Organic seeds: If it's hard being green, start small

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The Independent Online
Well, I never thought way back in 1962 when Rachel Carson's

tocsin Silent Spring made me ponder my relationship with the planet that more than 30 years later I'd have more in common with Kermit the Frog than with my ecological heroine. The amphibious Muppet, you'll recall, lamented how hard it was to be green.

My sentiments exactly. I try, oh, how I try. Hardly a scrap of paper enters my central London flat unless it's been recycled. My legendary collection of reusable carriers qualifies me as a bag lady. Neither my eyeliner nor my toothpaste has been tested on animals and both are made from ingredients you thought only went into scented candles.

But trying to carve out a lifestyle that's as kind to me as to the environment takes a sharp implement indeed. With so much temptation and distraction all around us, so much of the ubiquitous beckon-me-buy-me-try-me culture luring us into ecological profligacy, what's a single woman to do? Especially if she's on a budget? Try harder, of course.

I've got a theory, though, that no matter how hard any of us tries, there are Forces Out There, which won't let us score too many Brownie Points. I refer to political and media pronouncements that pay just enough lip service to green issues to appear concerned, but that seldom grapple with their more disturbing socio-economic implications.

Let's face it, sound eco-practice does not bode well for annual growth rates or supply-side economics. It means learning how to live with less, smaller is better, and a redefinition of convenience. It means making connections between the absurdly low price of American gasoline, the imposition of monoculture in African nations, and bugger it, if HRH can spin about in a private jet I don't see why we shouldn't splash out on that teak table. It probably means a complete redrawing of global economic boundaries. It's capitalism, Jim, but not as we know it. These are scary, complex issues. They probably won't get you elected to any public office.

Maybe we can't all be little eco-Davids aiming stones at the Goliaths of industry and politics. But we have to ask more questions. It starts small. Asking small questions. For example, is longer shelf-life rather than great taste really what you want in a tomato? Please don't give me that with-this-handy-dandy-systemic-spray-you-can-have-both routine. There's a kinder alternative (not more profitable, kinder). I'm talking about the O word. Organic food.

Come back here] I just want to clear up a few misunderstandings. First of all, organic does not mean faddy or even vegetarian. It means normal, great-tasting food which is produced without resort to pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones or artificial feed. It means cows that graze organic grass grown in organic soil producing organic milk and meat and which haven't been fed aggregates of mushed-up animals that might give them BSE. Until a few decades ago, until AgriBusiness and its henchman FastFood sprang up faster than the Dragon's Teeth of Colchis, the battery and the chicken were never even seen in the same sentence.

The fact is we all used to eat organic food, because that's all there was. And I'm just old enough to remember what real tomatoes taste like. So, Little Green Riding Hood, me, I take up my basket and skip into my local supermarket looking for the organic food section. 'No demand, I'm told. 'I'm demanding, I retort. To no avail. And when I do find a supermarket selling organic produce, what's on offer? A few lousy onions, one variety of apple, and maybe a swede, all pre-wrapped, pre-chosen and costing enough to send you scurrying into the arms of Colonel Sanders.

Despair not. You can eat your bowl of Porritt and still dance at the eco-ball. There shines a light at the end of this tunnel and it beams from Spitalfields Market. Every Sunday from 10am to 4pm, in an ambience as colourful as a medieval fayre, amid craft and snack stalls and impromptu concerts, you can purchase Sid's fresh-baked breads; blueberries and bananas from Vikki; fresh garlic, mange tout, and lettuce from Andy; Louise and Matthew's home-made sausages, mince, chops, and poultry, all from their Suffolk farm. There's cheese, too, new-laid eggs and milk; the most delicious ice cream you ever tasted, biscuits, pasta and washing up liquid. Affordable. And all organic.

I feel greener already.

Beth Porter is the London Editor of The Film Journal.

(Photograph omitted)