Illustration: Jackie Besteman

Cash Crops
Chicagoans shelled out $132.1 million for organic food last year, up 13.8 percent from the previous year. But compared with the rest of the country, it seems Chicagoans still prefer produce that’s been doused with bug spray. Across a broad array of items, Chicago area grocery stores averaged sharply lower sales of foods labeled organic than did grocers nationwide, according to A. C. Nielsen. Local sales of organic foods and beverages were 18 percent below the national average. Chicagoans lag particularly when it comes to organic milk: sales were 72 percent below average. But different standards apparently apply for the smallest Chicagoans. Local stores logged 25-percent higher sales of strained organic baby foods compared with stores in the rest of the country. (Chicagoans also like their potatoes pesticide free: area sales for organic spuds were 36 percent higher than nationally.)

Organic doesn’t come cheap-you’ll spend about 20 percent more for it, according to Sherwyn Cotovsky, co-owner of Sherwyn’s Health Food Shops, on Diversey Parkway. But, says Dave Grotto, a Chicago-based nutritionist and spokesman for the American Dietetic Association, buying organic will get you more nutrient bang for your buck. You’ll also be helping the environment. And yourself. When his clients make the decision to purchase organic food, he says, “they tend to make healthier choices overall.”

Chicago Spending on Organic Foods (2005)
Organic food
Local versus national sales
Increase from 2004


72% less
53.1 %
12% less
1.4 %
13% less
7.9 %
36% more
22.6 %
Baby Food
25% more
10.9 %
Ground Coffee
23% less
66.6 %
Peanut Butter
34% less
0.5 %
Source: A. C. Nielsen

States of Giving
Illinois residents give about as good as they get, according to a 2005 study that compares charitable donations with income. Illinoisans take home 4.4 percent of the country’s after-tax income (adjusted for cost of living) and account for 4.2 percent of charitable donations, for a generosity ratio of .97, according to the Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy.

That gives Illinois a generosity ranking of 18th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. You’ll find the highest generosity ratio in D.C., which accounts for only 0.2 percent of adjusted income but 0.4 percent of contributions; it is followed by Utah, which has 0.8 percent of adjusted income but 1.3 percent of all donations.

It’s not that more generous people live in the high-giving areas, says Paul Schervis, one of the study’s authors; instead, more people in those areas go to church, which seems to create more opportunities to give. Schervis says other factors contributing to generosity include being able to identify with the plight of others, being grateful for what you have, and wanting to be an agent for change.

Most Charitable of Them All
Ratio of donations to adjusted income*

1. Washington D.C.

2. Utah
3. Maryland, New York (tied)
4. Connecticut
5. California
17. Illinois

*Based on national share of donations and income
Source: Boston College Center on Wealth and Prosperity

Face Time
Is your neighbor or colleague looking suspiciously vibrant and youthful all of a sudden? The Midwest boasts second place in overall use of Botox, accounting for 20 percent of the 3.8 million patients who underwent the procedure in the United States last year, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The West Coast is the Botox leader, with 37 percent of all treatments.

Exact figures for the Chicago area aren’t available, but Sam Speron, a Park Ridge plastic surgeon, has come up with an estimate based on the number of local doctors-from plastic surgeons to medical internists to gynecologists-who are providing the wrinkle-removing injections. Speron says that 150,000 Chicago area residents received Botox treatments last year. Since the average cost per Botox procedure is $382, and the average length between treatments is three to six months (and Botox involves sharp needles), you may consider some cheaper-and less invasive-alternatives for wrinkle-free skin. For example, a baby aspirin, 400 IU (international units) of vitamin E, and 500 to 1,000 mg of vitamin C a day, says Speron, help keep skin looking young. But that’s only if you remember to wear sunscreen and forgo smoking.