Here’s how to eat a local, sustainable diet
Did you know that produce from your local grocery store chain travels on average 1,500 miles from the farm to your plate? Food production, processing and distribution have a large impact on the environment, and our food travels between all these stages. How do we know where our food comes from and what kind of chemicals were used? These processes are often invisible to consumers. Thankfully, there are resources to help consumers improve their sustainable eating practices. Organizations such as FoodPrint have online tools to help consumers learn the whole systems processes involved in getting your food from the farm to your plate, your “foodprint.”
All of this needless transporting wastes natural resources and adds stress to the environment. Not to mention, the farther food travels, the less nutritious and tasty it will be when you eat it. Eating local not only eliminates these negative side effects, it also helps you stay within the season and avoid destructive transporting costs. For example, cherries are best in the summer and apples in the fall. Eating cherries in the winter likely means they further away than your local farmer had to travel to the market.
Thankfully, the family farm is experiencing a revival. Shopping at farmers markets allows consumers to speak directly to the producers of your food. Having conversations about the farmer’s sustainability practices, asking if they’re willing to give tours of their farm and eating what they offer in season connects you with food and community. Local eating is social, and farmers markets usually lend to conversation more than supermarkets. Another great way to support small farms and the local economy is to join a community supported agriculture group. CSA’s are mutual partnerships between a farm and a community of supporters. Members help support the farm, and in return, the farm provides a healthy supply of seasonal fresh produce throughout the growing season. To learn more about local CSA opportunities or where to buy local food, visit localharvest.org or walkingmountains.org/sustainable-food.
But shopping at a farmers market and getting food from a CSA isn’t always an option. So when shopping at the supermarket, it is important to get to know what labels mean, because they can be your guide to selecting food that has been raised and produced in a way that aligns with your values. USDA organic and non-GMO Project Verified is a great place to start. foodprint.org also has a comprehensive food label guide.
Here are three tips for eating a more healthy and sustainable diet.
1. Eat a whole-food based diet. Eat real food and avoid processed foods. If you have questions about what foods to eat, use the footprint calculator at foodprint.org
2. Eat local. Shop at a farmers market or join a CSA. Use the food map on Walking Mountains website to find out where and how food is being produced in Colorado.
3. Pay attention to the labels. Food labels help you choose products that will help you lower your “foodprint.”
Stephen Beane is the Actively Green intern at Walking Mountains Sustainability. Contact him at email@example.com.