Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How far are you willing to go for local food?

Another long break between posts! I'm in Auckland, New Zealand at the moment, staying with my housemate's family while I organize my student visa. The landscape is beautiful here and I've greatly enjoyed the hikes and walks around the Waitatere ranges.

Last weekend, we went out grocery shopping. There's a deal at New Worlds supermarket where you spend $200+ and get a 30 cent discount on gas. They managed to spend $235. Then, we head to this farmers' market in the city and bought some more eggs, cupcakes (which were quite yummy), and veggies. I figure okay, this is a good amount of food. But we're not done! 2 more stops at another farmers' market and a wholesake bakery (to get a week's worth of dessert it seems), back home to unload everything, and then to a farmers' market 40 min drive away to get veggies picked that day. There was SO much food and it was just for the 4 of us.

After having been here for a week and half, I've definitely noticed that they buy WAY WAY more food than they could ever possibly eat in a week. A good amount goes to waste or as they put it, if it's not good, just chuck it out and grab the next one because we have so many. As much as I think their intentions for environmentalism are sincere, I think they go about it in the wrong way. There's nothing wrong with stocking up, but one must take into account how much one can actually eat so that food doesn't go to waste. It'd save a lot of money as well, since they would actually just buy what's necessary instead of overcompensating.

The dilemma of local food versus how far you're willing to get said food is also highlighted here. Obviously driving out 40 min each way to buy groceries is not something you want to be doing each day. But eating freshly picked vegetables, picked THAT morning in fact, is appealing, and there are numerous other benefits to farmers' markets (getting to know your farmers, social interaction). The family is recognized by all the farmers and they exchange pleasant conversation at every stop. Weighing the pros and cons of such decisions ultimately pins different aspects of sustainability against each other - carbon footprint and time management of driving long distances, eating locally, farmer community. I don't think there's necessarily one right answer, but it helps to look at every angle and decide what each factor is worth to you.