The importance of buying locally

Filed in Blog, Guest Posts by on November 5, 2009 3 Comments
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Rebekah with her daughter

Rebekah with her daughter

We’re all aware of the amount of packaging we can be left with when purchasing food. Have you ever stopped to think how this could be reduced by buying locally?

Today’s guest article is from Rebekah Sachno who provides us with ‘food for thought’ about our buying habits. By changing just one thing we could dramatically reduce the amount of stuff we send to landfill.

Rebekah lives in rural County Down and is a SAHM to her two year old daughter. Her hobbies are baking, reading and going for walks by the sea.

Behind my house, there is a wheat field. About 18-20 acres in size, much of it has been reclaimed from the nearby bog, of which only remnants now remain.

In the last few days I’ve watched the wheat being harvested, separated and poured into massive combine harvesters. We’ve collected the leftover chaff to use as bedding for our chickens over winter.

The sad thing is, those acres and acres of rustling golden stalks were destined for one thing only: animal fodder.

It’s easy to forget, in this age of urbanisation and service economies, that the UK as a country was largely self sufficient until relatively recently. It still could be, if the still plentiful agricultural land was used to its full capacity.

Step into your local greengrocers and within a few minutes you can easily find a number of fruit and veg, which could easily be grown in the UK, yet, which hail from the farthest corners of the globe- Brazil, Kenya, New Zealand, Israel.

Apples from New Zealand or apples from Armagh?

It can be easy, if one is in a hurry, to quickly grab the product that has the least amount of packaging. But take a minute to really look at the label on the crate. Not locally grown? Think of the air miles it’s taken, the oil, petrol, or diesel burnt, in order for that fruit or vegetable to reach your shopping basket.

To stop waste before it has even started, buying locally is a must. It is important not only on an individual level, but on a nationwide scale also. Imagine if farmers, as a condition of receiving subsidies, had to put a certain percentage of land aside, to grow food, which would then be distributed and sold within, say, a radius of 30 miles at the most. With the need for imports cut drastically, we’d be making big reductions on pollution levels and CO2 emissions as well.

Hidden waste, the sort we sometimes forget about, the fuel used in the boats or planes shipping our food, the plastic crates and wrappings discarded as the produce moves from train to lorry, sometimes seems out of the control of the individual. After all, you can’t put it in your recycling bin. However we do have a choice, and we as consumers do have influence. In fact, as a group we hold the biggest influence of all, and with the right focus we can use our power to make changes. Environmental awareness is not only just a lifestyle choice, it is a political issue.

Create a debate. Ask the manager of your local Tesco’s why he doesn’t stock eggs or honey from a local smallholder, instead of selling overseas and battery farmed brands. Grow your own food if you have the space- even if you only have a patio, a few big pots can provide a whole season’s worth of tomatoes or soup veg. Ask why, if the government can nationalise the banks, why it can’t nationalise the land creating food security at a time of disappearing oil reserves- surely this should be a priority for any government

By recycling we deal with the after effects of consumption, but by carefully choosing what we purchase and consume in the first place, we can nip the entire cycle in the bud.

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About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (3)

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  1. Mrs Green says:

    Thought provoking words, Rebekah; thank you! You highlight one of the most challenging decisions as consumer;s there is rarely a ‘perfect’ product. We have to compromise all the time depending on our preferred choice. In my local Co-Op, for example I can buy loose broccoli, but if I want organic (which I prefer for my health and the environment) it is wrapped in plastic!

    We are lucky however with our local Budgens; the manager there actually sources from local producers. And no, the goods don’t go to a distribution centre before being bought back to the shop; the farmer actually pulls up in a van and delivers the stuff him or herself. I grilled him on that one a few weeks ago!

  2. Sarah says:

    Oh yes!
    Local is my favourite – we have a local butchers and I know where his land is, I can drive past and see the animals in the fields and it’s such a valuable lesson for my kids to be able to say “Look at the pigs, they’ll be sausages in a couple of weeks” and for the kids to not be bothered about that at all.

    I try to buy very very local if I can or UK grown at least and for me that comes as high on my priorities as fair trade.

  3. Well said Rebekah – The sense of local has got lost in the nationalisation and internationalisation of produce and manufactured products. From an economic perspective, so much more wealth can be generated in the local economy too. The money will go to local producers who will hopefully support their own local supply chain, whether it be at district level, regional or national. Local certainly gets my vote these days.

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