Keep the world green just by buying locally

August 8, 2006

**Update – In a few hours, I will posting about a campaign meant to encourage Wal-mart to cover some health care for its employees. Since that ties into this post, I thought I would move this up until I put the new post up. Hope you all can take a moment to review the Wal-mart petition when it goes up. Thanks!

I found this article this morning about how we all can do our small part in “greening” the world just by buying our products locally. I think the first sentence of the article pretty much says it all – “How would you like to save your Main Street, preserve your small mom-and-pop-owned shops and farms and reduce our dependence on foreign oil and imports?”

I dread when I read about a new Wal-mart going into some small town somewhere, because I know that it means that all the stores that have been in town for many years are about to disappear. I guess I dont understand why anyone would want a Wal-mart in their town just to save a few dollars on some stuff…I personally would rather pay a little more for my goods at the local mom and pop store because they know me, they are willing to help me find things, and it keeps money in my community. Here is the rest of the article, its really well written and I think it says a lot about what we all need to think about when we go shopping:

“One simple act can accomplish all these goals: taking the 10 percent challenge. Pledge to spend 10 percent of your income on locally grown produce, locally made goods and services and local businesses.

If you spend $250 at a chain grocery store, spend at least $25 at the farmers market.

By doing this, your money boosts the local economy through the ‘multiplier effect.’ Your dollars are multiplied as the local farmer pays his mortgage to a local bank, which pays its employees with that money, who buy goods from other local stores, and so on.

If we are all pledging to buy local, our consumer dollars stay local, building the local economy. When we spend our local dollars at the corporate box stores like Wal-Mart, a few of those dollars pay local employees, while most are funneled right out of the community and right into corporate headquarters.

Most of our meals contain ingredients from at least five foreign countries.

According to the United State Department of Agriculture, agricultural imports are rising twice as fast as exports are.

These imported foods have traveled between 1,500 and 2,000 miles to land on our plates.

Overall, we expend about 10 calories of petroleum for each calorie of food we consume, according to the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems.

That use breaks down like this: 20 percent as chemical fertilizer and pesticides for the crops; 40 percent for processing, packaging and shipping; and the last 40 percent to bring it to our homes and generate the electricity to store and prepare the food. The food also loses some of its nutrition in transit.

Trying to eat food grown within a 100-mile radius takes some doing, but I can find free-range organic beef and pork at Walnut Grove Farm, two miles from my house; corn and vegetables at Froehlich’s Farm, a mile from my house; and fresh breads and cheeses from a Gardiner producer.

It’s important to find out who is in your area, because those ‘food miles’ translate into greenhouse-gas emissions. Foods that travel by air (tomatoes, grapes) are the worst offenders. Next come foods that travel in refrigerated trucks (meat, dairy, eggs, seafood). Grains that travel by rail produce much less emissions.

I would love to find a local dairy farmer willing to retail directly to me and a few hundred friends.

If eating local seems daunting, organize a party and ask everyone to bring something locally grown or produced. Friends might ferret out locally produced goodies that you might have missed. Your party might lead to a buyers co-op.

Encourage your favorite restaurants to buy from local farms. Even better, encourage your school board to buy from local farms for our children’s meals. The USDA publishes a guide to bring local produce into our schools at www.farmtoschool.org.

In addition to eating healthier and more wholesome foods, we get the added benefit of creating economic opportunities and healthier communities. Buying local is investing in the long-term health of your family, neighbors, and hometown.

Those small marts on Main Street are the future economic opportunities for your children. Let’s keep them in the green!”

Source: Keep the world green just by buying locally

technorati tags:pollution environment green Walmart

Filed in: Wal-Mart

About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
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Comments (5)

  1. David says:

    Thats too bad that you cant shop locally….I wish more communities could! There is a big difference between Walmart and Target..Target pays for health care for its employees (Walmart does not, as they keep most of their people part time and direct them towards govt. medicaid),Target pays them higher wages, and Target donates millions to education every year. Walmart does not. Thats the danger of living in a small town…as soon as those big box stores move in, the small ones downtown go out. Its a real shame!

    And congrats on using a local service, we have found they do a much better job because their local reputation is at stake!

  2. The biggest problem that I have with buying locally is that it’s almost impossible to do around here… We recently moved and live just outside of a relatively small town. I would *love* to buy groceries, school supplies, hardware, clothes, etc. right downtown on Main Street, but the stores are long gone. We now have to travel 2-4 times further to get much crappier stuff from Kroger, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Target, and the like. Just this past weekend we went shopping for school supplies and I absolutely *hated* the fact that Wal-Mart was pretty much our only alternative (to be fair, we could’ve driven another five miles to Target, but it’s pretty much the same difference).

    Just about the only thing we can truly ‘buy local’ is when service. We’re having our house painted by a local, family-owned painter, and we’re having some electrical work done by a local, family-owned electrician. And you know what? Their service and prices have been *much* better than their larger chain competitors.

    We have a farmer’s market, but it (literally) consists of about two tables of tomatoes.

  3. Jane says:

    It’s because of exactly these issues that we have recently set up ecolocal in the UK (we’re hoping to launch in the US in the next few weeks, so please keep an eye out for us). It’s not just about buying organic / fairtrade, but about supporting your local environment as well.

    We’re hoping to get listings of local tradesman, teachers, facilities such as gyms etc online as well as general discussion, advice and debate about green issues (we’ve already linked to a few on The Good Human) to help everyone live a more sustainable lifestyle in their area.

    Personally I’d love to buy everything locally, but unfortunately I can’t get all I need from smaller shops, but at least 20% of our purchases are from the local healthfood shop or box scheme and most shopping is done on foot and is generally of organic or green produce. We certainly try, but it’s hard! Having said that, every little helps.

  4. David says:

    Thanks for the comment, Jane. Of course I hope we all understand that sometimes its just not possible to always shop locally and to get everything you need in your own neighborhood. But as you said, if everyone does what they can, we will all be a little better off!

    Thats what I tell people that think this whole “green” thing is impossible, and what difference does one person make…but if every single person did a small thing, such as replacing a lightbulb with a CFL, it can have a big impact on the environment.

    I will be on the look out for ecological here in the U.S…be sure to let me know!