Friday, December 23, 2011

Last Minute Shopping? Shop Sustainably: a Guest Post

The Benefits of Shopping Locally/Sustainably

- Adam Jacob from Frugal Dad has provided this post. is a personal finance and frugal living website.

We all love the convenience and simplicity that technology affords us. With just a few clicks on your computer, you can purchase virtually anything: food, a car, a spare part to fix your broken appliance. But do you ever stop to think about the miles that your purchase(s) travels to reach you? You’re not alone. Many people don’t realize how unsustainable some of their shopping habits can be.

What is shopping locally/sustainably?
Environmentalists urge people to shop and eat locally, but many people do not understand how buying from local food growers relates to the environment. To understand this, consider the food on your plate and the processes it has gone through to reach you. Depending on what type of food it is, it probably went through a minimum of four of these processes: how it was grown, harvested, processed, packaged, shipped to the retail outlet, prepared for consumption at your home, and finally where the waste goes. Each of those processes has an effect on the environment. They directly affect the earth’s natural ecosystem, positively or negatively. A process that is most sustainable is one that has the least negative effect on ecosystem. Locally made goods skip or minimize some of the processes, reducing the environmental impact.

So how do YOU benefit when buying locally?
1. When a local farmer sells directly to you, he’s not likely to attach much importance to packaging, transporting, or the shelf life of his food items. Instead, he will choose to grow and harvest food crops in a way that guarantees the utmost quality of freshness, taste and nutritional value. Local famers tend to grow seasonally too, something closer to what Mother Nature allows. So, in addition to eating better tasting, more nutritious food, you’ll also eat seasonally when you buy locally.
2. It takes less energy to process food grown and sold locally, so by buying locally, you help reduce the carbon footprint because less energy used means less emissions into the atmosphere. Imagine the amount of energy it requires to grow, process, and transport food for a family of five every year, and we’re talking about fossil based fuel sources.
Fossils are a non-renewable source, which means they degrade the earth during the drilling and production process. Fossil fuels are used to power machinery used when applying agricultural chemicals, such as pesticides and fertilizers, on the farms. Worse, these fuels are again used to ship the food across the country, or the world, and even in refrigerated storage trucks during the journey. If the food is going to be processed, that takes up even more energy, not to mention the unhealthy additives used to preserve it. Locally grown fresh foods skip many of these processes, hence more energy saved.
3. Most local farmers grow organic foods - foods grown strictly through natural farming methods. This means that by buying local foods, you contribute towards minimizing the use of potentially harmful chemicals, such as fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, most of which are petroleum based. Chemical residue on the plants eventually ends up polluting the soil, water bodies, the atmosphere, and some may even end up inside your body through consumed food. Chemical residues are believed to increase the incidence of certain health ailments, especially tumors, and resistance to antibiotic treatments. On the other hand, natural farming methods work in line with natural ecosystems to preserve fertility of soil while drawing ‘friendly’ insects and pollinators to avoid the use of hazardous chemicals. This is a more sustainable method of farming as it replenishes soil through natural means. When you buy from a local farmer, you’re indirectly contributing to this process.

Final Thoughts
Do you ever think about the impact of your consumption of meat and dairy on climate change? Simply altering the way you enjoy animal products can have a huge effect on climate. Meat and dairy production contributes to a great deal of the global green house emissions. Animals bred on corn and soybeans in confined farms emit higher amounts of methane gas, which greatly contributes to global warming. This means that reducing your consumption of meat from these animals has a positive impact on the environment - less demand, fewer animals reared - saving your health too in the long run.
If you’ve made it to the end of this article, you’ve taken the first step! Take the next step by buying a few products from your local farmers market or that haven’t traveled as far. Even the smallest of efforts makes all the difference.

See Frugal Dad for personal finance tips.

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