By Nina Sevilla
"Food desert" has become a common term to describe low-income communities — often communities of color — where access to healthy and affordable food is limited or where there are no grocery stores. Living in Tucson, Arizona, in the Sonoran Desert, taught me that despite its common usage, "food desert" is an inaccurate and misleading term that pulls focus from the underlying root causes of the lack of access to healthy food in communities. The language we use to describe the issues can inspire solutions, so we should follow the lead of food justice leaders who urge us to reconceptualize "food deserts" as "food apartheid" by focusing on creating food sovereignty through community-driven solutions and systemic change.
The term "food desert" emerged in the 1970s and 80s, but in the past decade has really caught on, and is now a common concept in economic and public health fields. The racial demographics of the areas described by this term are most often Black and Latino. When comparing communities with similar poverty rates, Black and Latino neighborhoods tend to have fewer supermarkets that offer a variety of produce and healthy foods, and have more small retail (i.e. convenience and liquor) stores that have fewer produce options than in predominantly white neighborhoods.
Despite its prevalence, the term "food desert" has come under scrutiny for two reasons:
- It obscures the vibrant life and food systems in these communities.
- It implies that these areas are naturally occurring.
Sonoran Desert. Bob Wick / Bureau of Land Management
First, the word "desert" typically conjures up dramatic images of vast arid landscapes with little to no vegetation and water. Common uses of the word describe the absence of life or activity, but most deserts are full of adapted plants and have sustained human and animal populations for centuries. I fell into the trap of this misconception when I moved to Tucson. I thought it was going to be devoid of all life, but when I got there, I realized that the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, like most deserts, can be quite abundant, especially when they have the right resources.
Using the word "desert" to imply a location's inferiority as a desolate place writes off the people who live there, as well as the flora and fauna that are actually present in deserts. The term "food desert" obscures the presence of community and backyard gardens, farmer's markets, food businesses, and other food sharing activities that exist in these areas. As farmer and activist Karen Washington points out, "food desert" is an outsider term, used by people who do not actually live in these areas. She says, "Number one, people will tell you that they do have food. Number two, people in the 'hood have never used that term... When we're talking about these places, there is so much life and vibrancy and potential. Using that word runs the risk of preventing us from seeing all of those things."
Students harvest vegetables from a school garden. State Farm via Flickr
Second, by using the term "desert" one is implying that food deserts are naturally occurring. Deserts are classified by amount of precipitation an area receives, so they are dictated by weather patterns — forces beyond human control. Though increasing desertification due to climate change is exacerbated by human activities, for the most part, deserts are naturally occurring. Food deserts, in contrast, are not naturally occurring. They are the result of systematic racism and oppression in the form of zoning codes, lending practices, and other discriminatory policies rooted in white supremacy. Using the term desert implies that the lack of healthy and affordable food is somehow naturally occurring and obscures that it is the direct result of racially discriminatory policies and systematic disinvestment in these communities.
Building more grocery stores won't necessarily make things better. Sometimes grocery stores are unaffordable to their surrounding communities. Sociologists have started using the term "food mirage" to describe the phenomenon when there are places to buy food, but they are too expensive for the neighborhood. And, as Karen Washington and research from Johns Hopkins University highlight, people who live in the places labeled "food deserts" most of the time do have food, but often the food they can afford is fast food or junk food. People who work in public health have come up with another term for areas with easier access to fast food and junk food than to healthier food: "food swamps." Rather than simply building grocery stores, some of these communities need stable jobs and a livable wage to change their access to healthier food.
A Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) redlining map from the 1930's that labeled "hazardous" majority Black areas of Nashville, Tennessee in red. HOLC
Swamp, desert, mirage... all these sound like places to stay away from. Language is important and using these terms prevents us from naming and addressing the root causes and making systemic change. Many groups are now using the term "food apartheid" to correctly highlight the how racist policies shaped these areas and led to limited access to healthy food. Apartheid is a system of institutional racial segregation and discrimination, and these areas are food apartheids because they too are created by racially discriminatory policies. Using the term "apartheid" focuses our examination on the intersectional root causes that created low-income and low food access areas, and importantly, points us towards working for structural change to address these root causes.
Corona Farmers Market, Queens, New York City. Preston Keres / USDA
Getting at the root causes is not a small task — naming them is the first step, and there are many different routes to take from there. Fortunately, there are many organizations already working on different aspects of addressing food apartheid, from building alternative food system models to providing ideas for policy reform. Organizations like The Ron Finley Project, the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, and Whitelock Community Farm are strengthening regional food systems through urban and small-scale farming. SÜPRMARKT, Mandela Grocery, and other nonprofits are creating affordable, organic grocery stores, and re-thinking the grocery store model through co-ops. HEAL Food Alliance offers a comprehensive policy platform to address food apartheid root causes and build a better food system. As an example of transformative policy change, the Navajo Nation passed a tax on unhealthy food to fund community health initiatives in 2014. Ultimately, strong policies are necessary to ensure that no neighborhood experiences food apartheid and to redistribute power to remove systems of oppression.
A major component of power is economic capital — a reparations map maintained by Soul Fire Farm offers an easy way to start supporting efforts across the U.S. to more fairly allocate land and money and work toward repairing historical inequities based on race. In addition to economic capital, power is also control over your decisions and the choices you make. To address this, movements of food sovereignty seek to bring power back to the people. The Declaration of Nyéléni asserts that food sovereignty is the right of all people to design and influence their own food systems and the right to healthy, culturally appropriate, and sustainably-produced food.
The food sovereignty movement and the phrase "food sovereignty" were created by La Via Campesina, the largest international peasant movement. The term and movement have since expanded across the globe and into urban areas. I have encountered the term used to describe urban farming in large cities, like Baltimore, and to describe indigenous peoples reclaiming their native foodways. I have also heard people question if food sovereignty is the right term to cover these vast topics. I believe the words we choose help us see the way forward and if we are serious about transformative change, we should explore food sovereignty seriously.
In a similar way that using the term "food apartheid" can help us identify and address the root causes of the geographies that lack access to healthy food, highlighting "food sovereignty" as a call to action directly addresses the power dynamics at play in the food system. This term focuses the lens on how our modern, globalized food system does not value the rights of peasant and small-scale farmers anywhere and how in most cases the major decisionmakers are multinational corporations. The organization A Growing Culture says "there is no genuine food security without food sovereignty." They continue, "We must stop seeing food security as the pathway to eradicating hunger. It reduces food to an economic commodity, when food is the basis of culture, of life itself. Food sovereignty is the pathway to imagining something fundamentally different."
As we look forward and imagine a fundamentally different system that nourishes all people and the planet, we have a wealth of knowledge and examples to draw upon, as well as rich terminology to describe the challenges communities are facing and our goals for the future. Any efforts to achieve — and ways we discuss — a better, more equitable, food system should address root causes, redistribute power, and be guided by people with lived experience in food apartheids. Food security is more than proximity to a grocery store; it should be about food sovereignty — the right of all people to have a say in how their food is grown and the right to fresh, affordable, and culturally appropriate food.
Reposted with permission from Natural Resources Defense Council.
By Douglas Broom
- In the US, over half of fresh fruit and vegetables go to waste.
- But a new invention claims to extend the shelf life of fresh fruit.
- A simple sticker can add an extra 14 days of freshness, says StixFresh.
- Using natural plant compounds, the sticker creates a protective layer, slowing the ripening process.
- The company is hoping to extend the process to vegetables.
Roughly a third of all the food produced around the world goes to waste. But now an innovator has come up with a way of making fruit last longer by simply applying a sticker.
It sounds too good to be true, but the inventor of StixFresh says that the sticker acts in the same way as the natural protections used by plants themselves. Simply sticking one to a piece of fruit can extend its shelf life by up to two weeks, says Zhafri Zainudin.
