Organic or Conventional: What’s a Jack-O-Lantern to do?

Kimberly Delaney by Kimberly Delaney | October 22nd, 2009 | No Comments
topic: Green Living

Add up all the chemicals that go into candy, face paint, costumes and conventionally grown pumpkins and it’s easy to see that Halloween wins the most-toxic-holiday award hands down. So it’s no wonder that there is so much information out there these days on how to make it greener. In flush times, following these green tips seems like a no-brainer. But these days, I’m looking to cut the fat from my Halloween budget.

To that end, we’re making our costumes with things we already have or can borrow, which is cheap, green and kinda fun. I also found a good deal on three bags of fair trade organic chocolate at Equal Exchange, which should keep the neighborhood kids happy for at least an hour or so. But then I came across this article in the New York Times about whether it’s really worth it to pay the extra money for an organic pumpkin. Maybe that’s where I can really save some money. After all, pumpkins aren’t even on the Dirty Dozen list of fruits and vegetables that are the best ones to buy organic. Even more to the point, we aren’t going to eat it. We’re going to carve it up and stick a beeswax candle in it. Why do I need an organic pumpkin for that?

According to the New York Times writer, organic pumpkins in her neighborhood in Brooklyn are running $1.49/lb and she gets a deal by buying them at her food co-op. Her deal was $1.07/lb. A good size pumpkin runs about 15 lbs so that’s more than $15 just on a pumpkin. I don’t have a food co-op around where I live so buying a conventional pumpkin might just be the ticket.

But the dilemma is that I support organics in general and wish that every farmer would farm this way so we could all buy locally grown organics. According to Treehugger.com, if every pumpkin farm went organic, it would keep 400,000 lbs of toxic pesticides and fertilizers out of the environment. So supporting organics means I’m also supporting healthy farms and farm workers as well as a healthier environment. I’d like to put my money where my mouth is but these days I have a lot more mouth than money.

So how to solve this dilemma?

Try pick-your-own pumpkins. There are quite a few farms where I live that have pumpkin patches. But time is running out and a conventional pumpkin at the supermarket is just $4.99 for any size pumpkin. And it doesn’t take much gas at all to get there.

But I decided to give my local natural food stores a shot, too. Perhaps Santa Cruz is cheaper than Brooklyn since we do have a lot of pumpkin farmers here. With a couple phone calls I realized the great news that I can get organic pumpkins for a mere $0.39/lb. So a 15-lb pumpkin costs just $5.85. By choosing a smaller pumpkin this year — a lovely 10-pounder, I’m actually beating the supermarket price and I get to live by my principles.

So while it’s true that pumpkins aren’t the most important crop to buy organic, it seems downright spooky to sacrifice my values for one night of the year. Buying a smaller organic pumpkin enables me to keep it green without breaking my budget.

Kimberly Delaney is the author of Clean Home, Green Home: The Complete Illustrated Guide to Eco-Friendly Homekeeping, forthcoming this fall from the Knack imprint of Globe Pequot Press.

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