There is a general feeling that eating local is more “green”. Farmer’s markets are getting more business and more people are experimenting with vegetable gardens. But here is what a new study shows: the biggest impact on the global climate comes from growing food, not transporting it. If you want to make a good environmental choice, it would be more effective to focus on going meatless for some meals as meat production is a huge contributor to global warming.
So, does this mean we should stop reading the produce labels? Not really. The answer lies in analyzing the intent behind eating locally. One, it provides an outlet for local produce and contributes to local farmer’s incomes. Second, it is fresh and has not been treated in any way to last out the journey to your plate. Third, eating local, means also eating in the season. Instead of eating the same group of fruits and vegetables throughout the year (as they are readily available at the supermarket), we start eating a more varied diet as we are pushed to try different options from the local produce basket. This is a healthier way to eat and more importantly, it helps to conserve biodiversity by ensuring that a variety of produce is grown. If I only buy bananas, apples, broccoli and carrots throughout the year then that is what farmers will grow. By eating locally, I might try something new like a different type of squash or berry and these varieties will not be ignored and lost.
Now, about the meat question: both grass-fed and conventional beef fail badly on the green meter. Also, we know that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grain is better than one based on meat. So making a change towards a less meat-centric diet is beneficial to people and the planet. We can always start with baby steps: incorporate some beans that, like meat, are high in protein and also have big flavors, or start a new-veggie-a-week plan and discover some great flavors at your farmer’s market!
Eating locally= healthier diet+healthier planet so continue to read those labels and make good choices!