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The Pros And Cons Of Organic Box Schemes

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June 19th Organic Vegetable Box
Creative Commons License photo credit: AndyRobertsPhotos

I’m always keen to find new ways to be more eco friendly but I’ve always struggled with the concept of organic box schemes. The premium price tag and the lack of flexibility have always been such a turn off that I’ve never really seriously considered them.

Until last week.

Reading [easyazon-link asin=”0340954671″]Confessions Of An Eco Shopper[/easyazon-link] I was quite surprised by the findings of Kate Lock when she herself decided to learn more about organic box schemes and found myself motivated to dig a little deeper (no pun intended!) into the organic box schemes that run in my local area.

Loss Of Control Over Your Fruit And Vegetable Shopping

The first major hurdle many people struggle with is quite simply the loss of control that organic box schemes create. What I mean by this is that typically you go to a shop of some form and choose a wide variety of fruit and vegetables based on price and what your family likes among other things. Not only do you choose the types of produce you bring home but you can also personally look them over and select the perfect cucumber, pepper or apple.

Organic box schemes take a lot of this control away from you. Not only does the box contain a wide variety of different items – some of which you may not normally have bought – but someone else will have picked out the specific items you receive. This means there is a degree of trust that the box scheme you sign up to will provide a wide selection of top quality food and/or that you can have back a measure of control over what you receive.

In many instances it seems that customers of organic box schemes are happy with the quality they have received and whilst very few give you carte blanche control over what you receive it seems many schemes currently operating will take “guidance” from you such as you being able to request no swede this week if your family really detests it no matter how you try and prepare it.

The Cost Implications Of Organic Box Schemes

Organic food is almost invariably more expensive than pesticide-ridden, mass-produced food I think you’d agree and when you also factor in the cost of having someone deliver it to your door the logical assumption is that signing up to an organic box scheme is going to significantly increase the cost of your weekly fruit and vegetable shopping. Or so you’d think.

It seems that by cutting out the middle man and dealing directly with consumers many of these locally-run organic box schemes actually come in at a comparable cost to your local supermarket or farmers market – and in some instances can be even cheaper.

Kate Lock found that the fruit and vegetables she got from her organic box scheme actually worked out cheaper than her local supermarket and was only undercut mildly by her local greengrocer making box schemes a far more cost effective way to help the planet (and your health) by choosing organic produce over factory-farmed food.

How Environmentally-Friendly Are Organic Box Schemes Anyway?

Speaking of the battle between organic food and mass-produced food, a less obvious question is really how eco friendly these schemes really are. After all it seems obvious that supporting farmers who don’t pollute the planet with pesticides, fertilizers and other hazardous chemicals must be a good thing.

But remember the common misconception that organic doesn’t necessarily mean local or in season. Some organic box schemes will include fruit flown in from abroad. Sure, it was grown organically but all those extra food miles somewhat limit the environmental benefits wouldn’t you say?

So don’t just assume that an organic box scheme means “brownie points” for you on the environmental front. Do your research and aim for not just organic food but also produce that is grown locally and is in season. Not only will you reduce food miles this way but you’ll also add variety to your diet thanks to the ever-changing seasons and the delicious new flavours that each one brings.

Making The Most Of Your Organic Produce

Overall buyers of organic produce seem to agree that the shelf life is shorter than their less sensitively produced alternatives. This means that if you are to really get the most possible from an organic box scheme you need to not only learn a little more about the best ways to store fruits and vegetables, thus prolonging their life.

For example do you know the best way to keep a lettuce healthy and crisp for the longest? If you said to pop it in the salad crisper of your fridge you’d be wrong. Instead, place the cut stem of your lettuce into a glass of water – as if it were a bunch of cut flowers – and your lettuce will stay happy and healthy for much longer.

Secondly the rich diversity of seasonal produce you will find in your kitchen can either become a dream or a nightmare depending on your cooking abilities. A few decent cookery books, a willingness to experiment and some free time each week will all come in useful as you test out different recipes to see exactly how your family enjoys each item. Equally this “push” to experiment can not only mean that you eat a far wider range of vitamins and other nutrients but furthermore you might even discover some flavours you didn’t even know you loved!

When all is said and done there are far more benefits to organic box schemes than I initially realized and I am currently assessing my local schemes to see which will fit best with my hectic lifestyle. Isn’t it time that you considered doing the same?

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3 Responses to “The Pros And Cons Of Organic Box Schemes”

  1. BarbaraNo Gravatar 25 August 2011 at 2:31 pm Permalink

    Only just heard about this. I don't think it's a good thing at all but I suppose it had to happen sooner or later.

    Firstly because most organic veg sold in supermarkets is air-freighted from afar, much air pollution occurs as a result, not to mention tonnes of fuel being burnt. And people being woken up at night by planes flying over their houses. And contributing to 'global warming' (which, by the way, I think is one of the least of our worries). Secondly, are local farms going to be able to compete with the supermarket veg box prices?

  2. ToveNo Gravatar 28 September 2011 at 10:58 am Permalink

    I think its more eco friendly to buy your own organic stuff fomr farmers markets, supermarkets or farmer rather than having these boxes sent to you that other people has put together.

  3. freddy K finally fastNo Gravatar 30 September 2011 at 7:24 am Permalink

    Re: Barbara,
    Contributing to climate change is far from “the least of our worries”. This is a problem that is effecting us NOW. Weather on the east coast is breaking records every month recently, with earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, endless rain, etc. This is exactly what 99% of scientists had predicted a decade ago, and we’re just beginning to experience its effects.


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