For the past nine years, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released an annual Dirty Dozen/Clean 15 list designed to be used as a shopping guide, so you know which fruits and vegetables contain the most pesticide residue. Pesticides are not only harmful to us, they are also harmful to the environment.
Buying organic is an individual choice—personally, I try to buy the items on the dirty dozen list whenever I can, for more reasons than just pesticide residue. But for some people, they simply can’t spare the extra money, and some just can’t find a lot of organic produce in their city/town.
But that's OK—if you can’t afford or find organic produce in your area, try these tips:
Buy from local farmers markets — When we buy from our local farmers, not only do we support our local economy and a local small business owner, we also have a good chance of buying unsprayed produce. In many cases, local farmers do not spray their crops with pesticides or use chemical fertilizers, but because they are a small operation, their products cannot be officially certified organic. The process for being certified organic is lengthy and costly—a cost many small farms cannot afford. Talk with your local farmers to find out how they treat their crops.
Grow your own — In Canada, we are limited to what we can grow (but there is still a lot we can grow!) and we only have a very small window to do it. If we do, what we can plant will not last long—but something is better than nothing. If you can, plant your own garden. This way, there are no questions—you will know exactly how it is being grown and how it is being tended to.
The produce in this list were found to contain the most pesticide residue, so if possible, you should buy organic. When compared to the 2012 list, three vegetables were added: cherry tomatoes, hot peppers, and summer squash/zucchini and three were removed: blueberries, green beans, and lettuce.
3. Cherry Tomatoes
6. Hot Peppers
7. Imported Necatrines
12. Sweet Bell Peppers
The two following crops did not meet traditional Dirty Dozen™ criteria but were commonly contaminated with pesticides exceptionally toxic to the nervous system:
These fruits and vegetables were found to contain the least amount of pesticide residue and do not necessarily need to be bought organic. Only one change was made when compared to the 2012 list: watermelon was removed papaya was added.
14. Frozen sweet peas
15. Sweet potatoes
Bookmark this page or take the list with you whenever you shop by downloading one of the following:
* It’s always a good idea to wash your produce before eating it, but this is not enough to get rid of pesticide residue. Some fruits and vegetables absorb pesticides past the skin. The EWG peels and washes their produce before they do their testing and come up with their rankings.
* The lists are based on US produce, so they may not 100% reflect what is happening here in Canada, but since a lot of our produce is imported from the US and our farming practices are similar, it’s a good idea to still use the list as a guideline.
For more info on the Dirty Dozen/Clean 15 lists and pesticides, check out the FAQ section on the EWG website.
Do you go out of your way to stay away from the produce on the Dirty Dozen List?
Earth Day, which takes place each year on April 22, was started back in 1970 by the Earth Day Network to "inform and energize populations so they will act to secure a healthy future for themselves and their children." It's a great initiative, but remember, even though we’re all different when it comes to the level of “eco-friendliness” we will commit to, there is always something more we can do every day, not just on Earth Day. Our kids learn by example, so what better way to teach them?
There are the obvious things we can do to recognize Earth Day—here are 25—but I've put together a few things that can be done as a family you may not have thought of.
For just a few dollars, Adopt a Tree will, on your behalf, plant a tree to commemorate Earth Day or any other special occasion. You can have a tree planted in your family’s name, or have it dedicated to a loved one. You’ll receive a commemorative certificate and feel good that you did something to make a little part of Canada greener.
Did you know that on average, one tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year? Two mature trees can provide enough oxygen for a family of four. [source]
Going meatless for even just one day a week actually can make an impact. Earth Day falls on a Monday this year, so why not give it a try? There are so many excellent, family-friendly, meatless recipes around the web and even here on YMC. Decide on a few things you think your family will enjoy and try them out. For dessert, try my quick and easy go-to vegan recipe. It’s healthy, yummy, and contains a surprising secret ingredient!
Going meatless doesn’t have to happen just one day a week—the more often you do it, the more your health and the environment will benefit.
Did you know that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined? [source]
If you have some outdoor space, planting a garden is a great idea. Don’t be fooled into thinking you need a large area to garden. Even if you only have space for one or two plants, it’s better than nothing, right? Gardening is an activity kids love taking part in because they get to see a plant go from a tiny seed to being a part of their meal. Plan what you want to grow, buy your supplies, start your seedlings indoors, and have fun!
If you don’t have any space to plant a garden, try creating a pot garden.
Did you know that hollowed out grapefruit halves placed around your garden can help deter garden pests? [source]
This one is on my to-do list for this summer. It can be as complex or as easy as you want it to be. The good news for those of you who cringe at the thought of worms—it doesn't have to involve buying worms! As with gardening, you don’t need a large space to do it and the rewards are that you contribute less to landfills and you get nutrient rich soil for your garden.
Did you know that when done correctly, composting actually saves you money, because it reduces or eliminates the need to buy fertilizers? [source]
The Earth Day Canada website is filled with tons of great ideas for how you can spend Earth Day. Check out their nationwide event listings to find an event taking place in your city.
Did you know that Earth Day Canada is running a fun, family-challenge called Act for the Planet? Find out how you can participate here.
What will your family be doing to celebrate Earth Day?
Cars and eco-friendliness—two things that don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. But, by making a few changes to the way we maintain and drive our cars, we can reduce emissions and save gas.
Here are 10 easy things you can do to make your car go a little easier on the environment:
Getting regular tune-ups is so important when it comes to keeping your car running well and efficient. A properly maintained car will release fewer emissions and use less gas.
Keeping your tires properly inflated is not only a safety issue, it will also improve your gas mileage. Not sure what the proper pressure is for your tires? Check out this step-by-step guide. Still not comfortable doing it on your own? Get your mechanic to do it each time you visit or ask him/her to show you how.
Yes, there is such a thing, and I outlined what you need to know about eco-friendly tires here.
Keeping extra items in your car is not fuel efficient. The simple rule is that the heavier your car is, the more gas it will use. Remove any unnecessary items from your car (this includes roof and bicycle racks) to keep your ride as light as possible.
Avoid idling by turn your car off when you are parked for longer than one minute.
Avoid slamming on the gas when you accelerate. Instead, accelerate to speed gradually to lessen fuel consumption.
When cleaning the interior and exterior of your car, be sure to always buy eco-cleaning products. They are available at most stores and cost almost the same as the not-so-green cleaners.
Unless it’s unbearably hot, roll down the windows. You car’s air conditioning system is powered by gas—a lot of gas. Try parking in shaded areas to keep your car cool or buy a sun shade for when parking in non-shaded areas.
It’s true that when driving on the highway, rolled down windows will produce “drag” (the air resistance cars encounter when moving) and will use up more gas. For hot-day-highway-driving, use the air conditioner in spurts and utilize your car’s fan to make the coolness last a little longer.
The best way to make your car eco-friendly is to not use it. Get together with co-workers in your area and organize a car-pool schedule that works for everyone. Live in the Toronto area? Check out the Shuttle Challenge.
Hybrid cars produce lower emissions, require less oil changes, use less gas, and are just better for the environment than a regular car. Hybrids will save you money in the long run, but they come with a higher up-front sticker price. Some provinces offer a rebate for hybrid buyers, check your provincial government’s website for info. If a hybrid is not in the budget, consider a used car.
Do you already use any of these tips? Do you have any to add?