Americans live life in the fast lane and so does the food we consume. When we need a quick bite to eat many of us go to the closest drive-thru or grab something that is packaged and ready to go from the grocery store. It’s convenient. This level of convenience, however, has a high price.
Just like it takes energy to chew your food and resources to digest it, it requires a significant amount of energy and resources for the food you eat to reach your plate. Think about your bowl of cereal in the morning. If it’s some type of grain, it was grown on a farm. It was cultivated and either shipped, driven or flown to a factory where it was processed into cereal and then put into boxes. Then it was transported to a warehouse until a retailer ordered a shipment. Then it was shipped, driven or flown to that grocery store. The miles that it traveled, otherwise known as “food miles,” and the resources used to package it all impact the environment. The more miles your food travels, the more fossil fuels are used, which has an impact on the environment.
The good news is you can make sustainable choices and cut down on food miles by buying locally. This means visiting your local farmers’ market and checking out the fresh fruits and veggies that didn’t have to travel thousands of miles to get to your plate.
Each of us can take steps to reduce food miles, but there are even more questions you can ask about the food you are buying. It is also important to know how the crops were cultivated and nurtured on the farm. Were pesticides used? If you eat meat, how were the animals raised? Were antibiotics used? Originally, all foods were “organic”-grown without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers or hormones, but now large-scale farming uses chemicals to spray their produce, which puts toxins into the air and our food.
When thinking about the food you eat it’s important to know where it comes from. Did it come from a large farm which ships all over the world or a local family-run farm? By being aware of where you buy your food and how it was raised you will not only reduce fossil fuel consumption, but also enjoy fresh flavors, support the community, preserve open spaces and support your health.
The environmental impact of food wasn’t an issue centuries ago. People ate whole and unprocessed vegetables, fruit, grains and beans and chicken, fish and other animal foods because that’s what was available. Farmers worked with the natural cycles of the earth. Fresh greens grew in spring, fruit ripened in summer, root vegetables in the fall and animal protein was consumed in the winter. Farmers rotated crops from year to year to allow the soil to retain its nutrients between growing cycles. Animals grazed in different areas each season to let grasses recover and replenish between seasons. Farmers fed the soil with compost, rather than using artificial fertilizing methods. These practices that were used centuries ago and some organic farmers still use today are long-term, sustainable methods of farming that work with the natural environment, instead of adding chemicals to it.
The food you eat has an impact on your health as well as the environment. When you buy local and organic foods you are less likely to ingest certain chemicals. Think about how fresh fruits and vegetables will taste when in their whole and natural state. Experiment. Buy one apple from the grocery store and one from the farmers’ market. Notice the difference when you bite into the organic apple versus the one with pesticides. You might notice that the organic apple is crunchier and sweeter.
Changing the foods you choose may require you to slow down a little bit. The reason why most of us buy from grocery stores or fast food restaurants is because we are overscheduled and cannot take the time to go to the farmers’ market and choose local and organic foods. Maybe you’ve never noticed how a conventionally-grown apple tastes because you didn’t take the time to chew your food. You will notice that by slowing down, you will be able to make better decisions about the food you eat.
In the next couple of months, I encourage you to get out into the community. Check out your natural food stores. Ask your grocer about where your meat is coming from, and look for grass-fed, certified organic and local whenever possible. Find a farmer’s market in your area by visiting localharvest.org or greenpeople.org. These changes may take time, but realize you have the power to create a healthy future by eating whole, organic and locally grown foods.
Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables
Eating locally grown food in accordance with the seasons will help you live in harmony with yourself, your body and the earth, but because produce is available year round, choosing what’s in season can be confusing. Here is a list of fruits and vegetables that are in season this summer. Try incorporating them into your meals.
* bell peppers
* berries: blackberries,
* blueberries, raspberries
* green beans