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A COMMUNITY DEDICATED TO TELLING THE STORIES OF ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCATES WORKING TOWARDS MAKING THIS WORLD A BETTER PLACE.
“Eat local” is a phrase commonly thrown around in our generation, but what does it actually mean and why should you do it? There are many benefits to eating locally, and here are just a few:
1. Supporting local farmers
The consumer has so much power. By deciding how you spend your money, you are indirectly voting for what you think is right and what is wrong. By buying locally, you are supporting local farmers and food producers, as well as their families. You can rest assured that the money will not be kept by a ‘middle man’ with the actual producer receiving very little. Additionally, local and small farms are already struggling to compete with big farms who mass produce their goods and can afford to keep their costs low. Therefore, local farms need as much support as they can get to stay in business.
2. Reduced carbon emissions
In a world faced with climate change, primarily caused by increased carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere as a result of man's activities, the transport of goods is a significant contributor to rising CO2 levels. Globalization has meant that we can buy any vegetable/fruit in stores, regardless of season. However, this is only possible by having food produced in other countries where climate is suitable for growing a given crop. The produce then needs to be transported via plane, ship, rail or trucks, all of which emit CO2 either directly or indirectly. Perishable produce needs to be shipped quickly. By buying locally, carbon emissions are reduced, as the produce is no longer shipped over long distances, and therefore you are reducing your impact on climate change!
3. Less plastic
In big supermarkets, fresh produce is often sold in pre-packed plastic bags to facilitate transport and selling in stores. However, plastic is a major issue in our world. Plastics are produced by fossil fuels and they take thousands of years to decompose, with most plastic living indefinitely. This means more waste in landfills or more carbon emissions from burning of waste (incineration). When buying locally, produce is not wrapped or packaged in plastic – a win-win!
4. Greater variety
Large supermarkets often offer a limited variety of local fruits and vegetables, depending on consumer demand and availability in large quantities. In contrast, local farmers produce a greater variety of seasonal vegetables and fruits, providing you with a larger range of nutrients and vitamins.
5. Better tasting
Fruit and vegetables that are grown elsewhere and transported over large distances have to be harvested before they are fully ripe to prevent them from going bad. Locally produced fresh food can be harvested when ripe, as it is sold in close proximity to where it was grown. Fruits and vegetables that have had the time to ripen naturally taste better and will also have more nutrients and vitamins!
So how do you go about eating locally? Let me share with you my story pertaining to doing so while living in the UK. I used to buy fruits and vegetables at Tesco, but soon realised they only sold British onions, potatoes, carrots and parsnips, with the majority of their vegetables sourced from elsewhere. I got bored very quickly of the limited choice of relatively ‘local’ produce. Also, it was all wrapped in plastic. It was then that I decided I needed to find a better alternative. I started looking at the local market halls but even the greengrocers there sold vegetables and fruit bought from large suppliers, with foods coming from all parts of the world. I was getting frustrated with the situation and was beginning to feel hopeless, so I decided to search for local farms on Google. Many results came up, and after having a look at the websites, I emailed one of the farms. Soon after, I ordered my first fruit+veg box from 'The Paddock' and since then have been receiving them weekly at my doorstep! I always look forward to receiving the fruit+veg box every week, as it makes me happy knowing that I am contributing to the five benefits listed above.
If you would like to make a positive change in the world, why not try eating locally? Based on my experience, here are some tips for facilitating your journey to doing so:
Good luck with eating locally, and hopefully you will quickly see the benefits! If you have any other tips or advice on how/where to get started, please feel free to comment below. I look forward to hearing about your experiences!
Leona grew up in eight countries on three continents, making the world her home. This has given her the chance to see so many amazing places, which she is passionate to protect. Apart from being a student at Durham University, she loves playing basketball and hiking.
Being conscious of your waste is completely possible whilst you’re in school y’all, and I am living proof! Here are a few of the things that I try very hard to do whenever the opportunity presents itself, and are things you can implement into your lifestyle as well.
Get some at a thrift store for $1-2 or reuse some old sauce/peanut butter/salsa jars and let them change your life. Take them with you when you bulk grocery shop, pack food to go in them, use them for water and smoothies and coffee (the handled ones with a cuppow lid do wonderfully for this!). Seriously, go find/buy some jars. Wash them. Use them. Again and again and again.
I bring my mason jar (outfitted for coffee), water bottle, cloth bags, and utensil kit with me everywhere. During the week I carry them in my backpack and if I go out exploring off campus I make sure to transfer it to whatever bag I am using. I accumulated my set by the way of gifts and thrifty finds, but if you want a brand new everything this is a good place to start.
Find your nearest thrift store and always check it first before buying something brand new. For me, this is a Goodwill that is about a mile up the road. It is where I bought pots and pans, some room furnishings, mason jars, and where I went when I splurged on a new dress for the holidays. Speaking of clothes (also outdoor gear, if you’re outdoorsy by nature like me), buy second hand! If you can’t get yourself to do that, then do some research into the clothes/gear you buy and make sure they are ethical and sustainable brands.
College Dining Halls
One good thing (look at me, finding a silver lining and all) about dining halls is that the food is sold to you without packaging (I try not to think about all of the plastic waste that results from the kitchens) for the main courses. I try really hard to not buy any of the ‘grab-n-go’ items that are packaged in plastic. Sometimes I will grab a drink in a glass bottle or a Clif bar (see below) and I’ve yet to rid my usage of paper napkins.
