Australian Organic host BBQ at Parliament House to celebrate Organic Awareness Month

Australian Organic host BBQ at Parliament House to celebrate Organic Awareness Month

To celebrate Australian Organic Awareness Month, leading industry body Australian Organic hosted a lunchtime BBQ at Parliament House, Canberra, on 19 September 2019.

Australian Organic Awareness Month (or AOAM for short) is one of the biggest promotional events on the organic calendar in Australia. Not only does AOAM promote certified organic products across a wide range of categories, it also aims to educate consumers on what certified organic means and how to trust that what they buy is truly organic.

The BBQ presented an opportunity for certified organic operators to meet and network with MPs whilst enjoying delicious certified organic produce including sausage, burgers, salad and beverages.

Joel Fitzgibbon, Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Resources, opened the event, commenting that organic “is a really great industry”, and, “people are realizing in the agriculture sector that we’ve got to chase these premium markets.”

He also commented that big companies with large numbers of consumers are always looking for something different, with vignerons in the Hunter Valley and the Margaret River doing just that with certified organic offerings.

Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie applauded organic operators to approach their State Ministers in pushing for domestic standards – agreeing that it is something the Government will be working towards.

She added that the organic industry “is on a trajectory to be realizing significant profits; it’s great for the environment, great for communities, and it’s not just about safe, sustainable, clean green food… it’s also great for our national economy and the growth of local jobs right throughout the community.”

 

Minister McKenzie also applauded the strength of relationships across the organic industry; “You’ve grown your domestic market share through a lot of hard work. It’s a crowded market, and consumers have an enormous amount of choice at the moment and I think that you, through your careful branding and consistent messaging and by working as a team across the certification bodies, means that actually the Australian consumer can go in and know with confidence that what they’re purchasing is organically produced.”

We’d like to thank all those that attended the BBQ and a special mention to Parliament House for their assistance in hosting the event.

The ultimate tips to wind down, relax and focus on yourself

The ultimate tips to wind down, relax and focus on yourself

Ever get to Friday and wonder how you survived the week? Taking time for yourself shouldn’t be left to an hour on a Sunday afternoon. Self-care needs to be part of your daily routine, for very good reasons!

Proven Results

Don’t believe us? Many studies have proven the importance of relaxation as part of our daily routines. The many benefits of relaxation range from improving mental health by relieving stress, calming the mind and reducing feelings of anxiousness; to benefitting physical health through stress relief by relaxing the muscles, increasing blood circulation and metabolism, reducing fatigue and improving your mood and concentration.

Relaxation isn’t all about yoga and meditation (although they both help!) and can be done in as little time as just 5 minutes here and there.

Here’s some of the best ways to relax, unwind and focus on you.

1. Breathing

Sounds simple, but sometimes the simple things are the most effective. Heavy, rapid breathing can be associated with stress and anxiety, so taking the time to breathe deep and slow can help to relax the body and increase blood flow to vital muscles and organs. There are lots of apps available on your phone and even smart watch to help with breathing exercises, however the principles are easy:

Close your eyes and take a deep breath in for 4-6 seconds, and breathe out for the same amount of time. Continue this process, gradually taking deeper, longer breaths, until you feel more relaxed and notice your heart rate slow down.

Breathing is also an essential part of meditation, which is often used to calm and clear the mind.

2. Essential oils

A range of different scents have been noted for their calming and relaxing properties and can be directly applied to the skin, mixed in with creams and lotions, spritzed on fabrics and clothing, dropped in your bath water or added to diffusers to freshen the air.
Using certified organic essential oils will ensure there are no unwanted surprises in your oils, making them safe to use on your skin.

3. Me time

How often do you set aside time to focus on yourself and do something that makes you happy? The answer is probably not enough! Me-time means different things to different people, so taking some time for yourself might look different to your friends and family. Whether you enjoy reading, relaxing in the bath, watching a movie, baking or taking a walk, taking some time for yourself should be a part of your daily routine. If you want to use your me-time to relax, make sure it isn’t something that is too overstimulating on the body and mind to reap the full benefits.

4. Fresh air

Fresh air is something we take for granted all the time. Getting outside and breathing fresh air does wonders for your body and mind. Although not all of us have access to clean air all of the time, aim to spend time in clean, fresh air at least a few times a week. If you spend 5 days of the week in an office, try spending your lunch break outside, or use the weekends to enjoy time outdoors. We’re lucky to live in a country with some of the best weather and scenery in the world, so make the most of it (and of course, we always encourage you to be sun-smart!)

5. Reduce stimulants

How many coffees do you have each day? Coffee, and caffeine in particular, is a stimulant that can increase heart rate and can become addictive as your body becomes more reliant on it with time. By reducing your caffeine intake progressively over a few weeks and increasing your intake of water, you’ll notice your body will become less reliant on it as an energy source and you’ll feel more energized throughout the day.