Going to Waste
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended food supply chains, leaving fruit and vegetables to rot because they cannot reach buyers in time.
China has the most estimated food waste per year. Statista
It's not a new problem, either. Even before the pandemic, 52% of fruits and vegetables grown in the United States went to waste, part of a $161 billion mountain of wasted food. More than 50 million Americans currently experience food insecurity, up by 13 million since 2018.
Zainudin says his StixFresh stickers will tackle hunger and improve health by giving more time to get fruit to consumers before it goes bad.
So How Does it Work?
The stickers, which are the size of a 50 cent piece, use 100% natural ingredients which replicate the antimicrobial compounds that plants use to protect themselves against post-harvest diseases.
Once the sticker is attached to the fruit, the chemicals spread out to create a protective layer covering the surface of the fruit and slowing the ripening process.
StixFresh stickers are said to increase the shelf life of fruit such as mangoes by up to two weeks. StixFresh
Zainudin came up with the idea after a friend asked for help to reduce the amount of stock on his fruit stall he was losing to spoilage.
After hundreds of experiments, he arrived at a formula that would protect fruit. But how to apply it? It turned out that the answer was right in front of him on his friend's fruit stall in a community near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Most of the fruit already carried a sticker describing the variety, so Zainudin reasoned that using another sticker to protect the fruit would work with existing processing and avoid the need for extra investment by growers and retailers.
The stickers work best on apples, avocados, citrus fruits and mangoes. Zainudin's team are now working on new versions that will enhance the shelf life of berries and vegetables as well.
By reducing food waste they hope to help farmers, distributors, retailers and consumers save money, while at the same time protecting the environment.
Zainudin and StixFresh have been selected to join The Circulars Accelerator Cohort 2021, an initiative to help circular economy entrepreneurs scale their innovations.
The accelerator is a collaboration with UpLink, the World Economic Forum's innovation crowdsourcing platform, and is led by professional services company Accenture in partnership with Anglo American, Ecolab, and Schneider Electric.
Reposted with permission from the World Economic Forum.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
Climate change poses significant dangers to global food supplies as rising temperatures make storage more difficult, The Associated Press reports.
Food around the world is stored outside after harvest, before processing, but rising temperatures and other altered weather patterns threaten to drive prices higher as more food is lost and producers are forced to install costly equipment to protect food stores.
Rising temperatures will make it easier for insects and mold to destroy grain stores in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in Mecosta, Michigan, Brian Sackett was forced to spend $125,000 on a new refrigeration unit to protect what will become potato chips. Michigan potato farmers have long been able to rely on fans and cool air from the September harvest to late spring to keep their potatoes fresh. But the annual period in which outdoor air in the region is cool enough to store potatoes will likely drop by as much as 17 days in the next 30 years. "Our good, fresh, cool air is getting less all the time, it seems like," Sackett said.
For a deeper dive:
- How Urban Agriculture Can Improve Food Security in U.S. Cities ... ›
- On Climate and Food, What's the Lesson We Insist on Missing ... ›
- Half a Degree of Warming Makes a Big Difference to Global Food ... ›
- A Brief Guide to the Impacts of Climate Change on Food Production ... ›
By Edwina Hughes, Richard Waite and Gerard Pozzi
With people increasingly aware of the climate impact of their lifestyles, the spotlight is falling on the food we eat. Agriculture and related land-use account for nearly a quarter of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But not all foods are created equal, and plant-based foods are generally a lot less resource-intensive to produce than animal proteins. Take beef vs. beans: per gram of protein, beef production uses 20 times the land and generates 20 times the GHG emissions as beans.
Much attention is paid to unusual innovations aimed at offering a wider variety of food options with a smaller climate footprint — like crackers made from insects or algae protein bars. But large institutions that want to offer diners climate-friendly food options are finding it's more straightforward than expected. That's in part thanks to recent behavioral science research, which shows that small changes in menu language or creating delicious plant-centered dishes can greatly increase the uptake of sustainable offerings. In short, they've found it's already possible to eat tomorrow's climate-friendly diet today, through easy changes that don't compromise on flavor or cost.
New data from the Cool Food Pledge — a group of restaurants, cities, hospitals and companies that have committed to cutting GHG emissions associated with the food they serve by 25% by 2030, in line with Paris Agreement goals — show that members were able to collectively reduce emissions by 4.6% overall and by 12% per plate in just four years. Some members have reduced emissions even more quickly, showing big changes are possible within a short time.
Food consumption in restaurants, workplace canteens and school cafeterias has fallen dramatically during the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns. While the industry begins to revive amid calls for a "green" recovery, these results can serve as inspiration, showing what could be achievable when the wider food service industry picks up again post-COVID. When diners return, food service operators should seize the chance to ensure strong and engaging sustainability credentials are at the center of their menu offerings. Offering more plant-rich options is key to hitting climate targets since as they are generally much less resource-intensive to produce.
So what does that mean for organizations serving food? And how feasible is it? Lessons from Cool Food Pledge members show that meaningful progress toward a sustainable food future is simple. It's just a case of keeping the spotlight on what's delicious, cost-effective and low-carbon.
Here are the three main lessons:
1. Make It Delicious
Climate-friendly food doesn't have to be dull. Take the example of biotech company Genentech, which has 10,000 staff based in California, and an in-house culinary team creating chef specials. When it joined the Cool Food Pledge it changed the chef specials to plant-rich options — serving up even more vegetables, pulses and grains. Some of the new dishes included "Vegan Jackfruit, Okra and Seitan Jambalaya" with brown rice, Creole sauce and shaved scallions as well as "Charred Yucatan Vegetables" with an array of vegetables, stewed black beans, habanero pickled red onions and flour tortillas. Following positive responses from employees, demand for the new plant-rich options grew while demand for the more traditional, meat-heavier options declined. Between 2018 to 2019 alone, the company reduced the climate impact of each plate of food it serves by an incredible 33%.
2. Keep It Cost-Effective
Climate-friendly food doesn't have to increase costs — and can even reduce them.
In the health care sector, at UCSF Health, forward-thinking chefs decided to couple a more climate-friendly ethos with a cost-effective one while feeding patients and visitors. UCSF had a 100% beef burger that wasn't selling well, so switching to a 70:30 beef/mushroom blended burger in 2017 that sold better was a no-brainer. The Department of Nutrition and Health Services at UCSF Health realized the blended burger would cost less, the mushroom would ensure it remained flavorful and the reduction in beef would help UCSF Health hit its climate-friendly target for food.
At the same time, its central menu evolved from serving 20 entrees featuring beef in 2017 down to just three by 2020. This more plant-rich menu has proven both better for the climate and more appealing to customers. UCSF Health's total food-related GHG emissions dropped by 13% in just three years, the biggest reduction amongst the health care members of the Cool Food Pledge.
3. Explore the World of Plants
A welcome consequence of committing to a climate-friendly menu offering has been a surge in the quantity of vegetables, pulses and grains procured and served by member organizations. In fact, members purchased 12% more plant-based food items in 2019 relative to the base year. The University of Cambridge's University Catering Service, which manages 14 cafés and canteens and caters for 1,500 events a year, has phased out ruminant meat completely, and guests can enjoy Swedish-style Vegballs, Smoky Moroccan Chickpea Stew and sweet potato burgers instead. Emissions dropped by more than 30% even as the university served 30% more food, reflecting the significant change in the ingredients that make up the meals it is serving.
Having an Impact Isn’t Rocket Science
This variety of progress reflects the distinct environments in which these organizations operate and the different diners they serve. Many are cutting emissions even as the number of meals they serve grows.
While every dining facility will have its own unique operations, the Cool Food Pledge is providing structure and guidance to help the food industry lower the carbon footprint of food in line with climate science. Members are guided through a three-steps of "pledge, plan, and promote": they pledge to reduce food-related GHG emissions by 25% by 2030; they develop a plan to achieve their aims using the latest behavioral science; and by promoting their achievements, they are on the front lines of a growing movement that's slashing the impact that food has on the climate.
