Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which means YBC® will earn a small commission if you happen to make a purchase. Thanks for the support.
Hi all! YBC®’s Editorial Director, Ashley, is here with tips on shopping with sustainability in mind. Shopping small is a mission close to my heart and was the inspiration for the Mantra Box®. (We still have a few Spring boxes left, which you can pre-order here.) Read on and find a small change that works for your lifestyle, and leave some love in the comments! xo-Candace
I grew up in Texas, hunting, fishing and occasionally hulling peas on my Mimi’s back porch, but for the most part, these practices were hobbies. I’m grateful to my dad for teaching me the connection between hunter and prey as I field dressed the first deer we brought home by my hand, and to my small town, full of farmers and cattle ranchers, who taught me to respect the animals that gave their lives for our survival. We ate the food we harvested from the forests, lakes, and Mimi’s garden, but a large portion of my diet as a kid came in a can. I knew where my hamburger came from, but I gave no thought to how it arrived on my plate, or what impact my diet had on my community or the planet. Not because I didn’t care, but because we were doing the best we could with what we had, and sometimes that meant Dinty Moore beef stew. I was well fed and never went without, but I know so many people have no idea where their food comes from or the impact their diet may have on the environment, their community, or even their own health. In our efforts to advance, our lifestyles shifted from grounded connection to the Earth to plastic pouches of calorically dense, but nutrient deficient, meals. Our preferences for convenience and speed are taking a toll on the soil, air quality and food production methods that support us. Now we face unprecedented crises in our physical health and the health of our planet, and there is no shortage of doomsday literature to tell us we better shape up.
I’m not going to argue for a prescribed diet today - tell you that you should or should not eat meat to save your health or the planet, or assign a moral score to your plate - but I have learned a few things about food production that changed the way I buy groceries.
In preparing for Namaslay® YTT, I read The Micronutrient Miracle, and learned about the degeneration of soil quality due to farming practices, use of pesticides, and climate change. At first read, my thoughts were, “Cool, none of those are problems I have any control over. They’re large scale issues of which I know very little about.” But I believe in small changes producing big results and accepted that I don’t have to understand the intricacies of soil science to know feed lots and pesticides aren’t doing me any favors. The authors of The Micronutrient Miracle advocate buying local, organic produce whenever possible, and since I moved to a little town just south of Austin, Texas, I’ve developed relationships with small family farms. I’ve learned I can vote with my dollars.
In short, buying local, organic produce and meat can support a more nutrient dense diet, nurture the environment, and promote your local economy.
I want to support regenerative agriculture - methods of producing food and raising animals that promote soil health, increase biodiversity, and improve watersheds. There’s a lot of literature on this, but for the average consumer’s needs, here’s a good place to start when shopping with health and sustainability in mind:
Ask questions - Head to your local farmer’s market and ask them about their methods. Do they actually produce what they’re selling? Where do they grow/raise their food? Do they pasture their animals? Do they use pesticides or chemicals in their farming practices? Look for pastured animals and free-range chickens for meat and eggs. Bonus points if you hear words like “holistic land management,” “no-till,” or “pasture cropping.”
Volunteer at a local farm - Even if it’s just for a day, get to know the people producing food in your community. It’s a great way to get a crash course in what it takes to grow food and support livestock. Plus you’ll probably go home with a bundle of fresh produce.
Eat seasonally - It’s a luxury to have access to strawberries in December, but the further your food travels from the ground to your plate, the greater the carbon footprint and chances for contamination of your dinner. Local food has a shorter commute from harvest to table. Many times the food you find at a local market has been picked in the last 24 hours, meaning the nutrient content and flavor is greater than produce imported from another state or country. Reducing the miles your food travels lessens the environmental burden and ensures you’re eating a variety of foods with the highest nutrient density possible. Here’s a great guide for finding what’s in season in your area and how to choose the best produce.
When eating out, look for restaurants that source their food from local producers. Support small businesses and local farmers, and you’ll support your greater community. There are also systemic environmental benefits of keeping workers local, minimizing highway commuters and long distance transportation.
Start with one or two of these. Take a family outing to the nearest local market and ask a few questions. Small changes can effect big results, so do what works for you and modify as you go, but don’t be hard on yourself when local food isn’t an option.
I struggled with writing this post. Because it’s a complex subject, I’m not an expert, and I think there’s a lot of privilege in the discussion of buying local, organic foods. Most people are doing the best they can with what they have, and we often forget the single mom working two jobs to feed her kids is more concerned about making ends meet than the humane processing of poultry. I do, however, think it’s an important conversation to have. In my yoga practice, I learn more and more about the connection of all living things and the harmony to be found in simple awareness. I want to promote a healthy and happy community for myself and for generations to come, so I do the best I can with what I have. I hope this helps you bring more balance to your health and the sustainability of your community. I’m happy to learn more from you, or connect you with resources to further your learning. You can find me on Instagram @breathingbird, or drop me a line in the comments. Thanks for being here!