Why Choosing Local Food Can Make a Global Impact
By Christy Erickson
With increasing concerns about climate change, more people are asking themselves what they can do to make a difference. Many of us think about our fuel consumption and how driving impacts our carbon footprint, but what we do right at home is just as important. Making smarter choices in our homes, including what we eat and where we get our food, is a major area we can minimize our personal impact on climate change.
Climate Change Starts at Home
The energy we consume in our homes can be substantial. Thankfully, committing to live greener lifestyles can make a major difference. Start with small, everyday habits like recycling more, composting, and catching rainwater. You can also make green swaps within your home, like purchasing energy-efficient appliances and installing permeable pavers.
Agriculture and Climate Change
Another way you can reduce your carbon footprint is to be conscientious of your food choices and the link between food and climate change. It all starts with agriculture, which adds to greenhouse gases in the environment in several ways. Many of us are aware of how much carbon dioxide (CO2) contributes to global warming, but agriculture produces two other greenhouse gases: methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Livestock is the biggest culprit because cows produce methane as part of their digestive cycle, and producing beef also requires much more land and feed than other agriculture. This means beef and dairy are two foods that have the most negative impact on climate change.
The link between food and climate change isn’t just about agriculture. Besides farming, food systems also include processing, packaging, transporting, and marketing. The distance food travels from production to consumption is one of the major ways food affects the environment. When you go to the grocery store and buy fruits and vegetables out of season, they have traveled hundreds of miles to get to your plate. According to CNN, asparagus in the United States is usually flown in from Latin America, resulting in very high emissions of greenhouse gases. This is why buying organic produce from local farmers, which has traveled much fewer miles, is an easy way to cut your impact on climate change.
As an added benefit, buying produce from your local farmers market also cuts down on unnecessary packaging. Instead of using multiple plastic bags, you can bring one market tote to hold everything. Even buying meat and dairy from your farmers market is more sustainable than buying them from the grocery store, since you know your food hasn’t gone through lengthy transportation.
Reducing Food Waste
Food waste is an unfortunate effect of our food production system, yet we are all capable of reducing it at a personal level. According to The Washington Post, reducing food waste is one of the most impactful ways we can slow climate change. In grocery stores, food waste often starts with customers rejecting fruits and vegetables that don’t look perfect or items that are close to expiring. One way you can make a difference is to embrace ripe and bruised fruits and veggies. Plus, when you get produce from a local farmers market, you know it’s fresh, so you don’t have to worry about it going bad as quickly.
The Environmental Impact of Local Food
Besides limiting greenhouse gases and reducing waste, buying locally grown food is better for your environment on a smaller scale, too. Many small farmers grow their food without pesticides because they don’t have to worry about the massive scale of larger farms. No toxins in your food means no toxins in you—or your local ecosystems. According to GoGreen.org, supporting local farmers also means they’re able to stay in business, which keeps land from being developed for other uses that are unfriendly to the environment.
It is amazing to see how many ways buying locally grown food impacts the environment. From protecting ecosystems to reducing greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, buying food locally is a small decision with a major impact. Fighting climate change truly does start at home with these everyday choices.
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