Have you ever wondered how you can reduce environmental impact and, at the same time, contribute to your community’s well-being? Then you have come to the right place! To do so, you can begin by buying local products grown right next to you, by your neighbors! Nowadays, we are all concerned with climate change and how global economy contributes to it, and we feel that the issue is too big for us to solve. This is where we are wrong. If we all pitch in as a community, we have the power to make huge positive changes. We just have to commit to it, and a great start is by buying local products.
What are local foods?
The National Agricultural Library of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines local foods ‘as the direct or intermediate marketing of food to consumers that is produced and distributed in a limited geographic area’. In simpler words, it’s food that is grown or produced, processed, and then sold within a certain area (Chait, 2019). These are some of the products you can buy locally:
● Fruits and vegetables ●
● Milk ●
● Eggs, meat and fish ●
● Herbs ●
● Flowers ●
Why should we choose local products?
1. Shorter transportation = less environmental impact
Some of the foods we eat travel halfway around the world before making it to our plate. This is detrimental for the environment because it means that fossil fuels have been consumed either by plane, boat, train or truck. The Department of Energy defines fossil fuels as ‘nonrenewable resources that formed when prehistoric plants and animals died and were buried by layers of rock’. They are burned to generate power, being a primary source of energy for the transportation sector; meanwhile, being a leading source of the world’s global warming pollution, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Next time you eat something, think about how far it traveled to get into your hands. Your snack could be causing global warming!
2. The closer, the fresher
The shorter distance your food travels, the fresher it will be because it will spend less time on the road, on the sea or in the sky. You may eat a strawberry that was attached to the plants a few hours ago. Better yet, if you visit a local farm, you could eat it right off the plant! How’s that for fresh eating?
3. Better for your health
Most small-scale farmers use small doses of pesticides, while others avoid them. This may be a factor that reduces the probability of toxins and contaminants residue on the crops, meaning that these won’t enter your body when you eat them. Another important health benefit is that most local products are preservative-free. Preservatives are substances that are added to products in order to delay or prevent the growth of microbes, and hence decomposition. Since local foods don’t travel far and are sold near their origin, preservatives are not necessary to maintain food quality.
4. Less packaging = less plastic
Let’s face it, plastic is taking over the world. Laura Parker from, National Geographic cites Dr. Jenna Jambeck from the University of Georgia who states that ‘some 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flows into the oceans every year from coastal regions.’ We can reduce this if we choose to buy local, unwrapped and unpackaged products. Ditch the plastic bag once and for all and use cloth bags for your shopping. Marine wildlife will thank you.
5. Give your food a face!
Meeting your local farmers will help you understand the struggles of the agricultural life and how thankful we should be for the work that they do every day. Knowing the origin of your food and the people that work the land that produce it will help us learn about the process. We will realize that it doesn’t all happen far away. You will be conscious and aware of the steps it takes, the hard work farmers put in, and most importantly, you will know exactly where your food comes from. This way, you will meet members of your community and this will encourage you to sustain and support it. As we buy their products, we also maintain a local money flow. Just imagine, the carrots you buy today could help fund the education of your neighbor’s children. In my opinion, that’s better than filling the pockets of an unknown CEO.
6. Support food diversity
We all know that eating just one thing is not healthy. In order to obtain all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals we need to properly function, we need to consume a variety of foods. Because local production is seasonal, you will not be eating the same thing year-round. Some local farmers tend to grow different varieties than the ones we are accustomed to seeing in supermarkets. This promotes genetic diversity in food, and the greater it is, the greater the opportunity for resiliency to future climate change (Lynch, 2016). Yet another weapon we can use to fight climate change and help improve our planet’s health.
Where can we buy local foods?
● Grocery stores
● Farmers market
● Local events
● Local farms
● Ask your community members
● Grow it!
Buy local for a better world
It’s not just about buying local products, it’s about supporting local businesses, helping your neighbors, reducing environmental impact, keeping the money flow in your community, cutting down on processing and packaging, reducing transportation waste, and most importantly, being a responsible and an active member in your community. Big changes start with small steps. Together, we can create a better world to live in. After all, we all share the same home.
Let’s keep it thriving!
"As I became more aware of my surroundings, I realized the gravity of the food safety issue in Puerto Rico and of the negative effects agriculture has on the environment. This encouraged me to pursue an agricultural career and my first step was to obtain a bachelor's degree in Crop Protection at the University of Puerto Rico. In Fall 2019, I will be starting my Master's in Environment and Natural Resources, specializing in Soil Science at The Ohio State University. Mentored by Dr. Rattan Lal, the research will be focused on soil organic matter dynamics in avocado plantations. Ultimately, I aspire to collaborate with the agricultural industry to implement sustainable and agroecological practices that will enhance the environment's health and maximize farmers' yields. Along the way, I hope to empower others to reach their full potential, as well as to encourage them to become part of the solutions to the issues that threaten the planet's survival."
You can find the Spanish version of the article.
Arrowquip.Top Benefits of buying locally grown food. Animal Science. June 6, 2017. https://arrowquip.com/blog/animal-science/top-benefits-buying-locally-grown-food.
Chait, Jennifer. Locally Grown Food. The Balance Small Business. January 18, 2019. https://www.thebalancesmb.com/what-does-locally-grown-really-mean-2538258.
Department of Energy. Fossil. https://www.energy.gov/science-innovation/energy-sources/fossil.
Lynch, Abigail.Why is genetic diversity important?April 26, 2016.https://www.usgs.gov/center-news/why-genetic-diversity-important.
National Agriculture Library. United States Department of Agriculture. https://www.nal.usda.gov/aglaw/local-foods#quicktabs-aglaw_pathfinder=1.
Parker, Laura. Fast facts about plastic pollution. National Geographic. December 20, 2018. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/05/plastics-facts-infographics-ocean-pollution/
Union of Concerned Scientists. The hidden costs of fossil fuels.August 30, 2016. https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-energy/coal-and-other-fossil-fuels/hidden-cost-of-fossils.