Reposted with permission from the World Resources Institute.
- Are Insects the Next Climate-Friendly Superfood? - EcoWatch ›
- 5 Best (Eco-Friendly) Meal Kit Delivery Services of 2021 - EcoWatch ›
- 4 Steps to a Climate-Friendly Summer Cookout - EcoWatch ›
For coffee drinkers, there's really nothing more terrifying than the thought of waking up one morning and being all out of java. One way to ensure that never happens is to sign up for a coffee subscription service. This not only keeps you well-stocked, but it also gives you the opportunity to sample some high-quality and organic coffee beans from around the world.
Of course, like any specialty beverage or product, a coffee subscription box should match your own preferences while also being good for people and the planet. In this article, we'll take a closer look at some of the top organic and specialty coffee subscription options on the market today.
Our Picks for the Top Organic and Specialty Coffee Subscriptions
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Organic Coffee - Purity Coffee
- Best Keto Coffee - Bulletproof Coffee
- Best Coffee Selection - Angels' Cup
- Best Carbon-Free Coffee - Grounds for Change
- Best B Corp Coffee - Conscious Coffee
- Best for International Coffees - Atlas Coffee Club
- Best for Specialty Coffees - Bean Box
- Best for Artisan Coffees - Mistobox
- Most Eco-Friendly - Driftaway Coffee
- Best Variety of Brewing Methods - Blue Bottle Coffee
- Most Affordable - Peet's Coffee
- Best for Home and Office - Crema Coffee
How We Chose the Best Coffee Subscriptions
Min Kim / Getty Images
Before we get into specific recommendations, it may be helpful to note some of the criteria we used for making our assessment. Our ranking factors include:
Some subscription services do a better job than others of giving coffee lovers lots of options, not only allowing you to pick between different beans, but also allowing you to pick from whole bean vs. ground coffee. We also gave bonus points to subscription services that provide freshly-roasted craft coffee.
Another important consideration is how much flexibility you have in your actual subscription. We love services that give you some choice in how much coffee you actually need, how often you wish to receive your next box, and the ability to try new flavors.
USDA Organic/Fair Trade/Rainforest Alliance Certifications
Many coffee drinkers will want to verify that their purchase is Fair Trade and/or USDA organic certified. We looked for the best coffee subscriptions that make the environment and the people that grow their coffee a priority in sourcing. If they didn't have these certifications, we looked to see if they explained how they approached their sourcing instead.
A lot of enthusiasts prefer single-origin coffee; that is, coffee made exclusively from beans grown in one specific geographic area. Single-origin coffee tends to provide unique characteristics and flavor notes that blended coffees cannot match.
If you're looking to minimize your environmental footprint then you'll definitely want to account for the sustainability practices of each subscription service. This can encompass the service's supply chain, production, packaging, and shipping.
Naturally, one of the deciding factors in your organic coffee quest will be the price. Some subscriptions are more budget-friendly than others. We tried to select subscription options that that are affordable and still offer subscribers amazing coffee they can't find at the grocery store.
The 12 Best Organic and Specialty Coffee Subscriptions
RyanJLane / E+ / Getty Images
Purity Coffee claims that their process maximizes the health benefits naturally found in coffee. They only use 100% USDA-certified organic coffee beans for all of their coffees. These are then screened for pesticides and molds, and then roasted using a special smokeless roasting process to ensure it contains the highest-possible levels of antioxidants. Subscribers can save on each order, and prepaid subscriptions receive free shipping.
Why buy: Not only is Purity Coffee 100% organic, it's also sustainably sourced. They offer several specialty Founders' Roasts that are Rainforest Alliance-certified and Smithsonian Bird Friendly-certified for the grower's commitment to biodiversity and habitat conservation.
Bulletproof Coffee is a keto coffee, or butter coffee, that contains both high-quality coffee and good fats to provide even more fuel to your mornings. It's meant to replace carb and sugar-heavy breakfasts while giving you what you need to get going. Bulletproof Coffee uses Rainforest Alliance-certified beans grown in direct partnership with farmers on high-altitude estates in Guatemala and Colombia. With their subscription option you can save 10% on each order, and receive free shipping on orders over $35.
Why buy: Not only can Bulletproof Coffee change the way you start your day with a keto-friendly cup of coffee, but the coffee itself is grown using sustainable methods, is sustainably washed and mechanically dried, and then thoroughly tested for toxins and impurities.
If you're just getting into serious coffee consumption, or want to dip your toes into the subscription model, Angels' Cup is an excellent starting point. You can begin by getting just a single 12 ounce bag of coffee, and they also offer blind sampler packs and subscriptions with different frequency levels, including weekly, twice monthly, or monthly. Their mobile app will help you discover the different tasting notes to find your favorites.
Why buy: There's a lot of flexibility built into the Angels' Cup model, making it an ideal choice for those who are new to the gourmet coffee scene. While they don't source the coffees themselves, they do work with roasters who pay well-above Fair Trade prices.
Grounds for Change has a reputation for being one of the most progressive, stewardship-minded coffee companies out there. If you're looking for Fair Trade, organic, and/or carbon-free options, this certified B corp is where you can find them. They also showcase a lot of unique collections, from single-origin coffees to some enticing decaf options, that are well worth investigating. We're more than happy to include Grounds for Change on our list.
Why buy: In terms of social responsibility, Grounds for Change can't be topped. They are the only company on our list that offers carbon-free coffee, meaning they offset 100% of the emissions from their coffees.
Conscious Coffee has made some really admirable investments in coffee-growing communities across the world. Their model of sustainability and corporate responsibility is commendable, but they are equally passionate about exquisite roasting. They belong on our list for these reasons and so many more, including their emphasis on 100 percent organic coffee, small-batch freshness, and sustainable sourcing.
Why buy: Conscious Coffee sets a high bar for stewardship and responsibility. We strongly recommend them to anyone who wants to invest in sustainable coffee-farming across the world.
One of the many reasons to consider a subscription coffee service is that it will give you a chance to explore different flavors from around the world. And there is no subscription service that serves up international variety quite like Atlas Coffee Club. Each month, you'll get a new coffee from a different country like Costa Rica, Colombia, or Ethiopia, in a bag that's modeled after indigenous textiles or local landscapes. For anyone who loves to travel or simply likes to try new things, Atlas Coffee Club offers a truly transportive experience.
Why buy: There's no better option for trying out different coffee flavors from across cultures. The company also pays well above market prices to growers to support ethically sustainable farming practices.
Bean Box is another outstanding choice for java enthusiasts who are curious to sample different tastes. Based in Seattle, Bean Box partners with different coffee roasters who specialize in single-origin coffees and coffee blends from around the world, including Africa, South America, and more. They'll send you a different blend each month, allowing you to develop a really broad and sophisticated palette. We also really love the price point on this one, which offers a great value.
Why buy: If you're looking for a budget-friendly way to sample specialty coffees, Bean Box is a great coffee subscription service to consider.
If you're attempting to maximize your coffee variety, you'll probably be over the moon about Mistobox. This coffee subscription company boasts partnerships with more than 50 roasters across the world, which is all but unparalleled. We also recommend them due to their commitment to Fair Trade and ecologically sustainable practices. Mistobox has a coffee curation service that will help you determine just where to start. So, if you feel overwhelmed by all the different organic coffee options, Mistobox has you covered.
Why buy: We recommend Mistobox for their sustainability, their corporate citizenship, their sheer variety of organic coffees, and their curation options.
With Driftaway Coffee, the name of the game is personalization. Their service will actually enable you to establish "coffee profiles," pinpointing your tastes and helping them determine exactly what to send you each month. As if that weren't enough, Driftaway guarantees single-source whole bean coffees, and they also do an exemplary job of providing compostable packaging. Finally, they have a sustainability program that supports regional farmers.
