It’s not easy being green—especially considering most of the western world is programmed to grab the faster, cheaper option (even if it’s not necessarily better). Not so long ago, and still today in many cultures around the world, people gathered their harvest in the fall and prepared for a long winter without much access to fresh foods. Nowadays, we have the ability to get our food from all over the world. But consider this: access to food that is out of season and shipped from elsewhere to be sold by your local grocer is neither sustainable for the environment nor optimal for your health. Let’s explore why it’s important to eat local and seasonal food and how you can plan ahead to enjoy your favorite foods year-round.
When food is shipped from outside your general region (say, for example, 100 miles outside your home), the fuel consumption and the emission of air pollution from greenhouse gases as a result of transporting these items have a direct impact on the environment. Specifically, transportation potentially affects global warming. Plus, the materials used to seal and package these foods—including glass, plastic, cardboard and metal—require a lot of energy, water, and other natural resources to produce, and contribute to significant waste that, if not disposed of properly, pollutes the air, water, and soil.
When it comes to your health, YL founder Victoria explains, “All produce grown abroad—organic included—is picked, washed, and often sealed prior to the journey to its international destination. This preparation, plus transit, time spent in the store, then in the refrigerator, adds up to a significant time from farm to table. As food ages, especially produce, the nutrient value declines.”
Conversely, the farms in your region provide the nutrients you need for optimal health because their foods are, quite simply, fresher. Although some farms are not officially certified as organic due to the high costs associated with that accreditation, many use organic-like practices. Organic farms and farms that employ organic practices contribute to the well-being of the environment by conserving and maintaining water and soil quality, minimizing health threats to farm workers, and encouraging biodiversity (in which a natural variety of plant life positively affects the soil) and a sustainable biosystem. Visiting your local farm and/or farmer’s market and speaking directly to the farmer is an easy way to get all the answers you need about how your food is grown and how long it travels from farm to table.
Eating locally connects you with your local farms and your community, supports the environment, and gives you the natural nutrition your body needs. There is no better way to eat and support the environment.
- Plan Ahead. Gather local foods in bulk and at the peak of the season, then focus on recipes that capitalize on the current harvest. This allows for healthier choices for your body and the planet. And if you love, say, blueberries, but can’t wait for summer to enjoy this fruit, the smartest solution is to plan ahead. Create a calendar of in-season foods to remind you to stock up on your favorites and preserve to eat out-of-season.
- Ask for deals. Make a visit to your local farmer’s market or fruit farm and ask about bulk discounts. Oftentimes farmers have set prices for individual items, but may negotiate for buying food in bulk. There may also be special deals toward the end of the market when farmers are looking to offload whatever didn’t sell.
- Can and freeze your favorite seasonal food. Canning and freezing food helps you gather local harvest, preserve it, and enjoy it out of season. Ask for tips on canning and freezing specific foods from your local farmer or research the process online.