(This article originally appeared on my blog as part of my “Free Friday” series on 11/4/11)
With all the political and economic changes happening worldwide, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I spend my money. Sometimes we might not feel like we have a voice on the worldwide political stage, but every time we use our debit or credit card, we are saying something very powerful. Whatever we all support everyday grows and becomes stronger. Whatever we choose to walk away from weakens or becomes something else.
In terms of food, most of us in developed countries have access to amounts of food that are unprecedented in history. We can eat vegetables from California, seafood from China and wine from Chile all in the same meal. Grocery store aisles are lined with every imaginable food from all parts of the world. Your pasta may be grown in China, processed in a plant in Taiwan and delivered from a warehouse in Minnesota. While most of this food is cheap and easy, there is a cost associated with it.
The amount of energy that it takes to grow, process, package and ship products that are sold in today’s markets is not sustainable. Shopping at places like Walmart for food, clothing or supplies places great stress on the environment and resources like energy and food. In the film Walmart: the High Cost of Low Price, Robert Greenwald documents the devastation that companies like Walmart do to local businesses and communities. This is just part of the story. There are also cheap labor, energy consumption, accusations of abuse on foreign soil, and the list goes on. And this is just one example.
In this age of globalization, another movement is gradually taking hold. More and more concerned citizens are buying local. When we buy our food from local, organic farmers, we reduce our carbon footprint greatly. In addition, we are helping to support local families and businesses. These farmers are usually more concerned about preserving the land they use. They also use less water and cause far less pollution than large corporate farms. Buying organic means that we are not contributing to all the chemicals that pollute our water and soil.
As far as our health is concerned, buying local and organic has several benefits. First, consuming organic food creates less toxins that your body has to get rid of. It also means that you are likely eating higher quality food that contains more minerals and vitamins. Second, eating food that is grown locally (especially in your own backyard or windowsill) ensures that you are eating seasonally, which is better for the body. Finally, by going to farmer’s markets or local grocers, you are connecting with your community which is good for everyone’s health.
If you have the time and energy, you might want to even consider joining your community’s gardening co-op. Many cities now have community gardens in which anyone can learn to garden and connect with other growing enthusiasts.
Whatever you decide, make a conscious effort to think about every purchase you make. Where does this item come from? How much energy did it take to get it into my hands? By making better decisions, we can all create a better world now and in the future. Be healthy!