Why buy: A great pick for single-origin whole bean coffee, and also a really great model for sustainability within the single-origin coffee subscription vertical.
If you really want your coffee to be as fresh as can be, then we heartily recommend Blue Bottle. They ship everything within 48 hours of roasting, ensuring you get the most vibrant flavors. Another thing we'll mention about this organic coffee subscription service is that they provide a lot of different options for espresso, decaf, single-origin, and blended coffees. There's definitely a lot to like here, especially if you're keen on small-batch coffee.
Why buy: For fresh flavors and plenty of variety, Blue Bottle Coffee is a great choice. The majority of their coffees are certified organic, and they pay at least Fair Trade prices to growers, often more.
Peet's Coffee has a ton of great products to consider, including some eclectic subscription options. You can take your pick between their small batch series, single-origin coffees, signature blends, and beyond. What's more, they boast plenty of flexibility with scheduling, making it easy to get coffee exactly when you need it. Plus they offer free shipping on coffee subscriptions.
Why buy: Peet's is an outstanding choice for anyone seeking plenty of variety and built-in flexibility. You may recognize them from the grocery store, but this brand is seriously committed to responsible sourcing, support for local farmers, and energy-efficient roasting.
Crema Coffee is a popular choice among coffee connoisseurs, and it's not hard to understand why. There are over 450 coffees to choose from, spanning roasters located all over the world. You can customize your subscription to make certain you only get the roasts you're really going to be into, and you can even rate coffees to help keep track of your tastes. Crema Coffee offers subscription packages for your household and for your workplace.
Why buy: Crema Coffee offers incredible variety, plenty of options for personalization, and even a subscription model for your office. They ensure that they only work with roasters committed to an ethical coffee supply chain.
How Does a Coffee Subscription Work?
amenic181 / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Clearly, there are plenty of options to choose from as you seek a subscription-based coffee delivery service. But if you're new to this whole concept, you may have some lingering questions about precisely what you can expect from your coffee subscription.
First of all, keep in mind that these subscriptions all work a little bit differently. Most of the companies on our list offer a coffee of the month club and provide different coffees to try with each delivery.
For a general overview of the coffee subscription process, though, you can typically expect something a bit like this:
Select the Type of Subscription You Want
Are you looking to get just a sampler of coffee beans each month? Or do you want to stay well-supplied, with new coffees arriving more frequently? Choosing your preferred subscription model is usually the first step.
Choose What Kind of Coffee You Want
Different subscription services will allow you different levels of customization, but there is always some way of indicating your preferences, whether you like dark roasts over light roasts, single-origin coffees over blends, etc.
Get Coffee Delivered to You
Most coffee subscription services will box your coffee in recyclable/compostable materials and deliver right to your front door. Because it's so important to maintain freshness, most subscription companies ship within a day or two of roasting.
Prepare Your Coffee
Note that, with whole bean options, you'll actually need a grinder to grind your coffee; if you choose ground coffee, then it will be ready to brew as soon as it shows up at your door.
Try New Types of Coffee
Finally, note that subscription coffee companies tend to rotate their roaster throughout the year. Make sure you explore some different options, and you might just discover your next favorite coffee!
Coffee Subscription FAQ
What is Fair Trade coffee?
We've highlighted the importance of Fair Trade coffee, but what exactly does this term mean? Essentially, when you buy Fair Trade coffee, it means that you are directly supporting local coffee-growing families in the developing world. More specifically, Fair Trade denotes a commitment to fair prices, community development efforts, and good stewardship of the environment. The Fair Trade designation is an important way to verify that you're getting ethically-sourced coffee beans. Fair Trade sets a floor on prices that allow coffee farmers to make a living, and many specialty coffee roasters pay much more than Fair Trade prices to local growers.
How is Organic Coffee Grown?
Another common question: What does it mean for coffee to be USDA-certified as organic? Fundamentally, organic coffee is grown without the use of any artificial chemicals, including prohibited pesticides and herbicides. To achieve the official USDA certification, a coffee must be at least 95 percent organic. Growers in certain regions may have trouble attaining this certification for various reasons, but specialty roasters typically seek to support sustainable farming practices and supply chains.
What is Single-Origin Coffee?
Single-origin coffee refers to a coffee made with beans that are all grown in one specific region. This type of coffee offers some really unique flavors and characteristics. The alternative is blended coffee, which may mix beans that come from a multiple places. Many coffee enthusiasts prefer the purity of single-origin, though of course, this is all a matter of personal preference.
Order Your Coffee Subscription Today
Looking for a way to get organic, Fair Trade coffee delivered straight to your front door? There are plenty of subscription models that will do just that, all while letting you sample some incredible beans from across the world.
Take a look at the options we've listed here, and look for the coffee subscription service that seems like it's best aligned with your tastes and your budget. And from there, just sit back and wait for your next bag of coffee beans to show up at your home or office.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
Last year, COVID-19 lockdowns forced many restaurants to close and events to be canceled at the last minute, so a lot of food that was already purchased stood to be wasted.
"There were a lot of businesses that were faced with that harsh reality that they just had so much food that could not be utilized," says Phil Acosta of Aloha Harvest, a Hawaiian food rescue organization.
The group quickly mobilized to collect that food and distribute it to people in need.
As the pandemic wore on, chefs whose restaurants were closed rushed to help meet the growing demand. Aloha Harvest partnered with an organization called Chef Hui.
"And we started to prepare foods and get that out to the community – so, ready-to-eat, ready-to-heat type of meals," Acosta says.
Rescuing food not only helps feed people. It can also reduce global warming pollution because less food needs to be grown, packaged, and shipped. And less waste ends up rotting in landfills and releasing methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
"We want to make sure that everything that's produced is consumed in some way and not wasted," Acosta says. "We need to do a much better job of utilizing our precious food resources."
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
If you're looking to create a healthier lifestyle through an organic plant-based diet, produce delivery services offer all that you can buy in your local farmer's market from the comfort of your own home. Plus, many of them are a great way to reduce food waste through rescued produce and pantry staples.
The ability to cook more meals at home is an amazing opportunity to ditch a sugar and fat-fueled diet and fuel your body with fruits and vegetables. Here is a curated list of the best produce delivery services available.
Our Picks for the Top Produce Subscription Boxes
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best All Organic - Farmbox Direct
- Best Sustainable Option - Imperfect Foods
- Best for Fruits - The FruitGuys
- Best for Reducing Food Waste - Misfits Market
- Best for Local Produce - Cropswap
- Best for Rescued Produce - Hungry Harvest
- Most Customizable - Farm Fresh to You
- Best Seasonal Produce - Farmer Jones Farm at The Chef's Garden
- Most Affordable - The Produce Box
How to Choose the Best Produce Delivery Services
There are several factors to consider before committing to a subscription box for fresh fruit and veggies. Here are the most relevant:
- Selection - Having access to an ever-changing selection of fruits and vegetables makes the difference when you want to keep your cooking interesting. Simply visit their site, browse the menu, select your favorite fresh produce to include in your box, and you can order in just a few clicks.
- Delivery options - It's important to consider delivery times and areas of service, as some of these brands only serve certain regions. In some locations, you can get your produce in an hour or schedule them for the next day or later in the week. As the pandemic has made buying groceries significantly more stressful, home delivery options are even more popular.
- Packaging - Cutting and chopping fruits and vegetables is among the the least favorite activities home cooks need to do. That's why some delivery services send fruits and vegetables already chopped or ready to eat. While this is convenient, it is important to check if the packaging they use is recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable.
- Sourcing - Another factor to keep in mind is if the service connects customers with local farmers. Eating local from sustainable, organic, and regenerative farms is a great way to get fresh food while doing your part for the environment and supporting your local economy.
