Should You Buy British to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint?
In a world where carbon footprints are scrutinised like celebrity apology Instagram posts, and every grocery decision feels like a moral dilemma, it's time we took a closer look at the notion that supporting British farming might be the ticket to a brighter future.
Choosing locally produced goods has been highlighted as a way to reduce transportation emissions that continue to stack up whenever we choose an overseas apple or an avocado from abroad. Plus, buying British is a fantastic way of putting back into our own economy and helping to support those who live and work off the land.
Yet, despite this logical assumption, there is a complex reality to our shopping habits that still sees British produce passed aside.
So, in this blog post, we're going to untangle the mystery of buying British and explain why it is an effective strategy for reducing our carbon footprint.
What Does "Eat Local" Mean?
The "Eat Local" mantra is all about embracing the broader concept of sourcing food from your immediate community. It encourages us to learn more about where our food comes from and has a range of benefits.
There are lots of ways in which this simple and easy act of buying British can positively impact both our economy and our people:
- Supports Local Farmers and Producers: This movement puts money back into the pockets of those who work the land and physically provide the food which we serve up on our dinner table each night. If you do a job, you'd expect to be paid fairly for it. This is what you can help give back to our British farmers
- Fosters a Sense of Community: Spending a morning shopping at a farmers market is not only a great way to stock up your fridge for the week, it's also a fun activity you can do with family and friends. Plus, you can chat to the farmers and get to know a different way of life
- Minimises Food Miles: "Eating Local" aims to reduce the distance food travels from farm to plate. By choosing products that haven't been transported over long distances, consumers can help lower the associated carbon emissions. This is vital for long-term protection of our environment
Promotes Seasonal Eating: Eating foods that are in season locally can be a key part of "Eat Local." This reduces the need for energy-intensive practices like greenhouse cultivation and long-distance transportation of out-of-season produce.
The Positive Effect of Buying British on the Average Carbon Footprint
Every morsel of food you consume carries a hidden carbon cost. It's not just about the energy used to cook it – it's also about the resources required to grow, package, and transport it to your table.
For example, you're at your local supermarket, trying to decide between two steaks. One proudly boasts a "Made in Britain" label, and the other has travelled halfway across the globe to reach the aisles.
That steak that's seen more countries than you have? It's left a sizeable carbon footprint in its wake, thanks to the miles it has travelled and the emissions from its journey. The British steak, on the other hand, has likely had a shorter, less carbon-intensive commute. It hasn't clocked up as many frequent flyer miles as its counterpart, and its contribution to your carbon footprint is significantly smaller.
In fact, according to a published study by the University of Oxford's Joseph Poore and Swiss researcher Thomas Nemecek, British and European beef, on average, emits just over half the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent compared to the global average. This finding, as reported by Country Life, suggests that buying British beef can potentially reduce your carbon footprint.
Therefore, sometimes it's the choices that seem as simple as steak that can make the most significant impact.
How "Eat Local" Reduces Carbon Footprints
Small, mindful changes in your food choices and habits can add up to impactful reductions in your carbon footprint over time.
It's not about perfection but progress.
By actively making choices to buy local produce, you are helping the environment in the following ways:
- Reduced Transportation Emissions: One of the most significant ways "Eat Local" reduces carbon footprints is by minimising the transportation of food over long distances. When food doesn't need to be shipped across the country or internationally, the carbon emissions associated with transportation decrease substantially
- Preservation of Green Spaces: Supporting local agriculture helps preserve green spaces and farmland in the community, preventing urban sprawl and land conversion, which can increase carbon emissions
- Support for Sustainable Farming Practices: Many local farmers employ more sustainable and environmentally friendly farming practices, which can include reduced pesticide use, minimal tillage, and efficient resource management. These practices can further lower the carbon footprint of local food production.
- Resilience in the Supply Chain: Eating locally can also contribute to greater food system resilience. Shorter supply chains are less susceptible to disruptions caused by external factors like extreme weather events or global crises, which can help stabilise food availability.
Are British Farms Eco-Friendly?
British farms often prioritise responsible land management and sustainable agriculture. They understand that caring for the land and minimising environmental impact isn't just a nod to tradition; it's a commitment to preserving the very soil that sustains them.
These practices can include:
- Crop rotation
- Reduced pesticide use
- Nurturing of wild habitats on the farm
- Embracing renewable energy sources
- Actively reducing water usage.
These measures are supported further when we choose to buy a British apple and subsequently give financial backing to our local farmers.
What's more, the British countryside is home to some of the most picturesque grasslands and pastures on the planet. These landscapes serve as carbon sinks, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil.
The more British farms we support, the more we contribute to preserving these carbon-capturing havens.
How to Easily Buy British Produce
Products in our local supermarkets come from all corners of the Earth, travelling vast distances before landing on your shopping list. These journeys involve cargo ships, trucks, and planes – each leg of the voyage adding to the carbon footprint of the items you buy.
By choosing local and British produce, you're reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with transporting goods across oceans and continents. Instead of jet-setting ingredients from far-off places, you're celebrating the flavours of home.
Now, we're not suggesting you give up on global culinary adventures entirely - you don't have to give up all the foods you love. But consider this: for everyday groceries and staples, British options are often right at your doorstep, waiting to be discovered.
A common misconception about buying British is that it is difficult to do. Most people want to be in and out of the supermarket, and that's a fair point. But, once you know what you're looking for, it becomes part of your shopping with almost no effort at all.
Some simple ways to be conscious about your food choices are:
- Origin Information: Check for clear labelling that indicates where the product was produced or sourced. Look for phrases like "locally sourced" or specific regional names
- Seasonal Produce: Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season in your area, as these are more likely to be locally grown and fresher. If it's April and you're buying a pumpkin, this should ring alarm bells
- Certifications: Look for certifications like "Organic", "Certified Local" or "Certified Sustainable" that vouch for the authenticity and sustainability of local products
- In-store Signage: Look for in-store signage or displays that highlight local products or provide information about where they come from.
As we mentioned earlier, there are also great benefits to heading to a farmers market on the weekend. So, if you want to be 100% sure about where something comes from, you can buy it directly from the people who grew it!
While it may not be the sole solution to the climate crisis issue, choosing British produce can certainly make a positive impact on our carbon footprint.
Each conscious choice brings us closer to a greener and more sustainable future, and we can all do our bit to help.
So, next time you're at the supermarket, look for that homegrown produce to take the next sensible step forward for our environment. If you're interested in learning more about British farming, then make sure you check out our other blog posts!