Living locally raises a lot of questions, so let’s talk about the ambiguity in what it means to go green at the dinner table, to step lightly and live locally.
What is local enough in relation to the food we eat? How far was the food transported, and if it comes from far away should we just eat it less often? Is there a viable local substitute? Should weight and perishability be considered? We can get citrus and olive oil from California, is that local enough? What about coffee and chocolate, none of which are grown/produced in the USA? Which non-local items to continue using, or not? How difficult or easy is it to sustain a 100-200-500 mile boundary for buying food?
What is local enough if a smaller carbon footprint is our goal? Washington State legislature defines ‘local’ as produce grown in Washington, a crisp definition. We hear a lot about a 100-mile diet. Though a 100-mile geographic diet is worth striving for some, or all of the time, the word diet is off-putting, evoking images of deprivation. We want to do what’s best for the planet, but we don’t really want to go on a crash diet.
Regional is another way to define local and Washington’s boundary can include the entire Pacific Northwest, all of Oregon, maybe part of British Columbia. Some produce, especially citrus and olive oil, from California? It gets tricky.
There’s urgency to living sustainably, no question about it, and making it attainable is an important mission – it guides our thinking at Mixed Greens. A regional boundary helps with getting started minus the ‘crash’ in crash diet. It makes living locally manageable. We can strive toward an ideal, (which will be different for every household), and recognize value in taking a step even if we’re not doing it ALL right away. With regional boundaries, we’ll achieve 100-mile meals some of the time and without the imagined fuss.
For the time being, this will be our Mixed Greens guideline: consuming local/regional/seasonal food in a way that is manageable and with the eventual goal that the balance of our meals are decisively regional if not locally based.
Buying food grown close to home makes sense – fresh seasonal produce tastes better and is more nutritious, less carbon fuel is required for transport, local farmers have a chance to flourish, and it honors children everywhere who inspire us toward stewardship.