- Organic produce - Organic agriculture has several distinctively different characteristics from commercial agriculture such as soil quality, animal raising practices, pest and weed control, and the use of pesticides and herbicides. If a product is organic and non-GMO, it provides benefits to your health, food safety, and the environment.
- Price - Some services offer free delivery with additional memberships, and most require a minimum order. Remember to keep in mind that it is all about the convenience it brings to your daily life and the ability to eat more sustainably.
The Best Produce Delivery Services
Jay Yuno / E+ / Getty Images
Farmbox Direct produce is delivered in biodegradable/recyclable packaging, and includes only local, seasonal produce. They offer things like apples, eggplant, kale, spinach stir-fry mix, baby carrots, cabbage, potatoes, lettuce mix, collard greens, and lots more. You can also order Farmbox Direct as a gift for your loved ones.
Why buy: These organic boxes can be combined with eggs, milk, and flowers. Free shipping to the entire continental U.S. Subscription model where you can customize your schedule up to three months in advance.
Your one-stop shop for fruit and vegetable home delivery that can help reduce food waste. At affordable prices, this service has six different delivery options with convenient weekly or bi-weekly plans. Actively helping to reduce food waste by including perfectly good food that usually gets rejected by grocery stores for "cosmetic imperfections."
Why buy: Imperfect Foods offers fantastic produce and other groceries at affordable prices. With this service, you can easily help reduce food waste and enjoy sustainable groceries from home.
The FruitGuys delivers the freshest fruits and vegetables sourced from local farmers with a harvest-to-table philosophy. They offer farm fresh fruit delivery services for business or families, as well as direct hunger relief. Their Food Works Fund helps provide fresh fruits and vegetables to food banks, charities, and school meal distribution sites in local communities.
Why buy: The FruitGuys is a certified B corp, and they deliver fresh all fruit boxes and seasonal produce nationwide Monday through Friday in most areas.
Misfits Market tailors each box to each individual customer with organic produce and sustainably sourced pantry staples delivered to your door. Misfits Market is working hard against food waste, selecting high-quality food that superficial grocery stores would instead let go to waste. Their packaging is also eco-friendly, with recyclable boxes and insulation, and compostable plant-based bags.
Why buy: Not only can Misfits Market help you fight food waste, their boxes can help you save up to 40% off grocery store prices
Cropswap is an app that connects you directly to local farmers and growers. You can browse hundreds of local growers to make a one-time purchase or subscribe weekly; after placing the order it is possible to track your shipment from the moment it's harvested until it is delivered, using a convenient, well-designed app. Plus, the growers keep 100% of the delivery fee.
Why buy: Cropswap is an easy way to connect to produce that is picked at peak ripeness and locally-grown while supporting local, sustainable agriculture.
Hungry Harvest rescues flavorful organic fruits and vegetables from going to waste and delivers them to your door. You can easily customize your box according to your needs with additional rescued grocery staples. And every box delivered saves at least 10 pounds of food from going to waste.
Why buy: You can choose from a variety of different produce box sizes and customize as needed. Plus, Hungry Harvest is helping to end hunger with reduced cost Produce in a SNAP markets and donations to local organizations.
Farm Fresh to You is a premier source for farm-to-table produce delivery that is 100% certified-organic. They deliver to both northern and southern California. Each box complements your experience with recipes, news, and valuable tips on how to improve your diet.
Why buy: This is a produce box for those serious about organic fruits and vegetables. You can also add other farm-fresh products like eggs, milk, honey, and jams.
The Chef's Garden is famous for supplying fresh vegetables to world-renowned chefs and restaurants. Now you can get the same restaurant-quality veggies delivered to your home through their Farmer Jones Farm brand. You can pick and choose from a variety of produce box subscriptions, including fresh seasonal options.
Why buy: The high-quality produce from Farmer Jones Farm may be a bit pricier than some other boxes, but it's well-known for being fresh, delicious, nutrient-dense, and grown using regenerative farming practices.
Based in North Carolina, The Produce Box directly benefits local farmers by sourcing from small farms. It is a weekly produce delivery that lets you choose from several different options, including an all organic box option. They also prioritize helping you get to know the farmers who raise and harvest your produce, creating a stronger incentive to eat local.
Why buy: While they only serve areas of North Carolina currently, The Produce Box offers one of the most affordable produce subscriptions. Plus, by connecting customers to local farmers and farms, they are reducing the emissions it takes to deliver fresh produce.
How Does a Produce Delivery Service Work?
Dougal Waters / DigitalVision / Getty Images
Instead of heading to the store every week, sit back and relax. Online shopping has become ubiquitous in recent years, so it's no wonder that fresh produce is now an option.
Here is how easy it can be: first, you pick your box style, you can choose (and change) the size and type of produce box that works for you; there is typically an option to customize it according to your needs. Some will even have an opportunity to add and remove products from your delivery and create a "never send" list.
After that, you can review how often your goods will arrive. The most popular are weekly or biweekly deliveries. Of course, you also want to see if the service is available in your area.
Finally, you hit the subscribe button and wait for your produce. Some produce subscriptions services work with local farmers who hand pick the fruits and veggies that are in your box, while others focus on rescuing produce that would otherwise go to waste. Once packaged, the produce is then delivered to your door.
How Much Does a Produce Box Delivery Service Cost?
Price varies according to the delivery service and your needs. A regular 11- to 13-pound box of conventional produce is around $16-20. Now, if we are talking about all organic produce, it's slightly more expensive. Small boxes range from $40 to $44, medium boxes are around $55, and large ones about $60 or more. Some services charge a subscription fee while others just charge you for each delivery.
Why Should You Consider a Produce Delivery Service?
Subscribing to a produce delivery service will undoubtedly bring many benefits to your life, and it will not take long to see the effects. We are big fans of these produce delivery services because besides being healthy and practical, you will be supporting local farmers who practice ecologically and economically sustainable agriculture, including Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs).
Other produce delivery services are helping to reduce food waste, specifically when you choose ones that focus on rescuing produce that wouldn't otherwise be sold.
Choose a produce subscription service to enjoy fresher seasonal fruits and vegetables, to eat more locally-grown produce, and to reduce food waste. Not to mention the added convenience of having fresh produce delivered to your door.
Sarita Vanegas is a writer based in Medellín, Columbia, where she covers environmentally-friendly products, natural health, and plant-based remedies. A former Baselang teacher, she is also passionate about learning languages and exploring other cultures.
Have you ever wanted to have your own fruit tree, growing right there in your front yard? If so, one option to consider is the Meyer lemon tree. This unique citrus tree has become a favorite among home gardeners, as well as those who simply want tantalizing citrus fruits available anytime.
But what is the Meyer lemon tree, exactly? What makes it so popular? And what should home gardeners know about caring for one? In this guide, we'll cover all those subjects and more.
What is a Meyer Lemon Tree?
Meyer lemon trees are small citrus trees with glossy leaves and white flowers that produce a yellow-orange fruit. They can grow up to 10-feet tall and live for 50 years.
If you actually want to taste a Meyer lemon before investing in a full tree, really all you need to do is head to your local farmer's market. Actually, that's one of the only ways to try a Meyer lemon, because these fruits currently aren't grown commercially so you can't find them in most grocery stores. The sole ways to sample their citrusy goodness are to plant your own tree or support a local grower.
As for the fruits themselves, they're actually hybrids. The Meyer lemon is part regular lemon, part mandarin orange. They have a number of popular uses, both in the culinary scene and also for home decor. For instance, chefs love using the sweet-tart skins to garnish or flavor different dishes. The thin, delicate, thin skin of the Meyer lemon can also be useful for different festive and seasonal garlands.
History of the Meyer Lemon Tree
So where do these unique, hybrid citrus trees come from, exactly? Nobody knows precisely when they originated, but we know they were introduced to the United States around 1908, brought over by Chinese immigrants. Unfortunately, the Meyer lemon tree was quite susceptible to disease, and almost died out in American soil.
