Amber Allen (IG: @thefairlylocalfamily) is one heck of an inspiring human, all about living consciously and imperfectly, and inspiring others to do the same. She’s got three cool kids, a big ‘ol organic garden and an even bigger heart. We sat down with Amber over a digital cup of coffee to ask her for her top tips on organic living. Take a read, it’s pretty darn inspiring…
What does “organic” mean to you?
To me, “organic” means that the farmer did their very best to not spray anything with pesticides, insecticides, and refrained from using synthetic fertilizers on their crops. Organic farmers pay attention to their soil, and instead of fighting nature they work with it. Mainstream farming may have bigger scaling of produce, but mainstream farming also doesn’t care about how GMOs or chemical sprays may impact our health. Nor does mainstream farming care about the pollution, soil erosion, and biodiversity loss… All that industry cares about is the net profit and what extreme numbers they can grow. Organic really just means you are going back to the old ways of growing food, before pesticides and insecticides became the standard in agriculture.
What was the hardest part about going organic?
The price, definitely. We are still not totally organic by any means because, in terms of budget, we just can’t handle being 100%, but we do try our very best. That’s all anyone can do. But there are ways around the higher cost. Like growing my own garden of heirloom and organic seeds. We have also been part of CSAs in the past, which are Community Supported Agriculture farms in our area, many of which are organic. The second hardest part is the starting in general. Knowing where to start can hold a lot of people back from making the switch. My top tip is to go slow and begin with switching one or two items on your grocery list at a time. Eventually, it’ll seem so much easier.
Why do you choose organic plant-based milk over organic dairy?
I have been plant-based for most of my life. I went vegetarian when I was 12 or 13, and stopped consuming dairy milk when I was 17. I started getting bad abdominal pain so I decided to take a look at my diet, which had a ton of dairy in it – everything from 2% milk, butter, cheese, cottage cheese…. I had never considered the impact of dairy. But after it started causing my body pain, I looked into it and realized how much good can come from switching to plant-based milks. Taking out dairy didn’t only just help my cystic acne, it helped my abdominal pain, which I later found out was one of my symptoms of Crohn’s Disease. It was a game changer.
What’s the biggest misconception about living “organic”?
I think the biggest misconception is that “organic” isn’t necessary. That mainstream farming isn’t actually detrimental. More and more farms are being bought by bigger companies to produce more GMO crops, and there are less smaller farms and the old ways of growing are being lost. I think that old agriculture is worth saving, and I very much believe in permaculture, which is an even better way to live in harmony with nature. Our earth’s soil, waterways, and wildlife need us to care about organics, because if we don’t… If we don’t support organic when we have the option to, the option to return back to nature one day won’t be there. One day I hope that organic is more mainstream, more affordable, and more available to everyone, but until then we have to push for that change by voting with our money.
Have you always been focused on Organic Plant-Based Food?
No, I switched over to a vegetarian diet when I was pretty young, though. I went vegan at 17, and my family still thinks I’m a big weirdo 14 years later. I am definitely the black sheep of my family. I have since tried to buy organic when it was affordable for me to do so. I vote with my money for the world I want.
When you transitioned over, was it an overnight change or did you slowly develop healthier habits?
I did go vegan cold tofu, but it has taken me years to incorporate more organics into my diet. It is definitely about progress and not perfection in what I do.
For someone out there who’s starting their journey and going one-hundo-p OG, what would your top 3 pieces of advice be?
- I wouldn’t stress out about going 100% organic. Focus on what you can change, small changes you can make, and then go from there.
- Read labels. Go for the products that are third party certified organic.
- Support your local farmers and talk to them about why organic is the way to go… Who knows, you may influence them to change their ways of growing their crops if they feel there is a desire for organics by their customers!
Non-food related organic tip: what’s the first household or body-care product you’d recommend people swap over to organic?
Anything that goes on your skin. Your skin is your body’s largest organ, it absorbs and “eats” what you put on it.
If you could go back in time and give yourself one life-lesson from what you’ve learned now, what would it be?
Stop feeling guilty for not doing everything or “enough”. I find that some people get tied up in the “rules’ of living an eco friendly lifestyle, and in the end those rules don’t matter much. It’s not going to make you happy if you are overspending every month trying to be more eco friendly. So go for the baby steps of becoming more eco friendly. Go for the products that are made ethically, or are thrifted, or whose company discloses how the product is made. Vote with your money, companies pay attention and listen.
Tough question: If you had to choose between something local or something organic, which would you go for?
Oooh, very tough question. If I’m going to be honest, it would be local. There’s positive power in supporting local farmers and the community around me… So I would probably choose local over organic if I had to.
What impact (ie: message or legacy) do you hope to leave with our Mamma Earth?
I want to leave the smallest carbon footprint behind as I possibly can, in the following context: I am the best I can be with what I have and what I know. My journey is going to look different than someone else’s, but I am doing my best while working with the location I live in, the job I have, the budget I have, the life I have. I feel like the biggest impact on yourself, others, and this Earth comes after you fully absorb what you are doing, in the sense that it will give you more confidence to move onto other eco habits, and in the sense that you can educate others on what you know and have learned on your own journey.