The 100 Mile Diet: How to Get Local (or At Least Come Close!) -Guest Post

Buying locally benefits the local economy while improving the environment by enriching soil, protecting water quality as well as air quality, and minimizing energy consumption. Local farms are also inherently preserving land while using less packaging that cannot be reused or recycled. The reasons to eat local in your meal planning never end!

So why do people still emphasize buying organic? Buying organic assures that your food has been produced without using most pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, bioengineering or ionizing radiation. Some people feel hesitant to buy local food because most local farmers cannot afford the time-consuming and costly organic certification. However, you can still ask famers whether or not your food is organic by the certification standards by inquiring what types of pesticides or fertilizers they use. You can eat organic and local simultaneously.

Additionally, eating local is time consuming and sometimes difficult. Some people just don’t feel up the the challenge. However, there are some ways that you can eat local, even if you can’t become a full-fledged “locavore.”

For example, you can make sure you can purchase by the season to minimize your food’s travel time. There are tons of websites, such as Smart Living, that provide charts and lists of foods that are in season in your area. Print these out, put them on the fridge, and shop by the season.

You can also try buying from a local food producer, like a butcher or bakery. Instead of buying that loaf of bread in the aisles of the grocery store, pick it up from your local bakery.

Don’t hesitate to go local from home, either. Planting some herbs like basil and rosemary is a little effort that can go a long way. If you have a green thumb, you could try your hand at planting some berries or vegetables too.

But let’s face it -- not everyone has the time or resources to go all local. If you can’t go local, think regionally or for items produced in the United States. Get as close to home as you can. When shopping for ingredients that you can’t get in the United States, look for Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance certification. Fair trade guarantees that farmers receive a fair price for their product, work directly with buyers, and prioritize sustainable farming methods without harmful pesticides or child labor. Rainforest Alliance guarantees that products are grown with environmentally responsible management practices including integrated pest and disease management, soil and water conservation. Workers are fairly compensated for their work through this certification.

Going local means become more aware of the environment and paying close attention where your food comes from. By doing so, you get fresher food to your table and help the environment. It’s a win-win.

James Kim is a writer for  Food on the Table is a company that provides online budget meal planning services.  Their goal is to help families eat better and save money.