Think organic & eco-friendly are always more expensive? You’re wrong!

By Marcie Barnes

Recently I was leisurely perusing the aisles of my local Whole Foods store, and I kept thinking “you know, that price doesn’t seem so bad.” I have a really terrible memory for numbers, so I decided to snap some shots of a few common items for later comparison at a “regular” grocery store.

Then, I drove on over to Food Lion (I actually chose them on purpose because they are known for low prices, thus making it a real tough challenge for Whole Foods, or so I thought…)

(Notes: All of these can be considered in the ‘prepackaged’ or ‘convenience’ category, I’ll try to spend more time in the produce, seafood/meat & bulk areas next time. I compared the same size/weight products each time or made a note if I could not find an exact match).

I think you’ll be as surprised as I was at my findings:

1. Frozen Green Beans
Same price! $1.79 for organic, $1.79 for Food Lion brand (not organic)!

2. Cereal
Organic is cheaper! $2.99 for organic, $3.97 for Cheerios (not organic)! (I couldn’t find any Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, but I figured Banana Nut was close enough.)

3. Mac-n-cheese
Same price! 5/$5.00 for organic, 5/$5.00 for Kraft brand (not organic)! Although this is a sale price at Whole Foods, you can stock up on this item when it is on sale. In addition, they have a good variety of different kinds of mac-n-cheese, so chances are at least one kind will be on sale at any given time.

4. Tortilla shells
Organic is cheaper! $1.69 for organic, $1.99 for San Antonio brand (not organic)! And the organic ones were in the freezer section, you know, since they don’t have preservatives.

5. Vegetable juice
Organic is cheaper! And cheaper than Food Lion’s sale price, at that. $2.69 for Vital Veggie Organic, $2.99 (on sale) for V8.
———–Note: The below items are not organic, but worth a mention————

6. Cheese
Hormone, antibiotic-free & humane is cheaper! $2.69 for 365˚ brand and $3.49 for Food Lion brand. From Whole Foods’ web site: “Although 365 Everyday Value Milk is not organic, it is produced by dairy farms committed to the production of milk that does not contain the synthetic growth hormone rBGH. If a cow does require antibiotics it is taken from the herd and quarantined until the antibiotics have passed through her system.”

7. Dog food
Human grade” pet food is cheaper! $11.99 for 365˚ brand and $14.99 for Purina Beneful (on sale). From Whole Foods’ web site: “Human grade pet foods are processed according to the same manufacturing standards as human foods and they contain ingredients that are free from contamination, disease or adulteration. This means that the meat sources used in our products, including any by-products, are NOT from animals that have been rejected for human consumption. The ingredients are inspected with the same care as if they were to be sold as human food.”

Really? Meat that is rejected for human consumption is OK for our pets? I’m buying the 365˚ brand pet food from now on!

8. Toothbrushes
Same price! $2.99 for a Preserve brand kids’ toothbrush, same price for Sponge Bob (there was something on sale for $1.49 but it was out and I couldn’t tell what it was). The Preserve brand is a supporter of the National Wildlife Federation, makes all their products from recycled materials and you can recycle them (and the packaging!) again by returning them to Preserve with a postage-paid envelope available on their web site. Cool!

9. Paper towels
100% recycled is cheaper! $9.99 for the 365˚ brand and $14.45 for Bounty, although on this day it was on sale for $9.99. This was definitlely the biggest surprise I found. (Note: there were no 12-packs in this store so I chose the 8 “mega” rolls that the package says is equal to 12 “regular” rolls) We all need to switch to recycled paper products, too many forests are being destroyed to make products like Bounty, Viva, Kleenex, Puffs, Cottonelle & Charmin. This Shopper’s Guide from the National Resources Defense Council asks you to avoid those brands and explains why.

10. Buffet
Whole Foods is cheaper! $6.39 for my small box of food compared to the $9.29 buffet price at Sweet Tomatoes. Now, this isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples comparison since Sweet Tomatoes is all-you-can-eat and Whole Foods bar is by-the-pound ($7.99/lb.), but don’t we always take more than we can eat at those all-you-can-eat places? With Americans throwing away half of the food produced for our consumption, I say choose the small container at Whole Foods, fill it up with good quality food (including humanely raised/organic meats, if you like) and save money at the same time!

