Climate action challenge: What’s on your plate?

 In Opinion

The past pandemic months have brought many issues into clear focus. One of them is how reliant we are on other countries for our food supply. We are lucky to live upon some of the most fertile and productive soil on the planet. The unfortunate part is that, since it is so abundant, we haven’t done much to protect it from urban sprawl and economic expansion. Regularly, our fields give way to housing and commercial spaces. Compounding this, loss of hedgerows and trees increases soil depletion through water and wind erosion. 
The connection between eating quality, fresh foods and our own health is clear. You are what you eat, literally. The nutritional value of our food depends on the health of our soil. So it stands to reason that we should look for the biggest bang for our buck when it comes to what we eat, and that we should be looking in our own backyard, first and foremost, to produce as much of what we eat as we can. When our supply chain is localized, it provides peace of mind, knowing we are as self-sufficient as possible.
Not only is it important for our own health and well-being, it’s inextricably linked to the health of our planet. Today, our food is imported from all around the globe. We are no longer limited by season, or environmental factors. Because of this, we rely on high levels of fossil fuels to get it here. There is something wrong with the system when you can buy lettuce from California cheaper than you can from the farm down the road.
Enter the local farmer. In the height of summer, forget a 100 mile diet – we could reduce that to 10 miles, maybe even one mile, in our region. Besides tropical items, there isn’t much we can’t grow. Meat, cheese, vegetables, fruits, berries, even wines, beers and spirits are locally produced. So this month, our challenge is to eat as seasonally and as locally as we can.
August 7: Get food that is in season and local. Start in your own garden, and move out from there. Buy from farmers’ markets, or look for the “grown in Ontario” label when you shop. Most labels even list the town – so buy as close to home as possible. Transportation increases the carbon footprint of the food you eat.
August 14: This week buy organic produce if possible. It is not just for your health. Organic farming practices build up the soil and in the process, sequester carbon.
August 21: Challenge yourself to create an entire meal from only local ingredients. Ontario (good); Georgian Triangle (better); your own garden (best).
August 28: Try eating vegetarian this week. A plant-based diet is not just good for your health, it is also a good way to reduce your carbon footprint. As always, the less processed, the better. Eat one fully vegetarian dinner (good); Eat several vegetarian dinners (better); eat vegetarian dinners for a full week (best).
Eating locally has multiple benefits. You reduce the carbon footprint of your food, which is about 17 per cent of a household’s emissions. You’ll eat healthier, and find that food tastes better. You’ll save money, especially if most of it comes from your own backyard. Best of all, your money will stay in our local economy, supporting our businesses and farms, and increasing our own community’s prosperity in the process.

52 Weeks of Climate Action was created by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood. Jackson is a writer, speaker and musician. She is the candidate of record and communications coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Hood, is a retired secondary teacher, transportation lead for the Collingwood Climate Action Team, and volunteer coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Visit the blog or sign up at www.52weeksofclimateaction.com.

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