When thinking about living locally, an image of a 20-year-old hipster might come to mind. Someone who brews their own kombucha listens to obscure indie music and lives in Portland, Oregon. The rest are living off the convenience of Amazon orders and produce shipped globally. However, despite the growing global market, thinking locally is becoming more and more mainstream in 2018.
The local movement has interested me for a few years now. The idea has come up in documentaries and books I have looked at, such as Michael Pollan’s Omnivores Dilemma. And while I don’t shop locally religiously, I appreciate locally sourced goods and understand why the movement needs to happen.
A GROWING LOCAL MOVEMENT
The movement has many names depending on where you live: farm to table, farm to fork, locavores, shop local and buy local are just a few I found.
The origins of the movement can be traced back to the 1940s and 1950s when farming began to decline. Shortly after, technology in food processing was improving. We could now package our food in cans and frozen packages. The combination of a decrease in farming and the introduction of package innovations led to changes in the American food economy through to the 1970s. (Source)
At the end of the 1960s, a counterculture was emerging, comprised of hippies who rejected the status quo. They valued locally sourced and organic food and made an effort to live along with these values. Like most grassroots movements, it eventually caught on with the mainstream society. (Source)
By the 1990s, farmers markets began to expand into rural, suburban and urban areas. The demand for local, fresh and organic food, as well as locally sourced goods, was growing. This has continued into the 21st century and is not showing signs of disappearing any time soon. (Source)
THINKING LOCALLY HAS MANY BENEFITS
If you’re not a locavore, you’re probably wondering why anyone would limit themselves to resources within their community. It may sound inconvenient, and in opposition to progress, but there are so many great reasons people are choosing to do it.
We know where our food is coming from
When visiting my neighborhood grocers produce section, it’s always interesting to read where the produce was shipped from. Depending on the season, the amount of local produce available fluctuates. During the summer months, the availability is a lot higher than it is in the winter months. I have purchased kiwi grown in Italy, avocado from Mexico and grapefruit from South Africa.
Where the local movement benefits us in this respect, is that the local produce tends to be fresher and more nutritious because it went from farm to table in less time. We’ve learned that the nutrients in produce depreciate over time, so it’s much better for you to consume the goods as fresh as you can find it.
Shorter transportation is better for the environment
Not only does distance affect nutrients, but it also affects the environment. Transporting goods across the nation, or even the globe, consumes resources and contributes to global warming.
Thinking locally reduces the impact transporting goods has on the environment, while also making the air healthier for us too!
Our money supports small business owners and the community
When you shop local, you’re also making a moral decision to choose small businesses over corporate superstores. Supporting locally sourced goods usually means the producer and employees are being fairly compensated, your money is going to supporting a family and building the community. This isn’t always the case with large corporations whose workers are often underpaid, resources are unfairly sourced and the CEO gains a huge portion of the company’s profits.
It’s a long-term sustainable practice
A global economy in which we can trade and transport food is extremely convenient. However, politics, natural disaster or food shortages can throw this system off balance.
Where the local movement wins is it promotes self-reliance, rather than dependence on outside sources. Thinking locally improves food security by developing local food systems that benefit the community as a whole. One way this is being done is through urban farming!
It adds character to a community
I grew up in a small city, and then later moved to an even larger city of 900,000 people. What these places have in common are large box stores and grocery chains. However, when I would visit small towns such as Alexandria and Almonte Ontario, there is a stark contrast because these communities retain their charm by supporting small local businesses. These communities tend to be warmer and friendlier than their box chain neighbors as well.
We are reconnecting with nature
One of the points Michael Pollan makes in his book, Omnivores Dilemma, is that our disconnect from the farm to table chain has lead to a crisis in America. As a result of our global economy, factory farming and industrial producers, we have lost our food culture.
Thinking locally refocuses our attention to where our food comes from and as a result, reconnects us with nature. I thought that idea was brilliant!
HERE’S HOW YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR LOCAL ECONOMY IN 2018
Now that you know how thinking locally has multiple benefits, there are some actions you can take if you’re interested in contributing to this alternative economy.
Make small personal lifestyle changes
It’s really difficult to live from entirely locally sourced goods and resources so don’t aim for perfection right away! What I recommend is making small changes over time that will add up throughout your lifetime. For example, rather than purchase your coffee from an international coffee company, find a local roaster and buy directly from them.
Learn how to create your own products and do your own repairs
Another great way you can add to your food security while decreasing your carbon footprint is to grow your own produce. If you live in Canada like me, this might not be possible all year round, however, the summer months are the perfect time to stock up on produce you can later can!
If you’re a creative person, you can also find resources online to learn how you can use local resources such as lavender, goats milk and moisturizing butter to make your own soap bars!
There are so many opportunities and ideas you can discover to avoid shipping goods and big box stores.
Find ways to contribute your own products to the community
Lastly, if you grow your own produce, or have a skill that could benefit the community, you can contribute to your local economy and add to its character. Small businesses are usually beloved and there are not enough of them in my opinion.
There are plenty of reasons to think locally in 2018. Not only does it benefit you, but it will benefit your community and help the environment recover. You will feel good knowing you’re doing something positive.
While it’s easy to go nuts and try and be the perfect locavore, this is not realistic. I realize some of you might be living in areas that don’t have a local economy and rely instead on stores such as Walmart and outside shipments. I get it and I feel for you. However, if you agree with me that thinking locally will change things for the better, those small changes that you can really make will help support your community.
If you think that we should be thinking locally in 2018, please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
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