The Importance of Shopping Local
Shopping locally and supporting small business has become a huge trend. But it is so much more than the "cool" thing to do.
Photo Courtesy of Bay Area Farmer's Market
Sometimes shopping locally can come with a higher price tag but shopping from local, small business is better for the environment, better for the local economy and better for the consumer (you!).
When you buy from big business, the product is often transported long distances. This requires large amounts of single-use packaging. Plastic packaging often ends up in our landfills or oceans (1) and breaks down into microplastics that we end up ingesting (2).
Transportation also requires gasoline, large trucks and planes which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions accelerate climate change and also contribute to air pollution which increases the amount of toxins we breathe in (7). Air pollution has been attributed to a number of acute and chronic diseases like asthma, heart disease, lung cancer and more (3).
Smaller, local farms only raise as many animals as their land can sustainably support. This allows animal manure to be effectively managed and used to fertilize crops. On the other hand, factory farmed animals produce large amounts of manure that becomes difficult to manage and ends up polluting our air, water and soil (4).
Factory farms threaten public health and degrade surrounding communities by causing depopulation, lowered land values and depressed local economies. Those who live near factory farms endure unpleasant odors, risk of infectious diseases and the inability to enjoy time outdoors (5).
When you buy from local business, you are supporting a family within your community. They typically have more sustainable practices than larger corporations. Locally produced or grown foods tend to be of better quality than those that are massed produced.
Local farmers tend to use less pesticides because of their values and smaller scale of their operation which is better for both the environment and our health. Local ranchers tend to avoid artificial growth hormones and exercise responsible use of antibiotics.
Animals raised in factory farms are confined in crowded and stressful conditions. They often sit in their own waste and are riddled with diseases. Most of these animals never see sunlight. On the other hand, local farms tend to pasture raise their animals which ensures that animals are raised outdoors where they can move around freely, engage in natural behaviors and consume a natural diet. This is not only more humane but also produces healthier and better tasting animal products (6).
Locally sourced food does not have to travel long distances so it often contains less amounts of preservatives. Locally sourced or produced food will be fresher and contain a larger amount of nutrients.
By purchasing locally grown or produced foods we can also reduce our intake of inflammatory oils, gums, fillers and artificial flavorings. Most small businesses are not trying to increase their profit margin by taking short cuts or using cheap products. For example, we make our almond milk in-house even though it is more expensive than buying it from the store. This is because most of the commercially manufactured almond milks in our food market is high in artificial sugar, gut-irritating preservatives, gums and oils. They also tend to use fewer real almonds and more artificial flavor.
Buying from small businesses allows you to have a better grasp of where your food is coming from, how it is made and what is in it. It is much easier to connect with those who made or grew your food and have an open conversation of their practices and ingredients they use.
Whether it is because of our financial situation, seasonality, access to local farms, or time-constraints, it may not be possible to shop locally all the time. However, even the smallest effort can make a difference! Remember to strive for progress over perfection when it comes to all areas of our diet.
Stay tuned for a feature of the local vendors that we source from!