Buying local this holiday season is good for the environment and the community

As the holiday season approaches, Americans will begin to purchase more gifts and perishable goods than any other time of year. Choosing local vendors could have a positive effect on the environment, as well as the local economy.

Luckily, Tampa Bay offers lots of local shopping options that reduce buyer’s carbon footprints and benefits the area.

Sustainable produce and dairy options are offered at places like Sweetwater Organic Farm and Tampa Bay’s Farmer Market.

Buying produce, goods and meat from a high traffic supermarkets may mean that your fresh breakfast is coming from hundreds of miles away, and could of been held in storage for days.

It may also mean that Christmas gifts contributed to the global crisis of industrial pollution.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, industrial pollution is responsible for nearly 50 percent of American pollution.

Local businesses mainly hire Tampa Bay residents. These business owners are mostly locals, who contribute to the Tampa community through their consumer choices and donations.

The profits from large retailers like Walmart, don’t linger in the local economy, but go to the top of the business’s pyramid.

According to the  Andersonville Study of Retail Economics, local businesses generate 70 percent more local economic activity than large retailers.

Not only this, but supermarkets and malls get their products from over long distances. Large scale businesses burn lots of  fossil fuels through the processing, packaging and shipping of goods.

Locally sourced retailers cut out most of the shipping and transporting fuel use because the items are sourced in Tampa.

Consignment shopping is also good for the environment because it eliminates waste.

Local plants, flowers and garden decorations are available at Parkesdale Farms. Photo by Abby Baker.

“If you want to buy gift or even some groceries for yourself, places like Parkesdale here is going to give right back to Plant City,” said Parkesdale Farms consumer Josie Carlson. “You know, they give a lot to charities and all around here.”

Between Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or any other festivities around wintertime, entertaining in your home requires more than a few trips to the grocery store.

If meat and dairy is on your menu, considering local, organic farms could be healthy for you and the planet.

Buying local meat is Eco-friendly. Photo by Abby Baker at the Hay Exchange in Plant City, FL.

Farms like TrailBale farm, Chuck’s Natural Food Market and Nature’s Harvest Market offer poultry and red meat that has not been treated with unnatural chemicals and is fed a natural diet.

On top of this, large factory farms contribute to pollution and water waste.

According to the EPA, animals on American factory farms produce around 500 million tons of waste annually.

Smaller, sustainable farms offer meat that is raised in a way that doesn’t destroy the land and water it utilizes. Buying from these farms also supports the farmers that use these green tactics.

Supporting these green business owners strengthens the local economy at the most basic level, but with years of participation in local buying, big changes could be made to the U.S. economy.

“I buy most of my fruits and veggies here (Parkesdale),” said Carlson. “Really, it’s a little cheaper and I think the food tastes cleaner.”

If you’re looking for Tampa Bay shops to shop locally, these options will keep your local shopping cart full.

  • Blind Tiger Cafe in Ybor City offers an assortment of coffee and tea.
  • Penelope T is an upscale Tampa boutique that offers classy apparel and jewelry.
  • Paper Street Market in St. Petersburg offers vintage furniture and home decor.
  • Secondhand Savvys in Brandon is bursting with slightly used clothing and home goods.

Misleading Labels on Healthy Snacks in Vending Machines

When choosing a snack from the vending machine you may only pay attention to labels on the front of the package; make sure to not let certain labels fool you into thinking you’re eating healthy.

Vending machines have made an effort to partake in the healthy transformation of food offered on college campuses. Snacks that are below 250 calories are now labeled with a green sticker.

There are also “2bu” vending machines, which are advertised as only being filled with healthy snacks.

Many people may think they are eating healthy if they choose a snack that is labeled organic, gluten free, natural or fat free.

Registered Dietitian Dr. Theresa Crocker said “labeling as a whole often misleads consumers.”

“Just because something is labeled organic or natural, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. But if instead, you set standards that all of the components in a vending machine meet XYZ standards then it’s guaranteed that people have access to healthier foods,” said Dr. Crocker.

James Thach, a student at the University of South Florida, has fallen victim of the misleading labels.

“If I saw something that was organic, I would assume that it would be a lot healthier than something that wasn’t,” said Thach.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. The “2bu” vending machine offers a selection of organic options, including organic jellybeans. One package of these jellybeans has 58 grams of sugar. That is double the amount of sugar than a Twix candy bar, which has 28 grams of sugar per bar.

Although these snacks may not be mislabeled, the labels can be misleading. The nutrition facts will reveal more about what you’re eating than the labels on the front of the package.