• I want to eat organically, but organic produce is so expensive. Which of the conventionally grown varieties can I get away with eating?
Get away with? Why all of them, of course. It's about making choices to balance the needs of your checkbook and body.
A recent study reported in the Journal of Applied Nutrition showed that, ounce for ounce, organic fruits and vegetables are twice as rich in certain nutrients compared to those conventionally grown, but more studies are needed to definitively prove it.
There are many labels, so it can be confusing to know what's what. Look for 'Certified Organic,' which means the item has been spared the application of toxic and persistent insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers, and grown according to strict uniform standards verified by state or private organizations.
Generally, try to go organic with foods that are hard to wash and/or impossible to peel - especially strawberries, raspberries, peppers, grapes (juice and raisins, too). They're typically the most pesticide-laden. But that's just the beginning of the list.
Other conventional produce to be avoided (unless of course, you buy from local sustainable growers who can explain how they limit chemical use on the farm) include peaches (high residues of the probable carcinogen iprodione, and methyl parathion), apples and pears (more methyl parathion), corn (most of it is genetically modified), spinach and green beans. Surprisingly, winter squash turns up on many to-avoid lists for containing traces of the insecticide dieldrin. When you do buy conventional produce, wash it thoroughly and peel if possible.
By the way, chances are that if you tallied up all the indirect costs of conventional food production - polluted water cleanup, replacement of eroded soils - organic foods would cost the same as conventionally grown foods or, more likely, be cheaper.
• I was at my local recycling center and didn't see any place to dump my old paint cans. What's the deal?
Improperly disposed-of paint harms humans, waterways, fish and other wildlife. So whatever you do, don't just dump your paint cans. Runoff heads to storm drains, which carry the untreated mess directly into streams and rivers, harming aquatic plants, animals, fish and those who eat the fish.
Take empty or partially empty cans directly to Metro's Household Hazard Waste Management Facility (one is in Oregon City; the other in industrial Northwest) for free disposal. Call Metro Recycling Information, 503-234-3000, for hours and directions, or see www.metro-region.org. Outside Clackamas, Multnomah or Washington counties call 1-800-732-9253.