EcoMom Challenge #3: Shop Local (part II of III)

EcoMom Challenge #3 encourages us to Shop Local, Fair Trade and Organic, as part of the EcoMom 10 Steps to Living Sustainably. Last week I covered Fair Trade and this week I am finally getting around to discussing why we should shop local. For those of you who are just getting your feet wet when it comes to green living, you may consider me a local extremist, but in fact, although our family has eaten more local food this year than ever before, we are still a far cry from living a truly local existence!

Upfront, the call to shop local can be a tad elusive. What constitutes local?  Furthermore, legitimate local shopping requires you to be vigilant and on top of your buying habits and knowledgeable about the background of the food stuffs or other goods that you are buying. For example, Crocs shoes were once made locally (from imported foreign oil) with their original manufacturing plant just down the road. In our area the fact that Crocs were locally made received lots of media attention; however, the fact that they shut down local operations (and now manufacture in China) over a year ago has not been advertised at all. I am sure that more than one faithful customer thinks that Crocs make shoes in Niwot not China.

In fact, buying material goods that are locally made, let alone, made in the USA can often be quite a challenge. So, whenever our family comes across locally made goods we get quite excited; however, most instances of material good purchasing focus simply on buying goods made in the USA. Weve been surpised at how many Target products are actually made at home, while also being surprised that certain products, especially kitchen implements, seem to be universally made in China. Consequently, Ive personally put off numerous purchases this year in hopes that I could track down the same or similar item neused. Ive met with moderate success.

Local food is yet an entirely different story it is a story that comes with all sorts of warm and fuzzy tales, and happy endings. Between our local Farmers Market, local farms and our CSA membership the Green Me family has been eating loads and loads of fresh produce this summer and I have been experimenting with canning, pickling and making jams. Weve pretty much stopped buying any produce from the grocery store (except for organic raspberries to spoil the little one) and I seriously find myself wondering what I am going to do in December, January or the rest of the winter with out vine or tree ripened fruit!

When I made strawberry jam in June, I was generous with my bounty passing out jars to friends and family. I only kept 12 jars for our family, which seemed extravagant at the time, but now that I know we can eat a jar of jam in 3 days, 12 jars simply isnt enough for an entire winter! (I made low sugar varieties, so our sugar intake is minimal over said 3 day period!) I will be making grape jelly and perhaps grape juice (or maybe even wine) in a few weeks, assuming that the raccoons do not return this year.

So, the Green Me family is eating local, but what does that really mean? Why deprive oneself of bananas, and eat only peaches everyday for 7 days straight? One of the fantastic features of modern life and shipping routes is that we are able (and accustomed) to eating all sorts of produce out of season. Blueberries in January? Grapes in May? Bananas every day of the year? No problem? Well, there is that little problem, called oil, and then there is that other problem, called human induced climate change.

So, what is a healthy, fruit and veggie loving gal todo?  One option would be to simply eat potatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Potatoes are high in vitamin C, fiber, folic acid and more, plus they store really really well. Nah I may love potatoes, but three meals a day, day in and day out just wont do. Fortunately, there is a great abundunce of fruits that can be grown locally melons, apples, peaches, starwberries, apricots, raspberries, pears, plums, grapes and more can be found in Farmers Market stalls and back yards across the front range. Alas the only fruit I really miss is the beautiful blueberry (Ive read they can be grown in barrels in the backyard, so this may be a future venture.)

And, the sweet thing about eating local and in season fruit is that it not only tastes delicious, but you can be sure that tree (or vine ripened) fruit is being delivered to you with peak nutritional value and without the guilt of fossil fuel trail (or the chemicals sprayed on fruits like apples and bananas to cause them to ripen). And, if you buy or grow it in excess, you can also preserve the fruit for consumption in the winter months. I canned peaches last fall for the first time and I must say that every time I broke out a jar to eat or make a pie, it was like infusing a gray February day with summer sunshine. Id never much liked store bought canned peaches, but the real thing, canned in a light syrup was absolutely delightful!

In addition to saving fossil fuel and energy in general, eating local and especially supporting local and small farms helps support your local economy and keep farming alive in your community. Farming is a very difficult business these days, and many farmers must work second jobs to keep their farms a float. For this reason CSAs are very important, because the reservation monies you pay in the spring, help fund the seasons crop. And, the CSA membership, helps to ensure that the farmer earns an income, even when crops fail. The CSA is most often a very rewarding relationship for both parties, but you can also think of it a little bit like an independent subsidy for small farmers who unlike mega corporate farms get zilch from the government.

Eating local is good for you, good for the economy, good for the environment and a great way to get involved in your local community. So, if you haven’t yet hit your local Farmers Market the season is going strong, so get out there and EAT LOCAL! Your heart will thank you!

Earth Day Pledge Re-cap

On Earth Day 2008 I challenged bloggers on Social Spark to blog about their personal Earth Day pledge. Below is a re-cap of the blog posts and links to each pledge that I received. Green love is in the air!

Daydreamz is motivated to eliminate her plastic bag stash, start using recyclable bags and start biking to work! Personally, except for rain and snow days, Ive always found biking to work to be invigorating. Please let us know how it goes!

A shutterbugs life is going to sign up for home recycling pick-up and is going to recycle a bunch of old computer equipment. Recycling old electronics is very important, because the almost always contain mercury, cadmium and other toxic metals! Staples is a great place to go for recycling computers and similar equipment.

NWI is going to cut down on his water usage. This is a big one and should be a goal we all strive to achieve!

Pams family is already doing a lot to live green, but they often run out of time to commit to recycling. This Earth Day Pam is committing to make the time to recycle – making every day an Earth Day! Maybe Pam will check in with us periodically and let us know how her recycling goes?

Select Visions is proof that public service commercials do pay off. She recently saw a commercial on phantom power, and is now committed to not letting anyone (or anything) steal (or waste) her electricity!

Sue of a Hand Me Down Life pledges to teach her children how to plant trees and to start composting food waste!

And, Time shadow wrider is working to grow more of her own food, canning and buying local!

Other links showing the diversity of life experiences when it comes to planet saving:

Happy Earth Day by Jayvee

We want a greener earth by Life Long Sharing

It is Earth Day Today by neelkanth

If you made a pledge to live greener this Earth Day and you would like to share, please let us know what you have pledged to do in the comments!

Don’t forget to come back Friday for the Carnival. Green Me will be taking the munchkiroo to visit his grandparents, but Iggi will still be around to post the carnival. Please note that we’ve received so many submissions, that all submissions received on April 22 or later will be published in the following carnival!