GOOD

Organic Addictions Help Us Justify Our Vices

I see a lot of substance abuse within the yoga and sustainability communities I’m a member of, and it’s nearly always of the organic variety.

My love affair with organic food began when I was nineteen, working as a cashier at Wild Oats while attending the University of Colorado at Boulder. I remember returning home during holidays and summers, judging the contents of my parents’ refrigerator while waxing poetic about the benefits of organic milk and green tea, insisting they should drink more water.


Consistent with my school’s party reputation, I was drinking heavily at this time, though my friends and I opted for craft beers like Fat Tire made by local breweries. I was a social smoker, though exclusively bummed American Spirits because they were “natural,” the yellow package creating a bond between strangers with presumed shared values. In my 20s and early 30s, my tastes evolved to organic Pinot Noir, dark chocolate and super-premium coffee. My favorite beer was Chimay, brewed by monks with company revenues devoted to social service. I turned my nose up at people who drank Red Bull and smoked Marlboro Lights.

In hindsight it’s clear that I was consuming addictive substances and using the “organic” and “natural” labels to minimize guilt and fuel righteousness, allowing me to avoid looking at myself, understand the reasons why I was reaching for these things to begin with, and justify continued consumption. Sound familiar? The data supporting increased consumption of organic addictive substances is both powerful, and concerning.

According to the Organic Trade Association, U.S. organic beers sales between 2003 and 2009 more than quadrupled from $9 million to $41 million. U.S. sales of wines made with organic grapes reached $80 million in 2005, a 28 percent increase over the previous year, with sales spiking to $169 million by 2010. Organic distilled spirits totaled sales of $8 million in 2010, an 8 percent increase over the year prior. Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, which manufactures Natural American Spirit cigarettes, saw a whopping 41.3 percent growth in operating income in 2011, and experienced a 13.5 percent growth in shipment volume.

An article published by the New York Times in April of 2011 asked the question, “Is Sugar Toxic?” and provided significant evidence to support that, yes, it is, explaining one reason why consumers may be moving towards less guilt-inducing sweets. In 2011, premium chocolate sales in the U.S. rose 10 percent to $2.7 billion, while imports of ethically produced cocoa rocketed up 156 percent. Let’s not forget caffeine. In 2009, nearly 1.7 million bags of organically certified coffee were traded, a 335 percent increase from 2001 (Trends In The Trade Of Certified Coffees, 2011). 5-Hour Energy shots, a product that’s marketed as being a more natural energy alternative given added vitamins, controlled 12 percent of the overall energy drink market by 2011 with an estimated $300 million in profits.

I don’t mean to suggest that everyone is consuming these substances in an addictive fashion, nor do I intend to disregard the benefits of supporting sustainable agriculture or the local organic movement. But I do see a lot of substance abuse within the yoga and sustainability communities I’m a member of, and it’s nearly always of the organic variety. Begging the question: How sustainable are substances that are inherently addictive? Does the increased availability of these products do more harm than good? It’s a complicated issue and I don’t have the answers, but during this holiday season, when overindulging can easily feel like the norm, it strikes me as a question worth asking.

Photo via Flickr (cc) user stevendepolo.

Articles

October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

At this point most reasonable people agree that climate change is a serious problem. And while a lot of good people are working on solutions, and we're all chipping in by using fewer plastic bags, it's also helpful to understand where the leading causes of the issue stem from. The list of 20 leading emitters of carbon dioxide by The Guardian newspaper does just that.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via International Labour Organization / Flickr and Michael Moore / Facebook

Before the release of "The Joker" there was a glut of stories in the media about the film's potential to incite violence.

The FBI issued a warning, saying the film may inspire violence from a group known as the Clowncels, a subgroup of the involuntarily celibate or Incel community.

Incels an online subculture who believe they are unable to attract a sexual partner. The American nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center describes them as "part of the online male supremacist ecosystem" that is included in its list of hate groups.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Since normalizing relations with Communist China back in 1979, the U.S. government and its companies that do business with the country have, for the most part, turned a blind-eye to its numerous human rights abuses.

In China's Muslim-majority province of Xinjiang, it's believed that over a million members of its Uighur population are being arbitrarily imprisoned and tortured in concentration camps. Female Uighurs in detention are being given forced abortions and subjected to sexual mistreatment.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

The vaping epidemic is like a PSA come to life. A recent outbreak of vaping-related deaths and illnesses has affected people from across 46 states. More than 800 people fell ill, and at least 17 people died from vaping. In Illinois and Wisconsin, 87% of the people who got sick said they used THC, and 71% of people also said they used products that contained nicotine. Symptoms of the illness included coughing, chest pains, shortness of breath, nausea, and fatigue. We finally might now why.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic believe toxic chemical fumes, not the actual chemicals in the vape liquid, might be the culprit. "It seems to be some kind of direct chemical injury, similar to what one might see with exposures to toxic chemical fumes, poisonous gases and toxic agents," Dr. Brandon Larsen, a surgical pathologist at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, said in release.

Keep Reading Show less
Health