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“New Media Landscape Discussion with Al Gore & Sean Parker”

By Marcie Barnes This is a live blog post from the talk entitled ”New Media Landscape Discussion” at SXSW. Speakers are former Vice President Al Gore – who now spends the majority of his time as chairman of The Climate Reality Project – and Sean Parker who is an entrepreneur with a record of launching genre-defining companies that reinvent ways to spread information online. Gore: Our Democracy has been hacked – it no longer works for the best interest of the people. Television is a centralizing force. Average American watches TV 5 hours a day. Now it’s the central place where politics are discussed and creates a very different “public square” compared to those of the past. The news shows and debates are sponsored by coal, oil, banks, pharmaceutical companies. Wants to see “Internet Democracy.” Parker: Is optimistic that the rise […] more

“Content As a Means for Social Change”

By Marcie Barnes   This is a live blog post from the talk entitled ”Content As a Means for Social Change” at SXSW. Speakers are Biz Stone (co-founder of Twitter and The Obvious Corporation, which focuses on building systems that help people work together to improve the world) and Brian Sirgutz, SVP, Social Impact, AOL/Huffington Post.   Sirgutz was motivated to do philanthropic work after helping volunteer after 9/11. Part of his introduction includes Biz’s passion for incorporating value into businesses before profit. Evan Williams (co-founder of Twitter) and Biz at one point were working on an idea to be “kings of podcasting” but realized that they didn’t really want to do that, wouldn’t make them happy. He was critiqued early by a lot of people who said twitter was not useful – and Even said “neither is ice cream, do we […] more

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“The Smart Grid Is Inseparable from the Internet”

By Marcie Barnes This is a live blog post from the talk entitled ”The Smart Grid Is Inseparable from the Internet” at SXSW. Speaker is Steven Collier VP Mktg & Business Dev Milsoft Utility Solutions Inc. and blogs at   History: The power grid began in late 1800s in New York City by Thomas Edison when he deployed Pearl Street Station. He invented the light bulb because he wanted to put the gas company out of business when they shut off his service. It’s been built over time to be “big” – capacity and redundancy (backup paths) have been the only tools. As electric consumption grew by leaps and bounds, power plants are being built bigger and bigger. Plants, transmission lines, and distribution centers are still the same with the smart grid – the only difference is the electric meter […] more

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“Paper or Plastic? Social Media Can Restore Earth”

By Marcie Barnes This is a live blog post from the talk entitled “Paper or Plastic? Social Media Can Restore Earth” at SXSW. Speaker is Michael Dungan Pres/CEO BeeDance.  They are working to divert items from the waste stream esp. in the construction industry, and they are connecting the “waste makers” with artists, teachers etc. via  project called Zero Landfill in 25 US cities. Biomimicry is an organizing principle as a design strategy – they looked at honeybees in order to learn how waste can be better managed/repurposed. Derived 30+ practices from honeybees and distilled them to 9 lessons: • they work on a hyper-local basis: location-based & proximity-based apps are helping us be more like bees in this way • they are motivated by the rules of attraction: they have finely tuned senses, they see strengths in nature • they […] more

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“Electric Car: Lessons Learned in a Global Movement”

By Marcie Barnes This is a live blog post from the talk entitled “Electric Car: Lessons Learned in a Global Movement” at SXSW. Speaker is Benjamin Holland – Project Mgr, Project Get Ready, Rocky Mountain Institute. Stimulus to support the development of batteries, infrastructure, etc. by President Obama to get more electric cars on the road is a big goal, but still only accounts for 1% of total fleet in America. Prius is an “early adapter vehicle” but considered mainstream.         Brief history: This is not a new technology – Edison & Ford collaborated to produce affordable electric vehicle. The discovery of abundances of oil accelerated the demand for the internal combustion engine. Model T’s release in 1908 marked little hope for electric vehicles at the time. Signaled growth, fueled economy but had negative consequences. During the […] more


“Can Industrial Agriculture Feed The World?”

By Marcie Barnes This is a live-blog post of Tom Philpott’s Keynote speech during Shared Tables – A Triangle, NC symposium on global and local food studies at UNC-Chapel Hill. Tom Philpott is the cofounder of Maverick Farms, a center for sustainable food education in Valle Crucis, North Carolina. He was formerly a columnist and editor for the online environmental site Grist and his work on food politics has appeared in Newsweek, Gastronomica, and the Guardian. He currently writes about Food and Ag for Mother Jones. ——– Typically the argument is framed around “can organic feed the world” and the conventional answer. can chemical-intensive, geographically concentrated/patented seeds feed the world? This kind of agriculture is promoted by the US government, foundations like the Gates Foundation, etc. People who promote it are so certain of it’s promise they are “cooking up” a […] more

Photo credit: danielmoyle on Flickr

Lessons Learned in Social Entrepreneurship

By Marcie Barnes This post was originally published on Why am I a social entrepreneur? I see a possible future based on our current system, a future that encompasses happiness, sustainable business practices, and environmental responsibility. I see many non-profits struggling, while at the same time I see many non-profits with ties to big business, in the form of corporate sponsorship and partnerships who are thriving. I am happy to have the opportunity to share with you my experiences and thoughts on how it can be possible to make the world a better place within the framework of the current system – along with some other tips and advice on creating a sustainable, and profitable social venture. Things to consider when organizing your social venture, compared to a traditional business venture: I spent many months researching and pondering how […] more


