Organic lifestyles, as well as veganism and vegetarianism, can be difficult to maintain on the normally tight budget of a college student; however, the determined few make it possible.
With stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe's becoming more prevalent around the country, the interest in organic foods and products have increased as well.
Many have decided to swap their usual everyday meals with the alternative: organic foods, which are grown without synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
Candice Lawton, senior in sustainability, is vice president and co-founder of the UT organization Project V.E.G.G.I.E., which focuses on planting and growing foods naturally. The organization consists of members who enjoy eating organically, with some choosing a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle as well.
"We started in the fall of 2012," Lawton said. "It's basically just Vols educating about growing gardens and inspiring environmentalism."
Lawton said there are several members who are interested in growing their own foods and eating organically.
"People who are also vegetarian and vegan, they enjoy it because they literally can grow almost everything that they eat," Lawton said.
Lawton said she feels health benefits for eating organically depend upon how the food was grown, the methods of growing used and other factors such as what soils the food was grown in.
For those who buy organic foods in grocery stores, Lawton said some stores have stricter growing methods with different pesticides used.
"I believe that growing your own food is healthier for your physical body as well as for your spiritual self because participating in growing what gives you energy is an experience," Lawton said, "and it makes you enjoy your food that much more."
Lawton said eating organically and growing food in college can be difficult, but having others with similar goals is helpful. Lawton and other Project V.E.G.G.I.E. members work in a garden located on campus to help each other grow their own foods.
"If one individual were to try to undertake something like this, it would be nearly impossible," Lawton said. "But that's why we designed a community garden because many people make it work."
Justin Leduc, a senior majoring in sociology and plant sciences, is also a fan of the organic lifestyle. He is an intern with the UT Market Garden, an organic farm that sells food to the Farmer's Market.
"I've always been really concerned with social justice, inequality and trying to find a way to make a difference and do something constructive," Leduc said. "I think it's a really positive thing to lead with growing food."
Leduc said he feels the closer someone is to their food, the more environmentally friendly and healthy that person usually is. By growing one's foods, Leduc said, that person is able to cut back on energy and fuel needed for transportation and can gain access to or make healthier meals as opposed to purchasing fast food.
"I try to eat a diet of fruits and vegetables and vegetable proteins," Leduc said. "If I'm at home I try to make the best possible choices, which is organic and non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) foods."
Leduc said being able to feed oneself while eating organic is "freedom and power," as it allows one to take more control of what they consume.
While studies vary about whether organic foods are healthier than other foods, Leduc admitted he believes eating organically is better environmentally.
"I think it can be hard to maintain eating organically with any busy lifestyle," Leduc said. "College leads to mainstream culture, and fast food outings are prevalent. I think the solution is taking matters into our own hands and trying to grow our own food as much as possible is a good start."