the food you eat has been produced to a standard you can trust
- Wherever you see the organic symbol, you can be sure that the food has been produced to the highest standards
- Choosing organic means that you are supporting farming practices with a more traceable production process and you’ll always know what’s in your food
Reduced exposure to pesticides
- In organic farming, all weed killers are banned – a very limited number of naturally occurring fungicides and insecticides are permitted and their use is severely restricted
- Soil Association organic farmers are able to use a very limited number of naturally derived pesticides like citronella and clove oil, as a last resort, under very restricted circumstances
- Choosing organic is an easy way to limit your exposure to pesticides, herbicides (weed killers) and many additives and preservatives
- The best way to reduce your exposure to pesticides in food is to buy organic; certified organic food, including fruit and vegetables, processed food and dairy and meat products, will, overall contain less pesticides
- One way to reduce your exposure to pesticides is to eat more organic food
All these points are referenced here.
Recent data shows since January 2020, organic sales in supermarkets have seen the highest growth since December 2016. Nielsen data shows organic food & drink sales year on year growth of 6.1% – almost double the growth of non-organic food and drink products (3.2%) for the 52 weeks ending 30th May 2020. Nielsen data shows an 18.7% increase in organic sales in the 12 weeks ending 30th May, which includes 10 weeks of lockdown, compared to 14.2% increase in non-organic food and drink*
This comes at a time when external events have fast-tracked already changing shopper behaviours towards personal health, transparency and integrity. A YouGov survey commissioned by the Food Farming and Countryside Commission & The Food Foundation revealed 42% people feel the crisis has made them value food more.
These changing behaviours seem set to support the organic sector in exceeding the end of 2020 market value of £2.5billiion projected by Soil Association Certification, with the sector now on track to hit the £2.6billion mark.
*Nielsen Scantrack Total Coverage (GB Food & Drink Retailers) 12 weeks year on year growth to 30th May 2020
Key spokesperson: Louisa Pharoah of the Soil Association said; “Organic September is a brilliant opportunity for us to talk to people about the Soil Association and all the work we are doing to restore nature, health and a safe climate. Organic farming is a whole system approach that nurtures the soil, biodiversity and our planet. The Covid-19 pandemic has meant more people appreciate where food comes from, and with the increased interest in growing veg in our gardens and home baking, there’s never been a better time to talk to people about the benefits of organic farming.”
Louisa has worked at the Soil Association since 2018 and is passionate about getting more people to choose organic to support a movement that is better for the environment
30 Ways to Join the Organic Movement this September
We’ve put together a list of other small things you can try, one for each day of the month – together, by working with nature, our small changes all add up to make a world of difference!
- Join the organic community – Whether you’re taking your first steps to live more sustainably, or you’re already a green-fingered organic gardener, joining the wider community is a great place to start if you care about nature-friendly food and farming. Sign up for regular emails for practical tips on sustainable living that can help make a world of difference, learn more about organic with behind the scenes insights from the farming community, and be the first to receive updates on our campaigning work.
- Get to know what organic really means– Did you know organic food has to follow strict legal standards, to make sure it’s always better for animals, wildlife, soils and plants? Those growing and making it also have to be rigorously inspected at least once a year – learn more about all the hard work it takes in order for something to carry our organic symbol.
- …and find out why it matters– Built on the principles of health, ecology, care and fairness, no other defined system of farming and food production comes close to delivering so many benefits for wildlife, society and the natural world. Read up on the reasons why organic farming is better for people, plants, animals and the planet.
- 4. Make one small swap to an organic cuppa– after all that learning, it’s time for a hot drink! We drink around 100 million cups of tea and 95 million coffees a day in the UK – think of the huge impact we could have together, if all of us made a small switch to organic for our daily brew.
- Share the love for organic – Now you’re clued up about what organic means, help us spread the word about the benefits this September by talking to friends and family, and sharing our posts on social media using the #OrganicSeptember hashtag.Share this page with your friends so they can participate in 30 days of action too – there’s small changes that anyone can make in this list.
- Take part in Organic September Saturday – On 5thSeptember, we’re celebrating the role that independent shops play as a hub for the organic movement; show them some love this Organic September by popping into your nearest indie. They’re a great place to go to support local farmers and producers, and to connect with your incredible local community of sustainable food lovers!
- Opt for organic – Choosing to support organic farmers and producers is one of the most simple forms of direct action you can take. Our collective choices all add up – more demand for organic food and drink means more people casting a vote for farms that support more wildlife and healthier soils. When you choose organic, you’re choose to support nature and our planet, biodiversity and the highest standards of animal welfare.
- Turn your garden organic – from peat-free compost to pollinator-friendly plants, create a buzz at home this Organic September with our top tips for an organic garden; it’s one of the easiest ways you can champion healthy soils and biodiverse wildlife populations from the comfort of your home.
- Support your local organic farmers– Enthusiasm for veg boxes rocketed in recent months, as more of looked us to find options for home food deliveries, yet there’s so many other benefits to subscribing to a fruit, veg or meat box. You’ll be joining a community of amazing citizens, farmers and organisations who are making sure the way we farm and eat is better for our health, better for nature and wildlife, and better for the climate too. Check out our box scheme listings to find a delivery near you.
- Stand up for sustainable beauty – 7thSeptember marks the beginning of Organic Beauty and Wellbeing Week! Learn to make your own natural facemask from organic ingredients, and look out for the Soil Association symbol to be sure you’re supporting businesses that don’t test on animals or use controversial chemicals, parabens and phthalates, synthetic dyes or fragrances.
