You might have seen a lot of advertisements for buying local and signs or posters encouraging you to do so, but have you ever wondered why? Buying locally positively impacts your health, the planet and our economy.
Local produce results in better health
According to Well Organization, foods grow naturally when they’re meant to; when grown in season (as is common amongst small local farms), they achieve the highest nutrient density. In short, a vegetable eaten out of season is still healthy, but not as much as it would be if it were in season.
Well Organization states that another health benefit of buying local is a reduction in the risk for foodborne illness: “Large industrial settings often breed risk to foodborne illness. From E.coli outbreaks in bagged spinach to salmonella contaminated almond butter, mass-produced foods possess a greater threat to becoming tainted. Food from your local farmers market is fresher and usually safer.”
But where your food comes from can benefit you more than missing out on food poisoning. In fact, according to The Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy, and Society, “counties [in the United States] with a higher volume of local businesses actually had a lower rate of mortality, obesity, and diabetes”
The environmentally-friendly choice
The most evident benefits of shopping locally are those that reflect on the environment. For starters, shopping locally means that your food does not need to be transported from a far distance, which in turn reduces the emission of greenhouse gases. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, “imports by airplane have a substantial impact on global warming pollution. In 2005, the import of fruits, nuts, and vegetables into California by airplane released more than 70,000 tons of CO2, which is equivalent to more than 12,000 cars on the road.”
In addition to a decreased amount of transport-related carbon emissions, buying local is also favorable to the environment due to increased pollination. In fact, the Honeybee Conservancy Organization promotes the consumption and purchase of honey from local beekeepers because this in turn promotes agriculture, considering that most of our food needs to be pollinated. Supporting a local beekeeper that partners with a local agricultural farm to use bees in pollination encourages a natural cycle of growing food.
Part of a circular economy
Finally, the economy greatly benefits from buying local. Every time I hear “economy”, it sounds daunting. However, in regards to shopping locally, economic benefits can be easily understood. Buying from local businesses helps promote a circular economy, one that focuses on keeping resources in use for as long as possible, instead of using them once and disposing of them. By shopping local, you are directly giving back to your community, so they can, in turn, give back to you again. The American Independent Business Alliance states that “on average, 48 percent of each purchase at local independent businesses was recirculated locally, compared to less than 14 percent of purchases at chain stores.”
An unknown author once said: "When you buy from a small business, you are not helping a CEO buy a third vacation home. You are helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy get his team jersey, a mom or dad put food on the table, a family pay a mortgage or a student pay for college.” Your local purchase has a significant impact in a closer, measurable way.
Is it achievable as a college student?
This is the million-dollar question. I think so many of us see many sustainable practices we’d like to engage in, such as zero-waste living and veganism, but these are mostly portrayed as beyond our affordability. Shopping locally is not only achievable but more convenient. Students at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa have easy access to the farmer’s market located at Campus Center on Tuesdays and Fridays, next to Stir Fresh. Check the Hawaii Government’s Seasonality Chart to see what produce is in season, and hence more likely to be found locally.
Find a small store you love or a farmer’s market that’s convenient and research when things are in season. Taking this time can go a long way for your health, the planet, and our economy.