It may be easy and natural to assume that buying local produce automatically means being more environmentally friendly. The chances are that buying local goods will have that result but not purely due to the reduction of miles food travels from producer to plate.
The benefits of buying local may well be more embroiled in the increased awareness and interest you’ll likely have in the origins and production of your food. It’s production methods rather than food miles that have the biggest environmental impact. In addition, of course, there are many other reasons that buying more local produce may be beneficial to you, your community and the wider world.
Do people really care about buying local?
There is evidence that people are becoming more and more aware of the benefits of buying local and that it matters to them.
In a recent survey by household appliance retailer AO, more than 70% of respondents said buying locally sourced products is important and more than 60% of people said they are prepared to pay more for this. Its new ‘farm to fridge’ interactive tool highlights the origins of many British food staples and heavy reliance on imports.
How can buying local benefit me?
Buying local has potential personal, social and global benefits. Buying local may be an opportunity to get more involved and better educated about your local community.
Visiting local farmers’ markets and farm shops creates opportunity for social interaction and to be supportive of your local growers. There’s a feel-good factor.
Locally grown food often makes it from field to fridge far quicker too and, as a result, can be much higher in nutrients and flavour. When produce is grown organically you may also benefit from not ingesting the chemicals and additives often prevalent in more mass produced food stuffs.
How can buying local benefit my community?
There are potential economic benefits for your community in buying produce locally and supporting local growers and outlets.
In addition to the employment, vibrancy and individuality that can create for your community by enabling independent business to thrive and flourish, it can actually help shape the landscape.
Creating and supporting a market for locally grown produce means keeping land in use for agriculture rather than development, keeping your area more green and less developed.
How can buying local benefit the world?
The mass production of items such as meat, dairy and certain crops – such as avocados – can have a devastating impact on the global environment.
The meat and dairy industry leads to massive carbon emissions whilst certain crops cause deforestation and drought. Friends of the Earth quotes that livestock production is said to be responsible for 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Buying free range grown meat and animal products means supporting animal rights. Organic plant based purchases are likely to support the reduction in the decline of bees and other pollinators, due to chemical insecticides. A reduction in over reliance on depleted fish stocks will also support their recovery and ability to feed local communities and support small scale fishing families.
In addition, locally grown purchases often mean less packaging and a knock on reduction in the plastics that are choking our oceans and world.
Help to eat local
Eating local will require an increased awareness of what foods are in season. Eat Seasonably has a helpful calendar. Certain food labels can also help you quickly identify both local and UK produced foods and those that are created with ethical and environmental issues in mind.
Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification means producers look after the environment and don’t overfish. Fair trade labels help identify foods that are produced in environments of decent working conditions for producers. The Red Tractor logo indicates responsibly sourced Britsh food.