Then, around 1975, scientists at the University of California developed something they called the Improved Meyer lemon tree, which is basically the same fruit-bearing plant, but much more impervious to insects and disease-resistant. This is the Meyer lemon tree we know today.
The Benefits of a Meyer Lemon Tree
There are a number of reasons why gardeners love planting this particular citrus tree. A few of the main benefits include:
- The Meyer lemon tree is self-pollinating.
- These citrus trees can produce fruit in as little as two years' time.
- You can actually grow them indoors or outdoors, and they will yield fruit either way.
- During winter, they tend to yield a heavy harvest.
Now, there may be some potential downsides, including the fact that the Meyer lemon tree requires regular misting; we'll return to that later, when we discuss tips to care for these citrus trees.
What Do These Citrus Trees Look Like?
Meyer lemon trees can grow to be anywhere from six feet to 10 feet; the dwarf variety should be closer to five to seven feet. If you grow your Meyer lemon tree in an indoor pot, that will ensure that it remains on the smaller side.
The tree will produce glossy leaves, dark green in their hue. You'll also see some white fragrant flowers, delicate and with a hint of purple at the base, that bloom twice a year. The lemons themselves, when ripe, are yellow-orange in color. The skins give off a pleasant, citrusy aroma, which is one reason why these trees are so popular.
The Best Places to Buy a Meyer Lemon Tree
If you're interested in getting one of these trees for your own home or garden, one of the first decisions you'll have to make is where you're going to buy it. The good news is that there are a number of online retailers where you can get your own Meyer lemon tree.
Looking to get a Meyer lemon tree that's on the smaller side? The "dwarf" variety can make a great option, especially for potted/indoor use. Gardens Alive! offers one for a really low price, and they also provide plenty of great information about caring for your new plant.
Why buy: This online lawn and garden retailer is a trusted source for high-quality flora, and their pricing is very affordable.
At FastGrowingTrees.com, you can get a full-sized Meyer lemon tree that will yield fruit within its first year. And, you'll get fast shipping, too, allowing you to get your tree situated for fruiting as quickly as possible.
Why buy: For a well-tended, well-rooted plant that's on the cusp of bearing fruit, FastGrowingTrees.com is the place to shop.
At Citrus.com you can get the Improved Meyer lemon tree for a reasonably low price, and with expedient shipping. There are also some helpful accessories you can add to your order to help care for your tree.
Why buy: Want to get your Meyer lemon tree from the citrus experts? Why not browse the selection at Citrus.com?
Nature Hills nursery is one of the most trusted online plant retailers, and not without reason: They have a wide range of flora and are known for their affordable pricing, flexible shipping options, and devotion to quality.
Why buy: Experienced gardeners trust Nature Hills enough to make it the #1 online nursery in the country. Definitely worth considering for your Meyer lemon tree.
Of course, if it's convenience you crave, it's pretty hard to top Amazon's selection of Meyer lemon trees. Take note that Amazon is actually a pretty decent place to browse for plants, as they partner with a lot of great nurseries from across the country. Not only can you consider a number of different Meyer lemon tree options, but Amazon is also a great place to stock up on basic lawn and garden tools.
Why buy: For selection and convenience, Amazon is hard to beat. We like the options from Brighter Blooms or Citrus.com.
More and more big box home improvement stores have started carrying extensive indoor and outdoor plant selections. You can get a Meyer lemon tree at your local Home Depot, or simply by heading over to Home Depot's website.
Why buy: Home Depot supplies high-quality plants as well as a generous selection of lawn and garden tools. You can also potentially pick up your tree in store the same day.
How Do You Plant a Meyer Lemon Tree?
Purchasing your new citrus tree is obviously the first step, but once it arrives, you'll need to know how to plant it.
Consider the Ideal Hardiness Zones
If you're going to keep your Meyer lemon tree in a pot, enjoying it purely as an indoor plant, then you can disregard this section. But if you wish to transplant it to your lawn or garden, then you need to know a thing or two about hardiness zones.
What are hardiness zones? Basically, these are classifications that farmers and other planters use to determine which regions of the country are best suited for cultivating specific types of plants.
Meyer lemon trees tend to thrive in USDA Hardiness Zones 8-11, which encompass the southern coastal regions as well as the deep southern half of the country. If you live further north, then you may want to reconsider just growing your Meyer lemon tree indoors.
Tips for Planting a Meyer Lemon Tree
Now, if you plan on cultivating your new citrus tree in a pot, there are a few specific tips and considerations you'll want to keep in mind. Some tips for planting a Meyer lemon tree include:
- Plant your tree in a sturdy container that's at least one or two sizes larger than the container it came in. Also double check that your container has drainage holes at the bottom.
- Put an inch or two of stone at the bottom of the container, to serve as an anchor for your lemon tree.
- The ideal potting mixture includes peat moss, potting soil, and perlite.
- Carefully slide your Meyer lemon tree out of the container, and take a moment to cut off any dry roots and "fluff" roots that have become matted.
- Next, position the tree in the center of its new container.
- Add your potting mixture, ensuring that the crown of the roots rests just above the line of the soil.
- Slowly add some water to the pot, and place it somewhere near a south-facing window.
By following these steps, you'll be off to a great start tending to your Meyer lemon tree!
How to Care for Your Meyer Lemon Tree
Once the tree is planted, it is wise to follow a few additional steps to nurture it to guarantee healthy growth. Proper care not only extends the life of your Meyer lemon tree, but also ensures you get plenty of that sweet-tart fruit!
The first thing you'll need to know about is the sunlight requirements for your Meyer lemon tree. Like most citrus plants, this one thrives when it gets ample exposure to direct sunlight. This means a good eight to 12 hours of full sun, whenever possible.
Hopefully, you can achieve this simply by positioning your plant somewhere beside a window facing south or southwest. If not, then you may want to consider indoor growing lights, which can offer the same photosynthetic effects as direct sunlight.
Another critical consideration is watering. Here, some delicacy is required, as citrus plants tend to thrive in water that's moist but not flat-out wet. Many Meyer lemon tree experts recommend watering deeply and infrequently. Any time you find that the top two inches of soil are dry, that means it's time to add water.
Also be aware that, like most citrus trees, this one fares best in humidity. Mist it daily. Also consider adding a bit of water to the tray under your pot; this water will rise up and add some additional humidity.
Meyer lemon trees prefer loamy soil with a pH around 6.0 to 6.5. You'll need to fertilize it around once a month with a nutrient-rich, slow-release nitrogen fertilizer. This tree also requires spacing of 36-60 inches in order to best provide a year-round growing season.
What About Temperature?
It's also vital to know the optimal temperature for your Meyer lemon tree. So long as you keep it somewhere between 50 degrees and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, you should be just fine. Note: If you're keeping your Meyer lemon tree outside and the temperature drops below 50 in the winter months, you'll want to bring it inside until things warm up.
How Much Does a Meyer Lemon Tree Cost?
As you prepare to invest in a new citrus tree, it may be helpful to have a basic price range in mind.
The price point for a Meyer lemon tree can vary greatly, ranging from just under $20 for cuttings to over $100. Usually, the price is determined by the tree's size and maturity. In other words, you can expect to pay less for a small plant or cutting, which you will then need to nurture. And you will likely pay a little more for trees that are already grown and closer to bearing fruit.
Do Meyer Lemon Trees Actually Grow Fruit?
With proper care, your tree should bear fruit. This may happen in as little as two years or as many as seven years, depending on the age of the plant when you receive it. You can expect that your tree will bear the most fruit primarily in the winter season. Again, the number of lemons you get will depend on the health of the tree, but often these yields are quite generous. Note that these trees can live for 50 years, so you may have many seasons of delicious citrus fruit!
