Yes, locally-sourced seasonal produce boasts more developed flavor profiles and higher nutritional value, but if you’ve been following our recent blog posts, you know that these account for a small fraction of the benefits that come from eating seasonal produce. Another important argument for adopting seasonal eating habits is the environmental impact. As we highlighted recently, purchasing seasonal produce from local growers can significantly reduce your footprint. If—like many of our customers—you value sustainability, here some ways to incorporate your values into your shopping routine:
1. Be conscious of packaging.
For most enterprises, there are two main considerations when designing product packaging: attracting the eye of the consumer, and keeping costs low. This model prioritizes these factors over environmentalism, resulting in high production of unrecyclable materials. Opting for companies that utilize recyclable or repurposed materials for their packaging is one way to reduce your waste output. You can reduce waste even further by shopping in the bulk aisle. Certain co-ops and eco-friendly marketplaces even allow shoppers to bring their own reusable containers for bulk items, thereby omitting the need for additional plastic bags and storage containers.
2. Eat more produce.
We promise this isn’t our bias speaking. In fact, numerous studies, including this 2011 study by Environmental Working Group, show that animal-based foods are much more resource-intensive than plant-based products. Raising livestock requires considerably more water and land use and accounts for a significant majority of greenhouse gas emissions in the agriculture production industry. If your diet is oriented around regular meat consumption, choosing to replace one animal-based entree with a plant-based entree per week can have a significant impact on your environmental footprint.
3. Reduce your food miles.
Food miles is a term used to describe the distance food travels to reach the hands of the consumer. The farther your food has to travel, the more fossil fuels are required in its transportation. In most cases, the journey for local produce is more efficient than for imported produce; however, these benefits can be offset by inefficient transit means. Walking, biking, or reducing the number of times your drive to the grocery store can help keep food miles on local produce low.
A convenient alternative is to utilize one of Portland’s grocery delivery services. A study conducted by University of Washington concluded that “using a grocery delivery service can cut carbon dioxide emissions by at least half when compared with individual household trips to the store. Trucks filled to capacity that deliver to customers clustered in neighborhoods produced the most savings in carbon dioxide emissions.” Next time you need to restock on groceries, do the environment and yourself a favor by delegating it to a delivery service instead!
4. Leave your preconceptions at the door.
When attempting to implement eco-friendly consumer practices, maintaining an open mind is key. People can carry misconceptions about particular produce, which inadvertently limits their ability to shop local, organic produce. At GGO, we’ve had the fortunate experience of witnessing several customers’ long-held negative perceptions change after enjoying locally-grown varieties. In addition to adding diversity to your diet, expanding your horizons to include unfamiliar local varieties will make it easier to support local organic farmers.
5. Support local crop planting initiatives.
Operating similarly to a pre-order, crop planting is a process where buyers determine the quantity and variety of produce they require for their market, then work directly with farmers to inform their growing decisions. There are many obstacles to growing produce for a traditional consumer market, but crop planting circumvents eliminating speculation, thereby reducing food waste and providing additional security to small farmers.
6. Know what to avoid.
There is a long list of environmentally destructive ingredients. Take palm oil as an example. Despite being used in roughly 50% of all consumer products, the cultivation of palm oil wreaks environmental havoc through expansive deforestation and CO2b emissions. The industrialization of food has yielded similar effects in many other agricultural sectors; however, educating yourself on these harmful practices and identifying friendlier alternatives can greatly reduce your footprint.
7. Vote with your wallet.
Every purchase you make is an opportunity to cast a vote. Within the past 50 years, industrial agriculture has become the prominent force in food production at the expense of small farmers. When you choose to purchase sustainable products or environmentally-conscious brands, it’s way to rebel against a system that values efficiency over sustainability. Intentional or otherwise, your spending habits make a statement. Make sure your money is sending the right message.