Why buying locally matters

by Malcolm Baldwin, Staverton 

Industrial Agriculture is responsible for about one third of global climate change, so individual food shopping habits really do make a difference to cutting back CO2 emissions.  It’s one of the easiest ways we can all make a contribution to achieving net zero.

In addition it has been estimated that for every pound spent locally, 80 pence stays circulating in the community; whereas every pound spent in a large supermarket only 20 pence remains in the local economy. Certainly it can be more expensive and time consuming to shop locally, but even if you reduce your supermarket spend by just 20%, it makes a huge contribution to a thriving local economy.

Food Miles – Much of what is sold in local shops is sourced locally.  So you are not supporting the supermarket absurdities of potatoes grown in Sweden, washed in Southern Italy and returned to London for UK distribution.  Also by using local shops you can help avoid the obsession supermarkets have with immaculate products and the mountains of perfectly good food simply thrown away.  Bent carrots and knobbly potatoes are just as nutritious!

It’s also good to be aware of the difference between foodstuffs which arrive by plane or ship.  So bananas, which reach the UK by ship, have a much lower carbon footprint than say asparagus which is perishable and has to be airfreighted.  Also watch for the ‘Fair Trade’ label on imported goods.  This certifies that growers in poorer countries get a fair price for their produce.

Industrial farming has made huge strides since 1945 in feeding the population, but it is now known that the mindless application of chemicals to the environment is having a detrimental effect on wildlife and human wellbeing.   In the UK alone we now have 16.9 thousand tonnes of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and molluscides sprayed onto our land each year.  Some scientists estimate that soil is now so depleted we may have only about 50 harvests left. Our soil has become so compacted and devoid of soil organisms – (microscopic creatures which make up 25% of all life forms) that it does not sequester CO2, and needs ever more applications of chemical fertiliser to remain viable.

So the moral is buy organic whenever you can afford it.  Not only is this good for human health and that of our soil, but it supports small farmers and mops up more carbon dioxide. Currently one third of our land grows crops to feed animals, so if we are to nourish an expanding world population, then eating less meat and dairy and favouring a more plant based diet is a much more efficient way of delivering calories which will also help reduce CO2 emissions.

Another contribution we can easily make is not to waste food.  Around a third of the food grown is simply wasted.  Buy only what you need, and be creative with your leftovers!  Bon Appetit!

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