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Choose a local, organic pumpkin

By Recyclebank |
Creeped out by carbon emissions? Petrified of pesticides? Find pumpkins that are locally produced and organically grown.
Pumpkins are perhaps the most integral part of the Halloween holiday. In fact, more than 43,000 acres of land were used for pumpkin production across the US in 2007. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these pumpkins were grown in eco-unfriendly conditions, starring in their own eco-horror film, harvested with an abundance of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Over the past three years, sales of organic pumpkins, which are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, have risen 60 percent annually, according to Farmer's Market Foods, the maker of the number one brand of organic pumpkin.

Additionally, 90 percent of all US pumpkins came from one area, a 90 mile radius around Peoria, Illinois — meaning that most of us purchase pumpkins that had taken quite the fuel-intensive, CO2-creating road trip in a long-haul diesel truck to illuminate our holiday.[1] Organically grown, locally produced pumpkins will give your jack o lantern an eco-friendly glow.

Find it! Resources to lead you to a local, organic pumpkin

A growing number of supermarkets, grocers, and specialty stores are carrying local and organic produce, and retailers specializing in natural and organic foods, like Whole Foods, will almost certainly offer organic and local pumpkins around Halloween. The following resources will help you locate farmers' markets, co-ops, or other venues that may sell local, organic pumpkins near you.

Buying a local organic pumpkin helps you go green because…

  • Organic pumpkins are grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers that may pollute soil and water.
  • Organic pumpkins is grown without the use of genetically modified organisms, which can negatively impact biodiversity.
  • Organic farming may be key in the fight against climate change.
  • Locally grown pumpkins don't require the petroleum or create the air pollution that is necessary to transport produce in long-haul trucks.
To be certified organic by the US Department of Agriculture(USDA), pumpkins, like all foods, must be grown in soil that has been free of toxic pesticides and fertilizers for at least three years and cannot be genetically modified. Chemical pesticides and fertilizers are not only believed to be harmful to human and animal health, but also threaten ecosystems. It's estimated that approximately 670 million birds are exposed to pesticides used in farming annually. Ten percent die as a result.[2]

Organic farming combats global warming

Organic farming may also be key in fighting global climate change. A study of conventional versus organic farming methods by the Rodale Institute discovered that organic farming combats global warming through carbon sequestration. In agricultural applications, the more organic matter that is retained in the soil, the more carbon is sequestered. While conventional farming depletes organic matter through the use of chemical fertilizers, organic farming uses animal manure and cover crops, which actually build soil organic matter.

Organic farming further reduces atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) by using 37 percent fewer fossil fuels than conventional farming.[3] The Rodale Institute estimates that if all 160 million acres of corn and soybean farmland in the US were switched to organic farming methods, it would be equivalent to removing 58.7 million cars from the road, and would satisfy 73 percent of the proposed US Kyoto targets for CO2 reduction.[4]

Buy local

In the United States, 90 percent of domestic produce, including pumpkins, is transported by truck.[5] Gasoline — a petroleum-based, non-sustainable resource whose extraction and production has caused major environmental damage to soil, surface and ground waters, and local ecosystems — fuel the trucks that transport pumpkins from field to festivity. Petroleum refineries are major contributors to toxic air pollutants, like carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide.

Twenty pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) — the leading contributor to global warming — are released for every gallon of gasoline burned, making the transportation sector responsible for about a quarter of overall US CO2 emissions.[6] In fact, the US transportation sector alone emits more CO2 than all but three other countries' total combined emissions from all sources. Union of Concerned Scientists - Cars and Trucks and Global Warming And because no combustion is perfectly clean, this trucking of goods is also a primary source of local smog- and soot-causing air pollution. When you buy a local pumpkin, you are cutting the distance your jack o lantern had to travel to reach you up to 27 times, according to Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture researchers.

Glossary

  • carbon sequestration: The process by which carbon is captured (in the form of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere and incorporated it into soil, ocean, and plant matter.
  • genetically modified organism: Results from merging the genetic make-up of two organisms to create a desired byproduct that could otherwise not be found in nature.

Footnotes

  1. Agricultural Marketing Resource Center - Pumpkins
  2. Pesticides and Birds Campaign
  3. Straus Communications - Organic Farming Sequesters Atmospheric Carbon and Nutrients in Soils: The Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trialåš Findings
  4. The New Farm - Organic farming combats global warming … big time
  5. Science News Online - Local Foods Could Make for Greener Grocers
  6. Fueleconomy.gov - How Can 6 Pounds of Gasoline Produce 20 Pounds of Carbon Dioxide?
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