Friday, August 7, 2009

The Power of Ten

Fact 1: If all Californians were to buy 10% of their food locally, an extra $848 million would go to California farmers, and extra $1.38 billion would go to the California economy, $188 million in tax revenue would be created, and 5,565 jobs would be created in that state (Jones 2008).
Fact 2: If 10% of each of America's trips were taken on public transportation instead of in a car, we could eliminate 40% of our oil consumption, the same amount that we import from Saudi Arabia each year (Jones 2008).
Fact 3: If the average weight of a US citizen dropped 10 pounds, the airline industry would burn 350 million gallons less fuel per year (Jones 2008).
Maybe buying local could solve our economic crisis. I am sure that the effects of buying local food from California would be similar throughout the country. That's a huge impact! And if you buy as much of your food as possible from local sources, the impact could be even greater. Here in Philly, I think it is entirely possible for us to get at least 80% of our food from local sources, the variety is that great. You can even get local popcorn and butter here. Some areas of the country aren't this lucky, but if those in less diverse markets started shopping for what they could and getting to know their farmers, my guess is that those markets would start to expand. A good place to start buying locally is starting with buying things that are grown here instead of elsewhere, e.g. while you can't get a local banana; you certainly CAN get a local potato or why are you buying the potato from Idaho and the tomato from Mexico? Start eating seasonally so you can work in more local foods, e.g. make strawberries a special treat for June and enjoy acorn squash and apples in the fall.
And take the bus to the market! If only 10% of our trips is all that it takes to cut our oil consumption nearly in half, we should do it. Imagine what could happen if we walked or rode our bikes, or increased that public transportation percentage. There are some places where public transportation just isn't available; I've lived in some of them. But the good news is that these are smaller towns, where you can take a bike easily. Further, it is likely that you could eliminate 10% or more of your car trips by planning ahead and carpooling. Buying local can reduce fuel consumption further because the food is taking a shorter trip.
If you buy local produce, and subsist primarily on that, overweight people are bound to drop a few pounds, reducing our country's overall weight. If obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and other diet related health problems were to decrease, imagine the decreased medical costs in our nation. That wouldn't be bad for the economy!
I hope that you reflect on your own potential to reduce your fuel consumption boost the local economy, and improve your own health. The impact of one person making small steps really CAN make a huge difference.
Reference: Jones, V. 2008. The green collar economy: how one solution can fix our two biggest problems. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 237 pp.

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