STANFORD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF EARTH SCIENCES - EARTH SYSTEMS PROGRAM

Sustainable Choices

Shop at Stores/Restaurants That Buy Local/Organic

Simplicity:
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Carbon Impact:
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Money Savings:
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Health Helper:
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Overview
Because of high demand by consumers, supermarkets and restaurants are beginning to feature more and more local and organic products—ranging from vegetables to honey to bread. By making a concerted effort to patronize businesses that support values of sustainability, consumers can shift the supply chain towards more sustainable practices. Businesses need customers to stay in business, so use your purchasing power to support local, organic, and sustainable production.

Tips & Tricks
Ask market and restaurant management about their organic and local purchasing policies. If they don’t have one, encourage them to adopt one. Hearing customer input makes a difference.

Learn which products are local to your region. Do some sleuth-work—ask around, check the labels, browse the internet—to learn about your local foodshed. Then take this knowledge to the store and look for those items on the shelves. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs can also be a great way to learn what’s in season, because these programs deliver local, organic, and seasonal produce. Find out about CSA’s near you here.

Web & Print Resources
Find grocery stores and restaurants that carry local and organic products:
www.localharvest.org/

Northern California local food resources:
www.locavores.com/

Books:
Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket, by Brian Halweil.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver.

Personal Story
This material originally appeared in Eat Here by Brian Halweil.

A stainless steel milk dispenser hums as its contents cool, and old-fashioned blenders stand ready to make milkshakes. A pass-through window to the kitchen frames the cooks as they flip omelettes and pancakes and push burnt bits of hash-browns and bacon towards the grill’s gutter. Not too different from the original diner that opened in the long, narrow building 70 years ago. A dozen conversations rumble, including one between me and the diner’s owner and manager, Tod Murphy. Coffee cups clink against their saucers. An occasional ring signals that dishes are up. The waitresses’ sneakers squeak on the wood floors. “My son says his dad smells like French fries,” says Murphy.

Linger a little bit longer, though, and you find that this isn’t any ordinary diner. The milk in the blenders and dispenser is certified organic, which means the cows it came from weren’t given shots of antibiotics or feed grown with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It’s also from a local dairy, which means it didn’t arrive in a tank truck from a place most of the folks in Barre have never seen.

The eggs in the omelettes are local too. The berries and flours in the muffins and pies are from local berry patches and wheat fields. The diner cuts all its own French fries and grinds all its own hamburger meat, also from local farms. In fact, while most of the food that Americans eat travels at least 2,500 kilometers from farm to plate, most of the food served in this place was grown within 80 kilometers, and Murphy’s goal is 100 percent. It’s February now and there’s still snow on the parking lot. But even in the dead of New England’s winter, the menu continues to serve a range of local produce, from grain for the bread and pasta to beans, meat, carrots, potatoes, onions, applesauce, cider, and beer.

To read more, pick up a copy of Eat Here at your local library or bookstore.

Fun Facts

Even if a product is made by a local company, that does not mean that the ingredients are local or even that it was manufactured locally.

Locally-produced honey can help your body fight pollen allergies.