It might seem easy to go into a store and search for organically grown products thinking you are also doing your part to eat sustainably grown foods. This is not the case. Organic foods are not always sustainable foods and vice versa. So, what does it mean to eat organic versus sustainably? There are a few key points to spotting the difference.
1. Sustainable is more than just the crops grown
A farm that is organic is strictly following guidelines in order to be organic certified. A farm that is sustainable goes beyond the crops and animals to ensure that they are doing everything in their power to have a sustainable business. They try to cut back their footprints in regards to a plethora of other issues including cutting down on paper used in their offices, using less gas-based transportation, fair working conditions for their employees, etc. The policy for organic farms does not fully cover the company but primarily just the crops. A sustainable business does its part to be eco-friendly beyond the food.
2. Sustainable farming is more humane
The rules that govern the certification policy of organic farms are limited when it comes to the animals. USDA does not mandate the well being of animals. An animal living on an organic farm can be confined to small pins and can have little access to open pasture. On farms that are labeled sustainable, the well being of livestock is taken into serious consideration. They are provided plenty of time outside of barn doors to be animals in their natural setting.
3. Sustainable farming has low emission
Organic certification is not one to cover issues that deal with fossil fuel that is used in the production or transportation of food. Organic farms ship their products thousands of miles away from their farm to be stored elsewhere. A sustainable farm trumps organic farms in regards of being locally grown to ship locally with the use of alternative fuel.
4. Sustainable food is packaged with eco-friendly packaging.
When a sustainable farm sells their products, they take into consideration the package that will be taken with the food to your home. When an organic farm sells their products, they are often packaged in a plastic closable box, then multiple boxes are covered together in plastic shrink-wrap and then finally all shipped in a bigger box. Sustainable packaging uses the least amount of resources possible, and ideally it is 100% recyclable.
5. Sustainable does its part to be water efficient
Organic farms are not required to conserve water resources whereas sustainable farming does its part to conserve as much water as they can. Sustainable methods include reclaimed water for different types of crops, and use reduced-volume irrigation systems.
6. Sustainable farming is small
A sustainable farm is usually a smaller piece of land that grows a diverse group of crops to enhance the soil and does its part to conserve the lands natural resources. A sustainable farm might use vertical planting as well as let animals graze on crops. An organic farm uses more land than needed and tends to waste resources.
7. Sustainable farms are energy efficient
Organic farms are heavily dependent on non-renewable energy sources whereas sustainable farms attempt to conserve energy now so that we do not have to do it later. Sustainable farms rely on alternative energy sources.
A farm that is USDA certified Organic is a government-sponsored certification where as sustainable farming is not a certified label. Sustainable is often considered a philosophy that is used to described actions to protect the planet. While you cannot officially label products as sustainable, it is naïve to think sustainable farming is just a philosophy. It is observable and measurable through economic profit and benefits in the community and environmental conservation. Sustainability is observable and measurable via economic profit, social benefits.