Why should I bother to “buy local”?

by Guest Writer

When looking for different ways on how I could personally make my life a little greener, I kept coming across the tip to eat locally. Since there is a 24-hour farmer’s market across the street from my apartment, I have unknowingly been decreasing my carbon footprint. So, buying locally can be checked off my green list. During the summer months this phrase “buy local, eat local” gets thrown around often, but what exactly does buying local mean, how does it benefit the environment and what’s in it for you? In this article we’re going to run through the buying local basics so, you know why you’re getting green points the next time you buy from a local farmer or merchant.

Buying local means buying a good (be it vegetables, fruit, meat, breads, clothes, crafts, appliances, etc.) that is manufactured within the closest proximity to you. For different products this distance may vary from your back yard to the next state over. The idea behind buying locally is sustainable, in the sense that if you pay for a good from a local farmer or merchant they will then return the favor and put what you gave to them back into the community. Farmers and storeowners may do this by buying from local suppliers or donating to local causes. This constant cycle, will help the community grow as a whole and will circle around to benefit everyone participating in it.

The case for buying locally from farmers has the same issues as it does with local merchants. There is often an on going battle between local and corporation, the usual case being “Wal-Mart vs. mom-and-pop shops”. When the public buys from a corporation (or corporate farm) the headquarters are often distant and the company services a much larger population than a local business would. This leads to supplies being shipped in bulk from over seas to meet the demand. Once resources are bought else where, the local community does not see much benefit coming back to them and the local businesses suffer. There are obviously other complications and different sides to this argument, but these are the basic issues that local farmers are faced with.

Aside from the economic aspect of buying locally, there are many other perks that will personally benefit you by trying to purchase your food in this way. The most important reason being, that your food taste better, plain and simple! When you buy produce from a local farm, transportation and shelf life are not an issue. Eliminating these factors allows fruits and veggies to have more time to naturally ripen and be enjoyed in their prime.

Another personal benefit you can reap by buying locally is that you know where your food comes from. If you are concerned about pesticides, the use of GMOs, how your veggies have been fertilized or other issues you can ask those questions while you’re shopping. Odds are someone from the farm will be working at the stand you buy your produce from. This gives you the opportunity to ask questions and get to know the growers behind the ingredients on your table. The same goes for buying meat–I personally like how our August eco18 interviewee, Mark Scarbrough, put it, that he doesn’t usually eat meat unless he can shake the hand of the farmer it came from.

In addition to all of the delicious benefits, buying locally will appeal to your green side. When you curb your purchasing habits closer to home, transportation for the goods significantly decreases. Since the travel distance is closer, the energy it takes to transport the food is cut significantly. This means less air emissions and one step closer to a cleaner environment. The decrease in distance also means less packaging and extra resources to help keep your food fresh. By eliminating the shipping distance and need for packaging your wallet will also be happy, since these factors will often lower the price of your produce.

So, what do you think? Will you hit the farmer’s market when it’s time for new produce this week?

If you are interesting in looking for a farmer’s market near you or learning more about buying locally check out http://www.localharvest.org.

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