Getting Started with a Meyer Lemon Tree
If you're looking for a truly unique addition to your home garden, whether that's indoors or outdoors, look no further than to the Meyer lemon tree. Cultivating these plants can be immensely rewarding, but it will require some work. Start by doing your due diligence, learning more about different places to buy trees, how to plant them, and how to care for them over time.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
By Brian Lovett
As winter phases into spring across the U.S., gardeners are laying in supplies and making plans. Meanwhile, as the weather warms, common garden insects such as bees, beetles and butterflies will emerge from underground burrows or nests within or on plants.
Most gardeners know how beneficial insects can be for their plots. Flies pollinate flowers. Predatory bugs, such as the spined shoulder bug, eat pest insects that otherwise would tuck into garden plants.
As a scientist whose research involves insects and as a gardener, I know that many beneficial insect species are declining and need humans' help. If you're a gardener looking for a new challenge this year, consider revamping all or part of your yard to support beneficial insects.
Lawns Are Insect Food Deserts
Some gardeners choose native plants to attract and support helpful insects. Often, however, those native plants are surrounded by vast expanses of lawn.
The vast majority of insect species find blades of grass as unappetizing as we do. Yet, lawns sprawl out across many public and private spaces. NASA estimated in 2005 that lawns covered at least 50,000 square miles (128,000 square kilometers) of the U.S. – about the size of the entire state of Mississippi.
A well-manicured lawn is a sure sign that humanity has imposed its will on nature. Lawns provide an accessible and familiar landscape, but they come at a cost for our six-legged neighbors. Grasses grown as turf provide very few places for insects to safely tuck themselves away, because homeowners and groundskeepers cut them short – before they send up flowering spikes – and apply fertilizers and pesticides to keep them green.
Entomologists have a recommendation: Dig up some fraction of your lawn and convert it into a meadow by replacing grass with native wildflowers. Wildflowers provide pollen and nectar that feed and attract a variety of insects like ants, native bees and butterflies. Just as you may have a favorite local restaurant, insects that live around you have a taste for the flowers that are native to their areas.
Have you thought about this? https://t.co/nz31BXYKKI— David Steen, Ph.D. (@David Steen, Ph.D.)1562630208.0
This bold choice will not just benefit insects. Healthier insects support local birds, and meadows require fewer chemical inputs and less mowing than lawns. The amount of attention lawns demand from us, even if we outsource the work to a landscaping company, is a sign of their precarity.
A meadow is a wilder, more resilient option. Resilient ecosystems are better able to respond to and recover from disturbances.
Entomologist Ryan Gott, integrated pest management and quality control specialist at Maitri Genetics in Pittsburgh, describes lawns and meadows as two opposite ends of a resiliency spectrum. "As far as basic ecological functions go, a lawn does not have many. A lawn mainly extracts nutrition and water, usually receiving outside inputs of fertilizer and irrigation to stay alive, and returns very little to the system," he told me.
Native flowers, by definition, will grow well in your climate, although some areas will have more choices than others and growing seasons vary. Native plants also provide a palette of colors and variety that lawns sorely lack. By planting them as a meadow, with many different flowers emerging throughout the growing season, you can provide for a diverse assortment of local insects. And mowing and fertilizing less will leave you more time to appreciate wildlife of all sizes.
There are many different types of meadows, and every wildflower species has different preferences for soil type and conditions. Meadows thrive in full sunlight, which is also where lawns typically do well.
Making Insects Feel at Home
Not every yard can support a meadow, but there are other ways to be a better, more considerate neighbor to insects. If you have a shady yard, consider modeling your garden after natural landscapes like woodlands that are shady and support insects.
What's important in landscaping with insects in mind, or "entoscaping," is considering insects early and often when you visit the garden store. With a few pots or window boxes, even a balcony can be converted into a cozy insect oasis.
If you're gardenless, you can still support insect health. Try replacing white outdoor lights, which interfere with many insects' feeding and breeding patterns. White lights also lure insects into swarms, where they are vulnerable to predators. Yellow bulbs or warm-hued LEDs don't have these effects.
Another easy project is using scrap wood and packing materials to create simple "hotels" for bees or ladybugs, making sure to carefully sanitize them between seasons. Easiest of all, provide water for insects to drink – they're adorable to watch as they sip. Replace standing water at least weekly to prevent mosquitoes from developing.
A Refuge in Every Yard
Many resources across the U.S. offer advice on converting your lawn or making your yard more insect-friendly.
The Xerces Society for Insect Conservation publishes a guide to establishing meadows to sustain insects. Local university extension offices post tips on growing meadows with specific instructions and resources for their areas. Gardening stores often have experience and carry selections of local plants.
You may find established communities of enthusiasts for local plants and seeds, or your journey could be the start of such a group. Part of the fun of gardening is learning what plants need to be healthy, and a new endeavor like entoscaping will provide fresh challenges.
In my view, humans all too often see ourselves as separate from nature, which leads us to relegate biodiversity to designated parks. In fact, however, we are an important part of the natural world, and we need insects just as much as they need us. As ecologist Douglas Tallamy argues in his book, Nature's Best Hope, the best way to protect biodiversity is for people to plant native plants and promote conservation in every yard.
Brian Lovett is a postdoctoral researcher in mycology at West Virginia University.
Disclosure statement: Brian Lovett does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
Rural communities in the Australian state of New South Wales are battling a "plague" of mice that has struck the region.
Thousands of mice are invading grain silos, barns and homes and infesting the farmers' bumper grain harvest.
Farmers Share Mice 'Plague' Impact on Social Media
Videos captured on the Moeris family farm in Gilgandra — a five-hour drive northwest of Sydney — show thousands of mice scurrying from under pipes, through storage columns and over machinery.
"Winter crop sowing is at risk and there is a human health impact," the NSW Young Farmers association warned in a tweet, alongside a video showing mice running through hay bales.
#Mice numbers are exploding in many parts of NSW. Haystacks are being destroyed, silos invaded, winter crop sowing… https://t.co/leJr2VXuIj— NSW Young Farmers (@NSW Young Farmers)1615934579.0
"Mice are still causing nightmares for farmers and rural communities," the NSW Farmers association tweeted.
Mice are still causing nightmares for farmers and rural communities in many parts of NSW, as evidenced by this frid… https://t.co/gORpjIjGx2— NSW Farmers (@NSW Farmers)1615764660.0
"At night... the ground is just moving with thousands and thousands of mice just running around" farmer Ron Mckay told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
The Impact of the Mice Plague
Australia's ABC reported three hospital patients in regional New South Wales have been bitten by mice.
There was one report of a rare mouse-related illness known as lymphocytic choriomeningitis [LCM] in the region, ABC reported, quoting the region's Western Local Health District.
Farmers are also concerned the mice will destroy this year's harvest.
How Farmers Plan to Combat the Mice
Farmers in New South Wales (NSW) have asked the government for help to combat the "drastic increase" in mice.
The NSW Farmers Association wants emergency permission to lay down the pesticide zinc phosphide to treat their grain.
"This mice situation is only getting worse," NSW Farmers President James Jackson said.
Reposted with permission from DW.
By Ermias Kebreab and Breanna Roque
Methane is a short-lived but powerful greenhouse gas and the second-largest contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide. And the majority of human-induced methane emissions comes from livestock.
About 70% of agricultural methane comes from enteric fermentation – chemical reactions in the stomachs of cows and other grazing animals as they break down plants. The animals burp out most of this methane and pass the rest as flatulence.
There are roughly 1 billion cattle around the world, so reducing enteric methane is an effective way to reduce overall methane emissions. But most options for doing so, such as changing cows' diets to more digestible feed or adding more fat, are not cost-effective. A 2015 study suggested that using seaweed as an additive to cattle's normal feed could reduce methane production, but this research was done in a laboratory, not in live animals.