So as much as I hate to admit this, books do have quite an eco impact and they can add to the general clutter of your living space (although, do they really count as clutter if you love them like children?). This semester, I have been using the local library to borrow books--for leisure and school. It has saved me tons of money on school books and for my leisure books it allows me to know if I like a book enough to purchase it to have and to hold. Plus, the fleeting time you have with a book makes you appreciate all the more with the time you have. Ignore that sentence, I am just rambling and don’t even really know what is going on.
One of the reasons that I call my lifestyle low waste and not zero waste is because Clif bars are my weakness. They are DELICIOUS and VEGAN and CONVENIENT and just overall add to Things That Are Good In LifeTM. It is actually a bit ridiculous how many clif bars I consume now that I am reflecting upon this... ANYHOW, the point IS is that you can actually recycle the wrappers over at Terracycle, as well as a myriad of other packaging that no one really knows what to do with, besides contributing it to the massive piles of garbage from this consumerism-driven-society-that-ruins-every-green-place-in-this-world.
I am lucky to live in a place that has city-wide composting (go you, Portland!), but if you don’t have this privilege, then make your own compost bins and smile because you are making a difference for this wonderful planet!
Bulk Grocery Shopping
Bring your containers/bags/jars and get to your nearest store with a bulk section. Even more and more ‘regular’ grocery stores are starting to have bulk sections. Bonus: going into a grocery store and refusing to buy anything with packaging forces you to be healthy. Although, I’ve still managed to find bulk chocolate chips…and we all know how that goes.
As I am a first-year student, I live in a dorm. Among many other things (kitchen cleanliness anyone?) the paper towel waste in the bathroom is something that really bothers me. My environmental club, Greenboard, is trying to get campus-wide paper towel composting and/or switch to real towels, but in the meantime I either use my clothes as a towel or make sure I take the paper towels I use to the compost bin nearby in the kitchen. Portland allows for paper towels to be composted, but definitely check with whatever system you are using to be sure that this is okay. Or just use a regular towel--bonus points: this might help with making your dorm seem less like a prison and more like a home as well.
That’s all I have for now folks. Sometimes it’s hard to live a low waste life and you have to make some compromises, but let’s just remember that by implementing earth-friendly habits we do make a difference, no matter how small it may outwardly seem! We are keeping plastic out of the oceans and coffee cups out of the landfills and helping the animals and the wild places and I suppose the human race by default. If we stick together, together we can do something big!
Mahalia is a college student living in Portland, OR and enjoys eating vegan food, wandering the wild and petting ALL the animals. She is going to save the oceans.
My first experience of the tragic amount of food that supermarkets waste was a couple of years ago on an adventure to the Co-op with my Mum (exciting I know) to buy food for my Grannie. But it’s not every day that you go to the shops and come back wanting to change the world just a little bit. It was all because I attempted to buy some Love Hearts from the reduced price section. I was actually pretty excited by the prospect of getting a bag of Love Hearts for 29p as I always love a good bargain. However when I got to the till the cashier told me she couldn’t sell them to me because they were 2 days out of date. She said they’d have to be binned. My mum asked whether they could go “in her bin” but the cashier refused. It probably wouldn’t have bothered most people but I came out of the shop annoyed. I would have understood if they had been 5 or 6 years out of date, but 2 days past an over-cautious best before date was just ridiculous. I know that one packet of love hearts wouldn’t solve the world’s hunger crisis if it was given away instead of binned, but it made me stop and think about how much food is being wasted and about how many people go without food every single day.
So here are a couple of positive things we can to do to combat the problem of food waste:
FoodCycle – I signed up to help out with Food Cycle in Durham, a charity that cooks meals for people at risk of food poverty, and am so glad I did. Here are a couple reasons pertaining to why it's a great thing with which to get involved:
The reduced section – If you are a student reading this, I doubt you need any help at understanding the concept of the reduced section! Look for the yellow labels and buy them up (otherwise they’ll be binned by the end of the day!).
Be creative with your meals – If you see something in the reduced section that you wouldn’t normally cook with, buy it and make something different. 'BBC GoodFood' is a life saver for figuring out what you can make with what you have. Just type in the rogue ingredient, sift through a couple recipe options and try to make something different! If you don’t have something from the recipe, Google alternatives for it and you may find that you already have what you need! For example, you can use 1 teaspoon of baking soda mixed with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or a banana to replace 1 egg. Multiple other substitutes exist for things you might not have in your refrigerator/pantry; don't be afraid to pop the ingredient in a search, you may be amazed with what you find!
The freezer – The freezer is a fantastic way to reduce our own personal food waste. You can freeze almost anything! Cook or roast vegetables that are beginning to turn and then save for another day.
These are only a couple of ideas of how we can promote a culture of food use not food waste, although there are many more out there (feel free to share your tips in the comments below)! So why not take up the challenge of implementing some of these habits into your lifestyle? Have fun whilst cooking, eating with friends and feasting on great conversations!
Roseanna has lived near the sea in the UK for most of her life, which has grown her love for walking along the coast and swimming in the sea. Exploring and finding beautiful places in both the countryside and in towns makes her super happy too!