Sustainable & Organic September: Sustainable Swaps

Photo: A collection of reusable utensils, straws, and household goods

September is Organic Month and Sustainable September! How can one month represent so many amazing things that are important to us? Since Down to Earth was founded in 1977, organically-grown food and sustainability have been our top priorities. We love promoting plant-based diets as the most environmentally-friendly way to eat, and supporting local organic farmers in any way we can. Join us by taking some action to celebrate all the great things about September by making a few impactful (but painless) changes in your life!

Climate change and plastic pollution are catastrophic problems that seem overwhelming. Can ordinary people actually do anything to make a significant impact? Yes! There are simple sustainable swaps that really make a difference in our environmental and future well-being:

See our epic collection of delicious Plant-Based Recipes

Choose Organic and Local Whenever You Can

Simply put, when you choose organic food, you help conserve the environment. For example, pesticides used in non-organic farming are wiping out entire species of beneficial insects, butterflies, and birds. On agricultural farms in the United States alone, it is estimated that about 672 million birds are affected by large amounts of pesticides, and about 10% of them die as a result of it. Meanwhile, the excessive use of chemical fertilizers on farms is contaminating the water supply through seepage into the water table and runoff from rainstorms. By choosing organic food, you support environmental and sustainable systems while at the same time help improve your health.

Photo: Beets

Eat More Plants!

Since the seventies, Down to Earth has been talking about the environmental and health benefits of "going veggie". Eating a plant-based diet is one of the most significant factors to reduce our individual negative impact on the earth and climate. If you're not ready to switch, even switching out one meal a day to be completely plant-based has a huge impact too!

Bring your own utensils when eating out

Plastic cutlery is a $2.6 billion business because of a proliferation of our modern “disposable culture”. But convenience has come at a cost. Like many plastic items, utensils often find their way into the environment. According to beach-cleanup data compiled by the non-profit 5 Gyres, utensils are the seventh most commonly collected plastic item. An easy solution that just takes some mental adjustment is to simply bring your own reusable silverware when you are away from home and refuse to use plastic utensils. 

The Story of Plastic Utensils

Story of Plastic Utensils - Long Description (Opens in a new window)

Skip the straws, or switch to an alternative straw

An Ocean Conservancy Report listed straws as the top third most commonly found plastic item along the world’s shorelines. As estimated in Hawaii Senate Bill SB2285, in the United States alone, a shocking 500 million plastic straws are used and discarded each day. That’s enough straws to circle the planet two and a half times every day!

If you’re looking to buy a straw to carry around in your purse or pocket, the Wellness Departments in all of our stores can help you out with a varied selection of bamboo, glass, and metal straws for purchase. Bamboo is an almost perfect material for making eco-friendly straws because it’s biodegradable, naturally antibacterial, and sustainably harvested. Glass straws are surprisingly sturdy, smooth, and being able to see through the glass makes them easy to clean. Metal straws are durable and have a sleek, elegant look.

Another simple step to cut down on plastic waste is not to use a straw if you don’t need one. Every time you refuse a plastic straw, you bring awareness to the person who offered it to you – it’s an easy way to be an environmental activist!

Drinking Straws

Bring your own produce bags

Since the 1950s, approximately 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide and only 9% of that has been recycled. The Zero-Waste Chef has an easy tutorial on how to make your own reusable, cloth produce bags or just grab whatever clean bags you have around the house.

  • Every minute, the equivalent of a truckload of plastic enters our oceans.
  • If we do not drastically reduce our plastic consumption, by 2050, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight.
  • Because China will no longer accept our plastic waste (and why should they?), by 2030, the world will need to bury or recycle an estimated 111 million metric tons of the stuff.
  • Micro-plastics are in our water, our air, our fish and even human waste.

Photo: Compost Bins

Reduce food waste

The U.S. wastes up to 40% of its food supply each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A report from the sustainability-focused World Resources Institute says food waste is responsible for 8% of annual greenhouse gas emissions, and that 25% of agricultural water use and a land mass the size of China go toward producing food that ultimately is uneaten. See our tips on how to reduce food waste like making a list and sticking with it, making sure the food you buy serves multiple purposes, and more.

Our Down to Earth stores donate day-old deli foods instead of throwing it out to Aloha Harvest. Founded in 1999, Aloha Harvest is the sole food rescue organization in the state. Their mission is to “rescue and deliver quality, excess food to help feed the needy, hungry, and homeless in Hawaii”. Aloha Harvest picks up excess foods from our Oahu locations several times a week to share with local charities. Our produce waste at several of our stores is also donated to local animal sanctuaries.

Finally, have fun becoming healthier and more sustainable! Be sure to let us know how you are celebrating Organic Month and Sustainable September on Instagram, Facebook, or just message us

  1. Ducharme, Jamie. Time (website) “Food Waste Is a Huge Environmental Problem. Here Are 5 Ways to Reduce Yours”, September 3, 2019.
  2. Root, Tik. National Geographic (website),“Why carrying your own fork and spoon helps solve the plastic crisis”, June 28, 2019.