We study sustainable agriculture, focusing on livestock. In a newly published study, we show that using red seaweed (Asparagopsis) as a feed supplement can reduce both methane emissions and feed costs without affecting meat quality. If these findings can be scaled up and commercialized, they could transform cattle production into a more economically and environmentally sustainable industry.
Ruminant animals, such as cows, sheep and goats, can digest plant material that is indigestible for humans and animals with simple stomachs, such as pigs and chickens. This unique ability stems from ruminants' four-compartment stomachs – particularly the rumen compartment, which contains a host of different microbes that ferment feed and break it down into nutrients.
This process also generates byproducts that the cow's body does not take up, such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen. Methane-producing microbes, called methanogens, use these compounds to form methane, which the cow's body expels.
We first analyzed this problem in a 2019 study, the first such research that was conducted in cattle rather than in a laboratory. In that work, we showed that supplementing dairy cows' feed with about 10 ounces of seaweed a day reduced methane emissions by up to 67%. However, the cattle that ate this relatively large quantity of seaweed consumed less feed. This reduced their milk production – a clear drawback for dairy farmers.
Our new study sought to answer several questions that would be important to farmers considering whether to use seaweed supplements in their cattle. We wanted to know whether the seaweed was stable when stored for up to three years; whether microbes that produce methane in cows' stomachs could adapt to the seaweed, making it ineffective; and whether the type of diet that the cows ate changed the seaweed's effectiveness in reducing methane emissions. And we used less seaweed than in our 2019 study.
A steer eats alfalfa pellets as equipment measures his gas emissions, including methane. Breanna Roque / CC BY-ND
Better Growth With Less Feed
For the study, we added 1.5 to 3 ounces of seaweed per animal daily to 21 beef cows' food for 21 weeks. As with most new ingredients in cattle diets, it took some time for the animals to get used to the taste of seaweed, but they became accustomed to it within a few weeks.
Cattle in the study adjusted quickly to seaweed supplements in their food. Breanna Roque / CC BY-ND
As we expected, the steers released a lot more hydrogen – up to 750% more, mostly from their mouths – as their systems produced less methane. Hydrogen has minimal impact on the environment. Seaweed supplements did not affect the animals' carbon dioxide emissions.
We also found that seaweed that had been stored in a freezer for three years maintained its effectiveness, and that microbes in the cows' digestive systems did not adapt to the seaweed in ways that neutralized its effects.
We fed each of the animals three different diets during the experiment. These rations contained varying amounts of dried grasses, such as alfalfa and wheat hay, which are referred to as forage. Cattle may also consume fresh grass, grains, molasses and byproducts such as almond hull and cotton seed.
Methane production in the rumen increases with rising levels of forage in cows' diet, so we wanted to see whether forage levels also affected how well seaweed reduced overall methane formation. Methane emissions from cattle on high-forage diets decreased by 33% to 52%, depending on how much seaweed they consumed. Emissions from cattle fed low-forage diets fell by 70% to 80%. This difference may reflect lower levels of an enzyme that is involved in producing methane in the guts of cattle-fed low-fiber diets.
One important finding was that the steers in our study converted feed to body weight up to 20% more efficiently than cattle on a conventional diet. This benefit could reduce production costs for farmers, since they would need to buy less feed. For example, we calculate that a producer finishing 1,000 head of beef cattle – that is, feeding them a high-energy diet to grow and add muscle – could reduce feed costs by US$40,320 to $87,320 depending on how much seaweed the cattle consumed.
Global methane sources include fossil fuel and biomass combustion, agriculture (mainly livestock), the breakdown of waste in landfills and natural decomposition in wetlands. Jackson et al., 2020, CC BY
We don't know for certain why feeding cattle seaweed supplements helped them convert more of their diet to weight gain. However, previous research has suggested that some rumen microorganisms can use hydrogen that is no longer going into methane production to generate energy-dense nutrients that the cow can then use for added growth.
When a panel of consumers sampled meat from cattle raised in our study, they did not detect any difference in tenderness, juiciness or flavor between meat from cattle that consumed seaweed and others that did not.
Commercializing seaweed as a cattle feed additive would involve many steps. First, scientists would need to develop aquaculture techniques for producing seaweed on a large scale, either in the ocean or in tanks on land. And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would have to approve using seaweed as a feed supplement for commercial cattle.
Farmers and ranchers could also earn money for reducing their cattle's emissions. Climate scientists would have to provide guidance on quantifying, monitoring and verifying methane emission reductions from cattle. Such rules could allow cattle farmers to earn credits from carbon offset programs around the world.
Ermias Kebreab is an Associate Dean and Professor of Animal Science. Director, World Food Center, University of California, Davis.
Breanna Roque is a Ph.D. Student in Animal Biology, University of California, Davis.
Disclosure statement: Ermias Kebreab receives funding from the Foundation for Agricultural Research, Elm Innovations, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Grantham Foundation. He advises feed additive companies such as Blue Ocean Barns and Mootral. Breanna Roque does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
Are you worried about getting a serving of pesticides with your produce?
"It's a really great resource," Jane Houlihan, the national director of science and health for Healthy Babies Bright Futures, who was not involved with its compilation, told CNN. "By nature pesticides are toxic, and doing what you can to reduce exposures is a really good idea to protect your family's health."
The EWG's annual lists are based on testing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA firsts washes, peels or scrubs the produce then tests it for pesticide residue. Almost 70 percent of the non-organic fresh produce sold in the U.S. contains pesticide residue, the EWG said in its report.
But still, some foods are more contaminated than others. Strawberries and spinach topped the list as repeat offenders. However, there were some notable new additions, EWG toxicologist Thomas Galligan told USA Today.
- Collard and mustard greens joined kale in the No. 3 slot. These vegetables were most commonly contaminated with DCPA, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says is a possible carcinogen.
- Bell and hot peppers were added to the list, in the No. 10 slot. The USDA found a total of 115 pesticides on different peppers.
In addition, the EWG drew attention to the prevalence of a fungicide called Imazalil on nearly 90 percent of citrus samples tested by the EWG in 2020 and more than 95 percent of tangerines tested by the USDA in 2019. Imazalil can alter hormone levels and is classified by the EPA as a likely human carcinogen. The fruits tested positive for the fungicide despite being peeled, CNN noted.
"I have said repeatedly that that fruits and vegetables with rinds that you don't eat are less problematic," Dr. Leonardo Trasande, chief of environmental pediatrics at NYU Langone, who was not involved with the study, told CNN. "I'm quite frankly surprised and concerned that you can see fungicides penetrate to that level."
Pesticides are especially dangerous for children, and have been linked to childhood cancers, cognitive impairment and behavioral problems, as the American Academy of Pediatrics noted in 2012. One pesticide found on Dirty Dozen items apples, peppers, oranges, grapes and cherries is chlorpyrifos, CNN noted. This pesticide, which the Trump administration refused to ban, has been found to harm the development of children's brains. The Biden administration is now reviewing this decision.
While Trasande and Houlihan praised the list as a resource for health-conscious parents, industry groups criticized it for frightening shoppers away from healthy food.
"Scaring Americans away from eating foods that are a safe and vital part of our diet is a disservice to public health," Chris Novak, the president and CEO of pesticide trade group CropLife America, said in a statement reported by CNN. "The benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh any possible risks from exposure to pesticide residues."
The EWG agrees that getting enough fruits and vegetables is essential.
"The most important thing is that everyone should be eating lots of fruits and vegetables," Galligan told USA Today. "We do recommend you try to reduce your pesticide exposure. Choose organic whenever possible."
However, he acknowledged that not everyone could access or afford organic produce. That's where the Clean Fifteen comes in. Almost 70 percent of the samples tested from items on this list turned up no pesticide residues at all, the EWG said, while only eight percent of samples turned up two or more pesticides.
The full 2021 lists are given below.
The Dirty Dozen:
- Kale, collard and mustard greens
- Bell and hot peppers
The Clean Fifteen:
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Honeydew melon
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