The Benefits of Buying Local

By Tracey Dowdy

My daughter and I ran errands last week and I forgot to bring our reusable shopping bags. When the cashier offered us plastic bags for our purchases, we said “No!” as if she’d suggested we adopt a mountain lion and let it sleep in our beds. Although my whole family is mindful of recycling, my younger daughter is militant about plastic bags and water bottles. In fact, I’d rather bring a panther into the house than risk being caught with a plastic bag.

We are all creatures of habit and I often hear that living a greener lifestyle is not only expensive but means making huge changes when in fact that couldn’t be further from the truth. Making a few simple adjustments can bring about a significant change in your carbon footprint without giving everything up to live in a yurt outside Seattle. Not that there’s anything wrong with yurts outside Seattle…just saying.

One of the easiest ways to incorporate a greener approach is through our food choices. Personally, I look forward to my local farmers market like baseball fans anticipate Opening Day. I take my dog and we wander through the stalls sampling artisanal cheeses, gorgeous seasonal produce and unusual treats like salmon bacon. Yes, salmon bacon is a thing.

Not only are you supporting local farmers, you’re getting fruit and vegetables at peak freshness while they’re in season. Local Harvest not only helps you find the nearest farmer’s market but also has suggestions to help you make the most of your visit, with handy tips like asking for “Number 2’s” (stop giggling) – imperfect produce which can be purchased at a lower price, e.g. apples that have bruises that can be cut away and used to make apple sauce.

Apps like Specialty Produce (Android) and Seasons (iOS) help you follow what is in season, so whether you’re shopping at the farmers market or at a chain grocery store you know you’re getting your produce at its best. Get tips on how to choose the perfect grapefruit, how to tell if a melon is ripe or even learn the flavor difference between Cotton Candy and Muscat grapes. (Here’s a hint – Cotton Candy Grapes taste a lot, and I mean a lot, like cotton candy.) Specialty Produce includes recipes for the fruit or vegetables you’ve chosen, and Seasons will tell you which markets currently have the produce you’re looking for in stock.

Greenease (Android/iOS), available for New York City and Washington DC, searches for restaurants, cafes and grocers that buy from local and/or sustainable farms. Whether you’re looking for a really good bacon cheeseburger or are craving a killer chick pea and spinach veggie burger on a Portobello mushroom “bun”, Greenease has you covered. The app breaks down businesses into the following categories: Free-Range, Gluten-Free, Grass-Fed, Drug-Free, Local, Organic, Sustainable Seafood, Veg-Friendly and Vegan-Friendly. Foodstand (iOS) connects food entrepreneurs with consumers. User-community driven, the app is a platform for users to promote their favorite local businesses by sharing photos, tagging ingredients, asking questions and a host of other fun features for foodies invested in buying and eating local.

Buying local means more than just buying produce that’s been picked within the last 24-48 hours. Equally important is the fact you’re preserving greenspace in your area, boosting the local economy, eliminating harmful pesticides from your diet, and reducing your carbon footprint. That’s a lot of good for making a few delicious changes.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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