Sustainability Column: Benefits of Eating Local Food

Ethan Reiser, Sustainability Intern

Many people are often looking for ways that they can become more sustainable or environmentally friendly. They usually start by turning off the lights when they leave a room, or walking instead of driving. However, a really easy opportunity to become more sustainable is simply eating locally-sourced foods.

Eating locally-sourced foods not only helps the environment but also is usually a healthier alternative to mass-produced foods that can be made halfway across the country. Supporting the local farmers in your area can also be beneficial during periods of environmental change. Climate change will drastically reduce the amount of biodiversity on the planet, and may result in food shortages that could affect the entire human population. Eating local foods can help local farmers through economic crisis that may result from a food shortage.

Not only does eating locally support the farmers in your area, but it could also help you as well. It allows you, as the consumer, to have a voice in where your food comes from, how it is raised or grown and what kinds of treatments it gets. You could choose to eat foods that utilize fewer pesticides and herbicides during growing, which can be beneficial for not only the environment, but also for your personal health. Not only that, you can reduce the amount of energy that is stored in your food. For example, oranges that are shipped from Florida to Maine carry far more energy than apples that are locally grown in Maine. This is because the amount of fuel and energy that it takes to transport, store and maintain the oranges is far greater than it would be for the locally grown apples.

Eating locally is also beneficial to the local economy. When you purchase from a local farmer, that money can be used at another local business. This benefits the local economy, rather than a large corporation that may be located across the country. And, if you develop a positive relationship with local farmers, they may be more inclined to help during an economic crisis. During difficult times, local farmers may be able to accept barters or trades for their locally grown food, contrary to large food producers that will not. Indeed, eating locally also develops positive and important community relationships. You can learn more about your local environment and region, as well as learning more about the people around you. Becoming more involved in the lives of those around you can enrich both your life and theirs.

Locally-sourced foods generally taste much better! The flavor and nutrients that are found in locally-grown foods are richer and tend to be more complex. From a sustainability, health, and community perspective, locally-grown foods are clearly superior. I encourage you to incorporate them into your diet if you want to increase your environmental friendliness.

Contact Ethan Reiser at [email protected].