First, I try to shop LOCAL:
Toronto has some fabulous markets and, if you are willing to travel so that your food doesn't have to, there are markets almost every day of the week. For information about what markets are near you, visit: Farmer's Markets Ontario. Making the trip to your farmer's market each week ensures your food is local and seasonal -- the most sustainable way to eat. Although local doesn't necessarily mean certified organic, that doesn't mean the products are not. Organic certification is costly and so many farmers farm organically but cannot advertise they do so. The wonderful thing about a farmer's market is that most of the time the farmers are there. If you have questions, just ask! Remember that you are the customer and the farmers want you to enjoy their product. If you tell them you are interested in organic, I can guarantee they will go the length to make you happy. It is so satisfying to be connected to your food. You can serve a meal and say, "This red-wine braised osso bucco was from an Ontario calf raised by Gerald from Twin Creeks". It's ok to be a bit smug when you are proud of your food.
If I need groceries, and no Ontario products are available - and I absolutely need the ingredient - then I will make sure it is ORGANIC ( and GMO free, which now must be labeled by law in the UK. Hopefully Canada follows suit soon):
Pesticides are for mass production, and a cheap alternative to a bit of labor. It may mean your arugula has a few more holes in it, but it will be a healthier plant, that has grown naturally defend itself against bugs ( not "pests" ! ). We have to become more aware that food isn't perfect: Not every carrot is the same size, apples get bruised and there is no such thing as a grapple. Organic produce is a bit more expensive than a mass produced food, but you must realize that our notion of food costs have been severly altered. When you can buy a whole McMeal for $5, a bag of organic carrots at $3 seems expensive. But think about it from the farmer's perspective. Someone has sowed those seeds, tended to the plants, cared for them, pulled them from the ground and packaged them. The farmer won't even see the whole $3 -- much of that cost will go to the supermarket ( which can be avoided if you buy local). Also think of it from a food perspective. When oua re eating a carrot, you are eating something wonderful, natural and full of vitamins and minerals. A fast food meal will be made for 20 or more food products so deconstructed and reconstituted that they cannot even be called food anymore ( i.e. McThis and McThat)
Finally, if there isn't anything local and there isn't an organic option available, I choose FAIR TRADE:
Fair trade is absolutely necessary for products like coffee ( you must watch Black Gold!) and bananas. When you buy Fair Trade, you are supporting:
1. Environmental standards which focus on reducing the risk associated with pesticides and synthetic fertilizers as well as decreasing environmental degradation
2. Fair, consistent wages and safe working conditions for the workers in developing countries
3. Social premiums for communities in developing countries to provide infrastructure such as education and health care on their own, reducing their dependence on foreign assistance.
I hope next time you do your grocery shopping, you have LOFT in mind.