Improve the environment: Shop for locally-grown, organic food

November 3, 2015

How shopping for locally-grown organic food helps the environment

Supermarkets offer a convenient way to shop.  They stock a wide variety of food and beverages, and this large selection is available in one location. While supermarkets make it easy for consumers to have a "one stop shop" experience, it is also important to consider where the food supply comes from, how it is affecting the environment, and how consumers can influence this in a positive way.

For example, most of the items at your local supermarket are shipped long distances, usually by huge produce trucks, before they make it to the shelf. This step in transporting produce contributes to harmful greenhouse gases.

Similarly, produce in supermarkets have been treated with pesticides. These chemicals also cause environmental damage. The way to avoid environmental damage caused by long-distance shipping and pesticide-laden foods is to buy locally-grown, organic food.

Improve the environment: Shop for locally-grown, organic food

1. Shipping products long distances creates greenhouse gas emissions

The transportation industry is Canada's number one source of emissions of greenhouse gases. In 2011, the emissions from the transportation industry, which is largely made up of shipping goods to markets, were estimated to be about 170 mega-tonnes. The next closest industry was oil and gas, which burns fossil fuels to create electricity, with 163 mega-tonnes of emissions.

These greenhouse gases (mainly carbon dioxide and methane) are created from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and gasoline. These gases are contributors to global climate change, which is already having negative effects, especially on the northernmost regions of Canada. While reducing your own consumption of fossil fuels by carpooling or using public transport is helpful, it does not address the problem of fuel-guzzling trucks that are shipping goods across highways of countries all over the world. Reduce your carbon footprint by supporting a local food operation or a local farm.

Your efforts to buy food that is grown close to home will mean fewer trucks on the roads, less contamination in the air and few pesticides in your body.

2. Organic is not just better for your body, it's better for the environment

It's been suggested that many common pesticides used on fruit and vegetables are likely causes of human disease, such as various cancers, which is reason enough to steer clear of these products! But if you need more convincing, these pesticides also have an impact on the environments in which they are sprayed. Heavy pesticide use in concentrated areas has also led to a decline in the regional animal populations.

One species that has been declining in recent years  is bees. Several studies have linked declining bee populations to the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. If bees continue to disappear, we risk losing native plants, as well as crops that require insects for pollination.

Bees are not the only species affected. Pesticides actually collect inside animals that prey on insects. Birds are an example. Through a process called bio magnification, animals that consume something with pesticides, absorb the pesticides into their own systems. This leads to danger for other species as well. Consider the food chain.

By purchasing food that is made, or farmed, locally, we support local business, reduce harmful toxins in the environment and reduce the amount of chemicals we ingest.

Check labels to guarantee that you're purchasing produce free of harmful pesticides. Next time you aren't sure about paying a little bit extra for nearby organic produce, think about the future environmental impact of your decision as well as your health and buy local!

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