This is the same for caffeinated drinks, cigarettes, alcohol, sugar and other stimulants that are often used to relax but can actually create the opposite, negative effect on the body. Teach your body to respond to stress in a different manner by using other relaxation techniques or simply drinking herbal teas or water instead. Your body will thank you for it.

6. Sleep well

Sleep is one of the most important things your body could ask for. When you sleep, your body uses the time to repair and regenerate whilst your mind processes the day’s events. A lack of sleep has been shown to lead to an array of health issues, from anxiety and stress, to fatigue and exhaustion, to gut related problems and muscle tension.

By setting a strict wind-down bed routine, you can help your body to become more relaxed before you go to bed and promote a better sleep. This includes turning off all screens at least 30 minutes before bed, not going to bed on a full stomach, and avoiding stimulants such as alcohol, sugar and caffeine in the hours leading up to bed time.

Make sure you set some time aside this week to help yourself to relax and unwind – a great way to begin focusing on yourself.

The organic beauty routine your skin will thank you for

The organic beauty routine your skin will thank you for

Australian Organic ambassador and former beauty editor, Elle Halliwell, gives the low-down on her go-to organic beauty routine.

I’ve got a hypothetical scenario for you. If I was to ask you to lather your skin every day with a bunch of synthetic chemicals – only 10% of which has been tested for safety – would you do it? You may not like the sound of it, but for many Australian women, this is an everyday reality – all in the name of beauty.

Our daily chemical cocktail

This routine is something millions of people do every day, blissfully unaware of the potential hidden dangers in their morning beauty routine. It’s been estimated that the average woman applies about 12 beauty and skincare products on her skin every day, containing up to 515 different synthetic chemicals.

I was that girl, once. The ingredients of my shampoo didn’t matter, as long as my locks shone like the model in the brand’s latest marketing campaign! And if that moisturiser made my skin glow, a little sodium laureth sulfate or methylparaben was no big deal.

Overloading your skin does you no favours

Three years ago, I had a big wake-up call after being diagnosed with cancer. As a former beauty editor, one of the biggest realisations was the complete, unwarranted trust I had placed in so many major cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies, whose mission was to make money and sell products. I blindly slathered on anything and everything that came my way and never bothered to really analyse any of the mysterious ingredients.

I can’t be sure what caused my cancer but overloading my body’s largest organ – my skin – with endocrine disrupting toxins, known carcinogens and artificial preservatives for more than a decade I’m sure didn’t do my system any favours.

As I wasn’t able to begin chemotherapy whilst pregnant, I decided to take drastic steps to change my lifestyle and prepare my body as best I could in the lead up to treatment beginning after the birth and rid myself of all synthetic chemicals and going strictly organic with all products I used – including skincare and make-up.

Synthetic chemicals and commercial makeup

One tool I found really useful at the start of my beauty overhaul was the Think Dirty app, which lists the ingredients of thousands of products and rates them out of 10 for safety. One of the first things I noticed after using the app was that most products listing unspecified “parfum” or “fragrance” automatically received a poor rating.

I looked into it further and discovered The International Fragrance Association’s list of the industry’s most commonly used ingredients. It’s 96 pages long and contains almost 4,000 chemicals. You won’t find these listed on your average bottle of au de toilette though, as the ingredients of a perfume are considered a ‘trade secret’. The only fragrances I now use, both on my body and around my home – are essential oils.

My natural beauty routine

I celebrate my three-year cancer-versary this month, and here’s what my current beauty routine looks like:

Body care

I have a very basic body care regimen, which involves a certified organic bar of Eco Botanicals castile soap and a nut oil to finish (coconut or almond), which I like to buy from my local bulk foods store. My theory is if you are making the choice to reduce your synthetic chemical load, you may as well avoid plastic packaging where possible and save the planet at the same time.

For cuts, blemishes and bruises I use calendula cream, for deodorant I use an aluminium-free deodorant paste, and in the sun I use a zinc-based sunscreen such as Harmony Harvest and a wide-brimmed hat. I rarely paint my nails, and if I do, I will use an 8 or 10 Free polish from brands free of synthetic chemicals like camphor, formaldehyde resin, formaldehyde, parabens, phthalates and fragrance.

Skincare

I use a MicroGlo at home microdermabrasion device every two weeks, as it leaves my skin feeling super smooth and it’s a physical exfoliant, so no nasties. I also make my own exfoliator regularly (see recipe below) but as I write about beauty, I’m also often trialling various natural and organic skincare products. I’m currently using Sanctum’s soothing cream cleanser which has supported my skin during the seasonal transition and kept it nicely hydrated. My skincare regimen does vary from week-to-week, but I always check the ingredients and company ethos before trialling a product.