- Volunteer on an organic farm – Planning a trip away this month? WWOOFing is a great way to travel for free in the UK and abroad, meeting fellow agriculture enthusiasts whilst getting your hands dirty with a real-life learning experience on an organic farm.
- Get to know your eggs – Eggs come in all different shapes and sizes, but do you know your organic from your free-range? Eggs carrying the Soil Association symbol come from farms with the highest standards of animal welfare in the UK- learn more about what this means in practice out on the farm.
- Recognize your power as a citizen! We are all food citizens, with the power to change our food systems from the ground up. From what we buy to where we buy it from, all the positive choices we make can add up to make a world of difference. Joining our online email newsletter communitymeans you’ll be first to hear our practical tips on living more sustainably, and to learn more about opportunities to get involved with our campaigning work.
- Support your local indie – organic food is just one part of a ‘whole systems’ approach that looks at all aspects of our food and farming systems. Buying organic food from independent shopsis an important way to support businesses in your neighbourhood, fostering home-grown knowledge and boosting your local economy.
- Support the chefs working hard to put organic on the menu by eating with one of our Organic Served Here award holders – find your closest restaurant or café here – many are offering takeaways and deliveries at the moment too!
- Grow your own – even if you missed out on this summer’s harvest, it’s never too late to start sowing your own seeds, and as September is also ‘Have a Go month’, why not try something new? Growing your own herbs at home is an easy place to start at any time of year, and you won’t need much more than a windowsill to get going.
- Get nature-friendly food delivered to your door – It’s never been easier to support the organic movement from the comfort of your own home – dozens of amazing organic producers across the UK are now offering online deliveries of nature-friendly food as it should be across the UK.
- Find organic food on a budget – We know organic can be more expensive, that’s why we campaign for greater organic farming subsidies and incentives for farmers to switch to nature-friendly farming systems to bring costs down. However, there are still many ways to get hold of organic on a tight budget – read our top tips here.
- Put some organic myths to bed – Knowledge is power – so come armed with the facts at your next dinner-table debate! We’ve debunked some of the most common myths about organic food and farming.
- Eat with the seasons – Find out what organic fruit and veg are in season this September– eating more seasonally is a great way to reconnect to the rhythm of the natural world, as well as reducing the food miles of what’s on your table.
- Go behind the scenes on an organic farm – ‘Open Farm Sunday’, the annual movement to get people onto the UK’s farms might look a little different this year, but there’s still so many online opportunities to learn about life on the farm. Focusing on wildlife and biodiversity, we’re excited for a virtual look behind the scenes at some organic farms this year.
- Recycling Week – Level up your sustainability game this September by making organic part of your zero-waste ambitions during #RecycleWeek! Opt for loose fruit & veg from your local indie shop, or reduce, re-use and recycle the packaging from your favourite organic brands – why not get started by making plant pots from your finished peanut butter tubs?
- Join the Soil Association – Joining our charity as a member or a donor is one of the most direct ways you can champion a nature-friendly future – we’re fighting to save the earth from the ground up, campaigning against issues as diverse as pesticide use, soil erosion, wildlife biodiversity loss and unhealthy public sector menus, making good food accessible to all.
- Stand up for food waste –With 30% of all food produced going to waste, it’s vital that we pay attention to what happens at the end of the supply chain, as well as at the start if we are to create a more sustainable food system. Make the most of your leftovers with a selection of zero-waste recipes this September; we particularly love Max La Manna’s ‘waste nothing’ oat milk pancakes, and Melissa Hemsley’s ‘fridge raid’ zero-waste frittata.
- Bake some organic bread– This time of year also marks the Real Bread Campaign’s ‘Sourdough September’, so why not try your hand at baking an organic loaf the traditional way this month? If you’re new to sourdough baking, this starter from Vanessa Kimbell is a great entry point, or try her blackberry and apple loaf for a seasonal special. If baking isn’t your thing, check out some of our top choices for real, organic bread you can find on the shelves.
- Celebrate Sustainable Forestry – Trees are amazing, and they’re vital part of our ambition for more sustainable land use – did you know a large portion of Soil Association’s Certification’s work is in sustainable forestry? In fact, we certify almost 19 million hectares of forest around the world – that’s almost the same size as Spain!
Keep an eye out for the FSC logo on paper and wood products this FSC Friday – it’s the hallmark of responsible forest management.
- Find out more about agroforestry – Our love for trees extends beyond the forests -agroforestry (combining agriculture and trees) has some amazing benefits, and it’s a common practice on organic farms! Learn why agroforestry is one vital element of sustainable farmingthat everyone’s talking about this September.
- Find joy in nature – Organic is all about harnessing the incredible power of nature, so reconnecting to the everyday wonders of the natural world is an important step in reconnecting with where our food comes from. Whether it’s a weekend walk amongst the trees or a foraging expedition, building an insect hotel with the kids in your garden, or taking the scenic route to work – get back to your roots and start sharing in the joy of nature this month!
- Start eating less and better meat – Making food choices for the planet doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop eating meat. Learn more about how organic livestock farming can be better for wildlife and help capture carbon.
- Learn more about organic wine – Celebrate and reflect on your successes from the month by cracking open a bottle of organic wine! Organic wine is booming at the moment – find out what makes organic wine so special, and hear more from some amazing British vineyards.