Conscious Consumerism

Eat This Planet: Local by Local

eat, sustainable, localNick OgdenComment

This month I have been talking about the importance of understanding our consumption choices and patterns when buying groceries. Last week we discussed the importance of having positive celebrities in our lives that ultimately influence our consumptions habits. By having positive public figures with immense social power in our lives to look up to, we are giving ourselves a better chance to be exposed to a more positive way of thinking and consuming. This week I would like to delve into the importance of supporting local grocery suppliers and the why we should pay better attention to where our food is actually coming from. 

Shop local. This has been a favorite campaign of local businesses here in Halifax for a while now and especially at our grocery stores. We see advertisements in our grocery isles with big signs that say "grown locally" or "produced in Nova Scotia" or I have even seen a lovely little picture of the farmer with a little blurb about his family to try and get me to buy his onions. This is good in all but what does it mean and why is it important? 

First off, I know that buying local produce can get rather expensive especially when heading into shoulder seasons, when we just don't have the resources to produce as much food. In the long run I would say sure, go buy the onions at the grocery store that have been sourced out of province but try and buy as much as you possibly can that has been grown locally or at the very least in the maritimes or close to where ever you live! Despite the whole economical point of it and the ripple effect buying local has, it has an even bigger environmental effect. 

If we break it down simply to transportation it is easy to think about how we are saving a lot less energy when buying at least somewhat locally sourced food then not. The distance that our food has to travel, in some cases, is crazy! If we are buying lets say broccoli, here in Nova Scotia we can easily grow broccoli in the summer and we can even grown it hydroponically but we can also import it from California. To travel 1 tonne of produce from, lets say, 500 kilometres away would maybe take 6 hours in a truck producing 1 unit of emissions. If we are importing the same exact weight of food from California to Nova Scotia we are looking at roughly 5,700 kilometres producing roughly 11.4 times the amount of emissions. Obviously this is an example with hypothetical emissions but the point is there. If we are buying groceries that are sourced closer to where we actually live then we can cut our eating emissions down incredibly. When it comes down to fruits and vegetables it is really easy to find out where it is produced and figure out how far it had to travel to get to its consumption destination. If we look at a box of cereal, things get a little mirky. Sure, it does say where the combined ingredients are combined to make the final cereal but it rarely says where all the ingredients are coming from.

Once we starting buying products that are made up of several ingredients it gets hard, as consumers, to track where our food is being sourced from. A brand like General Mills, Cheerios cereal, has taken steps to try and produce products that are better for their consumers by taking out genetically modified ingredients  which is great but doesn't really help their transparency. If we are really trying hard and venture to the "health food section" (this term irks be to no end) of our grocery stores then we are greeted with even more selection that might adhere to this discussion. A brand that I have come to dabble in once in a while is Love Grown, they were started by a young coupling finishing up their degrees in university who wanted to start a locally sourced grocery store. Now they have a whole line of products that are organic and "healthy" alternatives. However, Love Grown does not offer insight to their suppliers on their website or box. Again this is not a local brand, their products still travel a great distance to get to Nova Scotia. We do, however, have some little companies of our own trying to make an impact. 

I have been fortunate enough to work with one such company, Genuine Nova Scotia Oatcakes. Ken, the founder, strives to be as transparent about his products as he possibly can be. His suppliers are mostly in Nova Scotia with the exception of a small few coming from New Brunswick and PEI. He makes it a point to tell you about where his ingredients are coming from and he takes the extra step to tell you a little personal anecdote about them as well! GNSO is trying to change the way producers produce their products and interact with their consumers. They are breaking down the barriers between finished product and supply route. This is fantastic because as consumers we can clearly see where are the ingredients are coming from, who we are supporting a long the way, and know that we are making a difference by buying these products. This only one example but is a great bedrock to try and start a conversation around understanding the importance of buying local.

Understanding the brands we support and the people behind these brands is incredibly important. As I discussed last week, a lot of brands have endorsed people to represent them to their fans and the general public. We must take the time to understand the values of these people and of the companies that we choose to support through our consumption. Buying locally sourced or as locally sourced as possible will cut down our emissions without us really having to do a whole lot. I know that sometimes buying local and supporting locally sourced food can get expensive and sometimes time consuming but it is important. I will not sit on my golden thrown and throw shade at anyone, I know I buy foods that are not sourced locally but I try to support locally sourced food as best I can. Buying locally sourced food at the grocery store is great but head down to your farmer's market and buy directly from suppliers. Often the people working at the stalls are really nice and interesting people! You never know who you might meet maybe your new best friend, who makes oatcakes, is waiting for you and you don't even know it!

When we starting understanding that we create emissions by the things we choose to eat, it becomes abundantly clear the importance of buying local, especially at the grocery store. This ideology can transfer to more then our grocery habits but these are the ones that we preform the most often and can most likely be more easily changed.  

As always, thank you for reading, and don't forget to subscribe.