Eco-Friendly Living

4 benefits of shopping and eating locally

The many benefits of shopping and eating locally

Photography, Karolina Grabowska,

Eco-Friendly Living

4 benefits of shopping and eating locally

Discover the 4 benefits of eating local, seasonal foods.

In the last decade, shopping and eating locally have gained widespread popularity—and with good reason. Food pro­duced close to home often tastes fresher, and purchasing local food also results in a number of environmental, social and economic benefits that have a far reaching ripple effect. 

1. Food Transportation

“Local food is food that’s produced within a short distance of where it’s consumed,” says Corine Singfield, a board member with Canadian Organic Growers and a regenerative agriculture consultant, farmer and researcher based in B.C. “There are many different definitions—it can be Canadian food or regional food, [but] I tend to think local food means you live fairly close to the farmers.” 

One of the defining characteristics of local food is a shorter supply chain when compared to large-scale supermarkets, which can include direct sales to consumers, say at a farmers’ market. It’s this shorter supply chain that is often referenced as a key environmental benefit of shopping local, due to a reduction of transportation emissions. 

A 2022 study published in Nature Food found that transportation of food—also known as “food miles”—accounts for 19 percent, or one-fifth, of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with our overall food system. Foods that require refrigeration are a particular culprit: The study found that transportation emissions from fruits and vegetables are twice as high as the emissions that result from actually producing them. 


Photography, Karolina Grabowska,

“Some fruits and vegetables are flown around the world; that is the most carbon-intensive way of shipping food. We should not be flying food,” says Sarah Elton, assistant professor of sociology at Toronto Metropolitan University and author of the book Locavore. “If you’re buying local strawberries, those strawberries are going to have travelled less than strawberries that have been shipped across the continent.” 

Elton notes, however, that while eating local food reduces the transportation emissions of what’s on your plate, there are other benefits that come from purchasing food locally that are equally important. 

2. Sustainable Practices

“We can’t just swipe away food miles as something that’s insignificant,” she says. “But when we buy food that’s grown nearby, [those] farmers and rural economies are in our foodshed. Farms—specifically midscale and small farms—play a key role in rural economies and they also offer benefits in terms of ecosystems.”

Singfield says that small to midsize farms are more likely to employ sustainable farming practices, which can have a positive impact on the environment. 

“Stewardship of the land and ecological practice— or what is widely referred to as regenerative agriculture—is difficult to implement beyond a certain scale,” Singfield says. “Farms that are automated and have no human contact have the prerogative of being extremely specialized and are less able to have regenerative practices. If we support local farms instead of buying from conglomerates, we support a higher number of smaller farms instead of very large farms often found in other countries.” 


Photography, Julia Volk,

Sustainable practices can include things like rotational grazing, implementing measures to enhance biodiversity and promoting soil health. 

“When I’m talking about sustainability, I’m talking about food that is grown in a way that takes care of the soil, manages fertilizer and nutrients in a responsible way, doesn’t pollute waterways, is mindful of pollinators, is not spraying chemicals that are going to kill the bees,” Elton says. “It’s done in a way that we can hope to have food grown on the same land for generations.” 

“Just two generations ago, most of the human population ate whatever they or their neighbours produced. Now we’re just a bunch of people who can’t imagine not eating avocados and lemons.” 


3. Local Food Systems

Buying food locally also contributes to the resilience of our food system overall, which is something that has come to the forefront for many Canadians during the pandemic years. 

“With COVID-19, we’ve seen how catastrophic it was to depend on food produced in faraway places, with grocery store shortages and price increases. Local farmers simply could not keep up their inventory of products—we relied so much on local farmers,” Singfield says. “So if we need to fall back on local farms during times of crisis, we really need to foster that system year-round.” 

Singfield also points to the On-Farm Climate Action Fund, which the Government of Canada announced in 2021 to help farmers address climate change. Through the fund, farmers receive support to adopt practices like nitrogen management, cover cropping and rotational grazing, all of which help to reduce greenhouse gasses, store carbon and improve biodiversity. 

Singfield has accessed the fund on her own farm and says that she has seen a big uptake with other Canadian farmers utilizing the program. “There’s never been a better time to eat local food,” she says. 

4. Seasonal Produce

It’s worth noting that eating locally often also means eating food that is in season, too, which is something that Elton says helps her be more present and take pleasure in food. She subscribes to a farm box from a nearby farm that delivers food on a weekly basis from May to December, and also does plenty of freezing and drying so produce lasts throughout the year. 

“It’s a beautiful thing seeing the asparagus in May when it comes—and it’s been almost a year since you last saw it,” Elton says. 

Singfield echoes those sentiments, noting that when you eat locally, you exclusively get what’s in season. 

“You can only get what’s in season when you eat locally,” she says. “It’s interesting to consider that we’ve only started eating out of season in the past 80 years. I remember my grandmother telling me that for Christmas each of her siblings got an orange. Just two generations ago, most of the human population ate whatever they or their neighbours produced. Now we’re just a bunch of people who can’t imagine not eating avocados and lemons.” 

The Power to Choose


Photography, Lisa Fotios,

Whether you choose to eat locally for environmental concerns, to support small-scale farmers or to eat more intentionally with the seasons, Singfield says that we have the power to make change by mindfully choosing what we put on our plates. 

“Food is a large part of most people’s disposable income; we have to eat. So we might as well change our habits because it’s a daily thing,” she says. “I think the short answer is we have full control over what we eat so we need to make our dollars count toward the kind of society and communities that we want to live in.” 


Share X
Eco-Friendly Living

4 benefits of shopping and eating locally