For toning I’m using Divine Company’s soothing rose toner, but I also like a basic witch hazel extract (So Saba Organics has a great one with Aloe).

For removing makeup I’m a big fan of Clear Organics and I will finish with a lightweight oil or serum, like Endota Organics radiance boost serum. I also use Endota Organics’ Charcoal Detox Mask, which I apply when my skin is feeling congested.

Makeup

I’m a big believer in the idea that everything we interact with has an energy, and if a product is made ethically, organically and with care it’s going to radiate that good energy. There are a few brands out there that I think really give off good vibes like Miessence, Mukti and Endota Spa. Ethical practices, holistic philosophies and natural ingredients are really important elements to consider when buying beauty and skincare products.

I recently started using Miessence honey translucent foundation which gives my skin a really healthy glow. I’ve also been using Inika Organic for years, and I love their brow products, long lash mascara and baked contour duo.

Even in the three years since my lifestyle overhaul I’ve noticed a huge shift in the direction of the beauty industry towards a more earth, animal and human friendly focus. We deserve a safe beauty cabinet which is gentle on the planet, and I think by making sustainable, ethical and organic shopping choices we can make a difference.

Health coach, media personality and author Elle Halliwell is one of this year’s Australian Organic 2019 media ambassadors and will MC the Australian Organic Annual Awards in November.

Australian Organic CEO Niki Ford interviewed for SBS Small Business Secrets

Australian Organic CEO Niki Ford interviewed for SBS Small Business Secrets

As part of Australian Organic Awareness Month, SBS recently highlighted Australian certified organic producers in a special Small Business Secrets segment, alongside an interview with Australian Organic Ltd CEO Niki Ford.

Featured organic operators include:

  • The Unexpected Guest
  • Mock Red Hill
  • Cowobbee Beef

 

The segment highlights the lift in sales for Australian organic produce caused by a rise in demand from export and domestic markets.

The organics industry in Australia is now worth over $2.6 billion.

Watch the full video and read the article on the SBS website.

Celebrating Organics across the pond with Soil Association Organic September

Celebrating Organics across the pond with Soil Association Organic September

Whilst here in Australia we’re celebrating Australian Organic Awareness Month, the UK are also playing their part in embracing all thing’s organic.

 

Who are Soil Association?

Soil Association are the UK’s leading food and farming charity and organic certification body. As a membership-based charity, Soil Association campaign for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use, and also choose the month of September to celebrate and promote all things organic in the UK.

 

What is Organic September?

Organic September is the UK’s biggest campaign dedicated to marketing organic and has been running for the past 4 years. The aim is to grow the organic market by reigniting a connection to our food, and those that grow, produce and pack it with care for the environment.

 

 

What is the key messaging for Organic September?

Organic Is Everyday & accessible, signposting where it can be found and encouraging ‘simple swaps’

Organic Is Food as It Should Be – By opting for organic, you’re part of a movement that is sustainable, helps fight climate change, boosts biodiversity and is better for the environment and animal welfare

Organic Is Certified – Raising awareness of the Soil Association logo as a powerful symbol of trust and transparency, particularly during a period o growing insecurity surrounding food provenance

 

Is the UK seeing a rise in demand for Organic products?

The UK organic market continues to experience steady, healthy growth, with sales increasing by 5.3% in 2018. That means almost £45 million a week is spent on organic in the UK, and by 2020 the UK organic market is set to be worth £2.5 billion.

Out of all the purchase channels, home delivery of organic (via online and box schemes) is seeing the fastest growth at 14.2%, accounting for 14% of all sales in the UK. Supermarket organic sales also saw an increase of 3.3%, whilst independent retailers saw sales increase by 6.2% with their wide range of choices (in 2018).

Much like Australia, health is a key motivator for purchasing organic amongst the majority of shoppers, with labels such as ‘free from’ and ‘organic’ offering assurance when it comes to making healthy choices. Consumers are also becoming more conscious of what they buy and where their food comes from which is why they are choosing organic.

 

Is the term ‘Organic’ regulated in the UK?

The EU (European Union) and the UK both implement regulation over the term ‘organic’.

Since 2007, the EU has implemented regulation on organic production and the labelling of organic products, with further regulation detailed in 2008. All organic food and drink sold in the EU must meet the EU Organic Regulation – shown by the green leaf logo on pack.

 

 

The UK’s own Organic Product Regulations came into force in 2009, meaning that a business can now only label pre-packed foods ‘organic’ if at least 95% of the ingredients are organic.

 

What challenges does the Organic industry in the UK face?

The UK has also faced a tough year in agriculture due to an array of harsh environmental conditions. From the freezing temperatures in February’s “Beast from the East” (2018), to a long, wet spring which moved in to the most intense drought since 1976, the UK has had its fair share of weather events over recent times – the effects of which are still being felt in the form of rising organic feed prices and diminishing stocks.

