Every week we bring you a simple idea for reducing your carbon footprint and protecting the planet. This week: the benefits of buying food locally.

It’s no secret that we live in a consumerist culture. Advertising, mass production and the advent of superfast delivery means that a lot of us are in constant pursuit of satisfaction by spending. And while that might be good news for our instant gratification sweet spots, it’s taking its toll on the environment. In fact, according to a study entitled ‘Environmental Impact Assessment of Household Consumption’, what people consume is responsible for up to 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

There are ways to tackle this, though. Minimalism is becoming increasingly popular, as is choosing brands and labels that integrate sustainability throughout their products and operations. Another option, buying locally, will also make a significant dent in your stuff-related carbon footprint.

Buying local comes with a raft of benefits, for both you the shopper, and the planet. For example:

  • Local food is seasonal, which means it requires less energy to grow and transport. Take asparagus: flying it in from South America when it’s out of season in the UK results in a carbon footprint 28 times higher than growing it here.
  • There’s way less packaging involved. Supermarket shelves are overflowing with plastic-wrapped items, whereas locally-bought food usually has limited packaging.
  • You know where your food comes from if you buy it locally, which means you get to more easily decide whether or not to buy a product that has been grown with pesticides, or that contains palm oil, for example.

Plus, buying local food means you get a fresher and more varied diet packed with fresh fruit and veg, all the while supporting your local economy and fostering a sense of community. And it’s not as expensive as you might think. A number of real-life challenges have shown that there’s not a huge amount of price difference between buying from a local seller and buying from a supermarket, although a lot will depend on the specific product and location you’re in – many advocates suggest relying on local sellers for everyday essentials and supermarkets for less frequent purchases, to help balance out any extra costs.

Buying locally isn’t quite like shopping in a supermarket, though. Local sellers aren’t available 24 hours a day, nor is there always parking nearby, or a cashpoint to hand. Getting into the habit of buying locally – even if only occasionally – will require a tweak in your shopping mindset. Here are some tips to get you started.

  1. Do your research

Find out when and where your nearest farmers’ market operates, either by searching farmshop.uk.com, or by simply typing ‘farmers markets near me’ into Google. Unlike a big supermarket chain, they’re unlikely to be open every day of the week, so you may have to put a special date in your diary.

  1. Plan ahead

Find out what’s in season and figure out how much food you need to last until your next visit, then make a rough meal plan for the week – this will help avoid unnecessary food waste and make sure you’re not caught short and end up at the supermarket after all.

  1. Browse before buying

Have a good wander around the market before you buy anything – this will give you a good sense of what’s available, which produce looks the freshest and which sellers fit your budget.

  1. Wear a smile

Markets, butchers, fishmongers and the like are all very community-driven, so take the time to chat and start a friendly relationship. In the future you may then be able to phone ahead to ask what’s new on the stall, or have something specific put aside for you.

  1. Come prepared

Many farmers’ markets and local shops don’t take card payments, so make sure you’ve got enough cash on you – the same applies to shopping bags. Some might have cheap plastic bags to hand, but that sort of defeats the purpose of buying locally – bring your own!

We would love to hear your comments and stories about the issues raised in this article:

 

  

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