Ever wondered about the difference between common health food buzz words that are often thrown around? Local, sustainable, non-GMO, organic, etc. The reality is that although these words are an attractive sell for many consumers, it is much more complex than our general understanding. In this blog, we will explore the “local vs. sustainable” debate, learning about both their differences as well as their similarities. So, what does it mean when you hear the word “local” in reference to a food product. Like most folks, people simply assume local is better and therefore also more sustainable. However, this is not always the case. Put simply, a local or “regional food system” means that the food has been grown, raised, and produced in a region near where the food product is sold. Depending on the local climate, local food could be made as close as 50-100 miles, or as far as the nearly 400 miles between Sacramento and Los Angeles, for example.
The key to sourcing super-local finds lies in food organizations that rely less on the processing, packaging, and shipping distributions. Good examples of places to find truly local sources of food include local farmer’s markets, community supported agriculture, food co-ops, or even starting your very own community garden or farm.
Next, let’s explore the concept and definition of sustainability. What makes some foods more “sustainable” than others? It all has to do with farms that place emphasis on practicality, namely smaller family-owned and operated farms. Here, you will often find more sustainable practices such as environmental monitoring to ensure minimal pollution, high-grade soil quality, smarter consumption of fossil fuels and water resources, minimal usage of pesticides, and little to no unnecessary packaging.
Supporting local farms dedicated to a sustainable approach is not only good for your health, but beneficial to nature, too. Sustainable farming systems are aware of honey bee health and preserving their existence to keep food crops running successfully. Therefore, a sustainable farm in New Zealand that sells Manuka honey is more likely to have a sincerely reputable and trustworthy approach as opposed to a non-sustainable operation that is merely locally based.
With a little time and research, you can bypass the many “fancy-shmancy” health labels designed to confuse consumers. In short, sustainability trumps locality just about every time.