The UK is also facing an unclear future post-Brexit. More than 46 years after being a part of the European Union, the UK voted to leave in 2016 and is still undergoing the exiting process. In an uncertain future for farmers and organic operators, the publication of the Agriculture Bill 2017-19 have made agricultural support arrangements a little clearer – however the bill is still going through parliament.

 

What is the importance of the Soil Association logo?

Australian Organic Awareness Month is about both promoting and educating consumers on looking for certification logos on their organic products to know that it is truly organic.

Despite the term ‘organic’ being regulated in the UK and the EU, it is still important to look for certification logos on organic products and Soil Association are encouraging consumers to look for these logos during Organic September.

 

Soil Association certified products must legally comply with the EU Organic Regulation. They must also meet their additional higher standards – as shown by the Soil Association logo. These standards put Soil Association’s principles into practice and are at the heart of their work.

 

How can we get involved in Organic September in the UK?

If you live in the UK or are visiting the UK sometime soon, you too can be a part of Organic September by supporting the organic industry and raising awareness about the importance of organics for our future.

Visit the Soil Association website to learn more about Organic September and how you can get involved.

Organic Spring Gardening for Kids

Organic Spring Gardening for Kids

Get stuck in, outdoors!

This Spring season why not make the most of the warming weather and get your kids involved in some fun activities to learn more about plants – the organic way!

Without the worry of the intense heat or too much sun exposure, Spring is the perfect excuse to get the kids outdoors and get some fresh air and exercise, whilst having fun too!

‘Tis the season to get planting!

Kids love to see how the tiny seeds and sprouts they’ve planted grow into plants – especially ones that they can eat. Who knows, it might even encourage them to eat more fruit and veggies!

The beginning of Spring is the time to get your plants in the ground before the intense heat of the Summer. Making sure your plants get established in the Spring means they will get a better head-start to survive the Summer – especially for trees and shrubs!

Veggie Patch

Get your fruit and veggie patch going now! Now that the soil is warmer, you can start to plant your tomatoes, chillies, capsicums, eggplants, cucumbers, pumpkins, beans, spring onions and Asian greens. This is a great opportunity to teach kids about different types of plants and plant families, and get them interested in trying something new!

If you don’t want the expense of buying new plants, get the kids involved in re-growing fruit and vegetables from seeds. Tomatoes are easy to grow from seed. Simply take a few slices of your favourite organic tomato, plant under a few centimetres of soil, water thoroughly and place in a warm, sunny spot. You’ll have your very own home-grown tomatoes in no time!

Plant Health

During Spring, your garden will need some TLC to help get things going. Since many plants will be in their growing, flowering and fruiting stage, they will need lots of watering and feeding. Get your kids to help you fill the watering cans or douse your flower beds with the garden hose and explain to them that plants get hungry too! Watering plants can be a daily task – the best way to earn pocket money!

After feeding with some organic fertiliser, make sure you mulch your plant beds (around a 10cm thick layer) to prevent weeds growing where they shouldn’t and keep moisture locked in. This is the perfect time to teach your kids about garden maintenance.

Show them how you can prune back larger plants, teach them about weeds and unwanted invaders and let them know how to check the general health of the plants in your garden. See how many different bugs they can spot, and see if they can identify the good bugs that help your garden to the bugs that can eat and damage your plants.

Now is also a good time to start teaching your kids about organic pest control – and we’re not just talking about eliminating synthetic chemicals. Kids already learn about the natural food chain in school, so you can show them how the food chain plays out in the garden. For example, ladybirds love to eat aphids and mealybugs, and spiders keep a whole bunch of bugs at bay, including fruit fly and even mosquitoes! They can also learn how other plants can fend off pests and therefore help other plants in the process (known as ‘companion planting‘).

If you have the room, it’s also a great idea to introduce kids to larger animals that benefit the garden such as chickens and ducks, which are also great for natural pest control! Keeping animals is also a great way to teach kids about animal welfare and will give them responsibilities to help make them feel like part of a team.

Why organic is important

Your kids may have lots of questions about what organic means and why it’s important to them. Depending on their age, it may be best to start with the basic principles. Organic food is:

  • Grown without the use of synthetic chemicals
  • Non-GMO (genetically modified organisms)
  • Respects biodiversity and the environment
  • Animals are free-range and fed an organic diet

The best way to teach your kids these principles is to remind them as they garden with you, showing them how these organic principles relate to the real world around them. By getting your kids involved in planting, from the garden to the table, they can really see how food is better without synthetic chemicals and pesticides – for both themselves, their family and the environment.

Organic schools

If you want to learn more about organics for the garden, check out the Australian Organic Schools website, with lots of free information about organic gardening and an organic lifestyle in child-friendly formats (new website coming soon!)

Keep us updated with your organic stories either in the comments below or by tagging us on social media #australianorganic