I read a blog post somewhere and the writer asked, “Why do we trust celebrities and national brands so much over locally produced items by our community?” It’s a valid question. We tend to trust things that have the most marketing, advertising, or followers. I know I do sometimes. Locally-made products usually require a little more seeking out and it’s harder for them to reach us. Maybe they’re only on social media and can’t afford national advertising. Maybe they’re only available in a specific store that’s several miles away from you. Maybe they’re not the first result that pops up on Google search and you only found them after digging through blog comments.
Lately, I’ve been trying to support more local businesses, you know, #smallbusinesssaturdays, mom and pop shops, Etsy shops, etc. But I think the easiest way to start shopping local is by doing your grocery shopping at the local farmer’s market. Now that it’s warm and sunny most of the time in New York City, I love taking advantage of our farmer’s market. Yeah, it’s a little farther than my go-to Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s and I also have plenty of options just blocks away from me, but let me explain to you why buying local food, and local products in general is the better option, the more sustainable option.
- Less Travel – Food travels less miles to get to your plate, reducing the amount of pollution caused from traveling. According to GrowNYC, it can take 435 fossil-fuel calories to fly a 5-calorie strawberry from California to NYC.
- Less Packaging – Skip the flattened bagged spinach at the grocery store and grab your reusable totes and produce bags. Not only is the local lettuce fresher, it doesn’t come with any packaging so you can feel good about contributing to the zero-waste lifestyle in some way. Remember, any scraps you don’t use can be composted!
- Less Expensive – When you buy food in season or at its peak, it can be less expensive because of its abundance and also because there’s no middle man in the equation. Straight from the farm to the market stand – shouldn’t buying food be that simple?
- Better taste – Food that doesn’t have to travel as far preserve more nutrients, so they taste better and they’re better for you. Think about all the checkpoints produce has to go through before it gets to the supermarket: farm, truck/plane, distribution warehouse where I’m sure there are several other mini checkpoints in between. It can take up to two weeks, in some cases even a month before produce reaches supermarket shelves. We all know produce isn’t meant to last that long in transit, so count on your gut feeling that it was probably sprayed with pesticides.
- Promotes the local community – Supporting the local farmers ensures they’ll stay in business and in turn helps strengthen the economy and keep jobs. Your money stays within your community. National chains and big box retailers tend to contribute to unemployment. You can also count on your local farmers to answer any questions you might have. They know more about the produce, land, and agriculture than the grocery stock boy.
But what if you want to buy something that can’t be grown or made locally in most regions e.g., avocados, bananas, oranges? You can of course still buy them (I’m an avocado toast addict,) but be mindful about it. Ask questions and learn about where your produce comes from. Figure out if it’s non-GMO. You can still be sustainably conscious by thinking and contributing globally. Take it in steps – start by looking at the stickers on the produce you buy to see where it originated. Do some research. Then take a stroll at your nearest farmer’s market and compare prices and selection. It’s actually really fun, even if you don’t end up buying anything!
If you live in NYC, we also have CSA programs – community supported agriculture. You pay a certain amount up front for the season and your produce gets delivered to you from local farmers. Click here for more info.
For all my travel enthusiasts – think about when you travel – doesn’t it feel unique and special when you get to eat the local food and take home something locally made? The same should apply to your community. Not only is it more sustainable to support local farmers and businesses, but you’re also representing your community. Be proud of where you’re from or where you reside and continue to make it special!