My Local Eating Guide
During the summer, I like to buy from farm stands and farmer’s markets to eat fresh and local. This summer I’m living at school so I mostly eat in the dining hall, but on weekends I feed myself. I like to buy from the farmer’s market as much as I can, and it’s pretty easy because my school is in a traditionally agricultural region.
Shopping at the farmer’s market can be difficult if you don’t live in an area that promotes agriculture or in a big city, though. Usually very rural regions, like where I live, or densely populated cities like Boston, because farmers will transport their produce there for the sales available.
Farmer’s markets are different from grocery store produce sections in that they do not have all the types of vegetables all the time. I find that a chart of what is in-season makes it easier to plan. Usually this can be searched on Google - “What’s in season in (state)”. I have my state’s chart as my desktop background, so I can easily check what’s in season and plan my meals around it. This month, spinach and other greens are in season, so this weekend I am making a delicious spinach-lentil dish, for example.
It’s easier to avoid waste shopping at a farmer’s market or farm stand, which is great. Generally they provide plastic bags, but they are often more accepting of reusable bags than grocery stores. I usually bring some large reusable grocery bags as well as some reusable produce bags made of lightweight cloth. They’re pretty easy to make (click for a tutorial), and they are much less wasteful (and way cuter) than plastic. For berries and small fruits, it’s pretty easy to reuse the plastic or cardboard baskets that they come in, at least a few times; or you can dump them into your own reusable basket and give the provided basket back to the farmer for reuse. For eggs, some farmers will put them into reusable egg cartons (click here) if you bring them; meats can be placed in any kind of sealable, reusable container, such as a large tupperware (or you can opt to go meat-free!).
When you get home, you need to store your produce properly. The Berkeley Farmer’s Market has a comprehensive list about produce storage - click here.
It’s pretty easy to eat local during the summer, in many places. Unfortunately I still have not discovered the secret to local winter eating - besides canning, but I don’t have the equipment to do that. Not to mention I have a full college dining plan during the fall, winter, and early spring, so I have no need. However, I will be frequenting the farmer’s market all summer long, as I encourage you to do! Happy farm-fresh shopping!
What Do I Buy New?
As some of you may be aware, I try my best to sew my own clothes or buy things used by thrifting, going to tagsales, and taking friends’ unwanted items. However, there are some things I buy new. I do my best to be as sustainable as possible in buying new things (when it’s within my budget, of course). Here’s what clothing I buy new, not used.
- T-shirts and cami shirts. A women’s t-shirt or cami, in my size, in good condition, is a rare, rare find. When I do find one that appeals to me, I snatch it right up; however, these finds are the exception. Most t-shirts and almost all cami tops are just not made that well, and most fall apart before they have the chance to reach a thrift shop. So, I buy these new. I try not to buy them from obscenely unethical stores (i.e. not from Forever21 or Walmart), but since I cannot afford to be buying top-quality, long-lasting t-shirts all the time on my student budget (or spend the time sewing a wardrobe of plain t-shirts) I will usually go for Target or for sales at American Eagle. I wear my t-shirts until their deaths, many of which are years after purchase (I just had to throw one out after owning it for 5 years or so). This makes me feel a bit less guilty about buying new, I guess.
- Underwear, socks, bathing suits, and anything of that nature. If it sounds unsanitary to share, I do not buy it used. Usually I get enough free underwear gift cards in the mail from Victoria’s Secret, and go to enough American Eagle outlet sales, that I do not need to spend much on underwear anyway. Socks, I buy at Ocean State Job Lot for a few dollars a pack. Bathing suits I generally sew myself.
- Shoes. This is going to sound crazy from a vegetarian environmentalist, but I buy expensive, new, leather shoes. Let me explain. I spent ages resisting buying expensive footwear. I went to K-mart for my summer sandals, Marshall’s for my sneakers and flats. That sort of thing. However, these shoes just fall apart SO quickly and have to be replaced. It feels so wasteful to constantly buy cheap shoes that I have to replace each year. However, at the same time, I cannot bring myself to buy used shoes - I have an intense aversion to feet (wierd, I know) not to mention how difficult it is to find a size 8.5 wide in a thrift store. So, I instead choose to buy high-quality leather shoes, which cost a lot of money but I can assure you, will last me a long time. Spending the money on overly expensive clothing is often not worth it, but I do not regret buying the shoes I have purchased. They are comfortable and durable, and since they will last so long, I feel like I am reducing the waste I might otherwise produce. As for the leather, leather shoes last much longer than synthetics, further reducing my waste.
- Random stuff on sale. I’m not perfect, and I can have difficulty resisting a sale on something I need but could theoretically buy used; or even stuff I don’t need, just want. It can be hard to resist consumerism, unfortunately. Luckily, with practice, I get better and better at resisting!