How To Eat Green

By Marcie Barnes   You’ve probably heard plenty about how eating local and organic as much as possible is healthy for you and the planet. And it’s true. Although many organic (and local) products get a bad rap for being more expensive, it’s almost always related to the fact that the government subsidizes oil and corn (among other things) which make mass-produced, carb-filled foods cheaper. So, if you’re not a fan of the government skewing the free-market system, don’t continue to buy the mainstream, big-ag controlled products. Just thought I’d throw that out there on this day before we all give thanks for our food and blessings… In that spirit, I’ve prepared a quick top five list of small things you can do in order to eat more green, be healthier, and support the health of Mother Earth: 5. Take […] more

Are You Wiping with Rainforest Trees?

By Marcie Barnes

Modified photo credit goes to creativezazz on


This is a guest post written for (and cross-posted at)


You’ve probably heard of the the concerns that come along with the destruction of rainforests and other ancient swaths of virgin ecosystems. Among these include: loss of biodiversity (there is a long list of the things that are lost here), loss of carbon-sequestering trees and other plants, and loss of species that depend on those habitats.


…more than 80 percent of the Earth’s natural forests already have been destroyed. Up to 90 percent of West Africa’s coastal rain forests have disappeared since 1900. Brazil and Indonesia, which contain the world’s two largest surviving regions of rain forest, are being stripped at an alarming rate by logging, fires, and land-clearing for agriculture and cattle-grazing. – National Geographic


These are sobering statistics for any good treehugger, and should be for any human citizen of the Earth. But what is quite alarming is the reason behind all of this deforestation. One may naturally assume that trees are used for timber, which we need to build structures to house ourselves. That indeed is one use, but according to – the reasons are many:

  • wood for both timber and making fires;
  • agriculture for both small and large farms;
  • land for poor farmers who don’t have anywhere else to live;
  • grazing land for cattle;
  • pulp for making paper;
  • road construction; and
  • extraction of minerals and energy.

(There is also a large market for palm oil which is widely used as a food ingredient – most notably in cookies and candy).

Of course the focus of this article is #4 – pulp for making paper – which of course includes paper for such things as textbooks, printed materials, paper plates, napkins, towels, diapers, and of course, toilet paper.

Now out of all these things, most of which can be justified as necessities in American culture, it’s the use of paper products for hygiene (namely paper towels and toilet paper) that make the least amount of sense, especially in light of the fact that one is essentially using a tree to wipe themselves. Why? According to, humans have used things such as “rags, wood shavings, leaves, grass, hay, stone, sand, moss, water, snow, maize, ferns, may apple plant husks, fruit skins, or seashells” [not to mention water] for this task. Although “the first documented use of toilet paper in human history dates back to the 6th century AD, in early medieval China,” it appears that this practice was generally considered as non-hygenic.

It is obvious that corporate marketing has made this option much more desirable in the last 100 years.

Okay okay we hear you laughing – “I’m not going to wipe my butt with corn cobs!” and we understand…

So in the true spirit of what greenetarians is all about, we offer you this. Sure, toilet paper is a great (and convenient) invention that few of us would be willing to part with. Our ask is this, if you do one thing, please purchase 100% recycled paper products at every opportunity possible, and recycle as much paper in your own home and office as possible. Based on our research, the “big” brands you are familiar with, such as Charmin, Cottonelle (and their paper towel counterparts Bounty and Viva) are virgin-wood products and should be avoided at all costs. Many times, we found the prices (and comfort level, trust us) to be very similar with the exception of when the “big” brands go on sale, which unfortunately, doesn’t seem to happen very often with the recycled brands.

This Shopper’s Guide from the National Resources Defense Council asks you to avoid those brands and explains why.

Charmin toilet paper on sale beats the price of the 100% recycled brand, but the normal price of this Charmin pack is $7.19. Resist the urge to buy virgin paper on sale and use conservation techniques, such as scheduling your shower after your #2 time, in order to use less paper.


Once again, the paper towels, on sale, are cheaper. However, the regular price of these Bounty paper towels is $8.19. In this case, it's much easier (and cheaper) to buy a pack of cotton bar towels to use in the kitchen, which you can easily toss in the wash with your regular laundry.


When it comes to other paper products, it’s important (and confusing) to buy products made from sustainably-sourced or 100% recycled paper. Stay tuned for a later post in which we will delve more deeply into the (sadly) mind-boggling world of paper trade and certification.

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