By Frances Bernards,
URA Board Member, Environmental Consultant
Summer has arrived which means that locally grown fruit and veggies will be available either at farmers markets, community-supported agriculture (CSA) farms, or in your own garden! While winter markets exist in the Wasatch Front, summer and fall is when you will find the greatest variety of local produce. Shopping at local markets provides an opportunity to reduce food and packaging waste.
In the U.S. today, 40% of the food produced is wasted from seed to plate – waste occurs in every phase of the North American supply chain from production and harvest to distribution and consumption (largest percentage of waste occurs in this phase). Due to shorter distribution chains, less food is wasted if produce is purchased from local farmers.
We know that farmers markets can be great for reducing food waste, but can they be relied upon to support a community’s needs? According to a study, by Professor Andrew Zumkehr and Professor J. Elliott Campbell with the University of California, more than 80 percent of Americans could be fed with food grown within 50 miles of their home. For comparison, conventionally produced food travels up to 1,500 miles from farm to plate in the U.S.
When you head to a farmers market, you also have an opportunity to cut down on packaging waste. A 2015 study, conducted at U.C. Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEA) determined that 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year. That’s a lot of plastic. How much? Its equivalent to five grocery bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world.
A quick and easy fix to reduce plastic waste is to switch to reusable produce and shopping bags and containers. Then, don’t forget to take these zero-waste friends with you to farmers markets, grocery stores, and even to restaurants to use for leftovers.
The Wasatch Front is an ideal climate for a variety of fruits and vegetables, so gather up your reusable produce and shopping bags, etc. and head to your closest farmers market!