When shopping for food, how important is it to buy local? This question isn't rhetorical: I no longer know quite what to think about this. Obviously, transporting food long distances requires fossil fuels and creates air pollution, among other ills. So all else being equal, it's better to buy local. But how much better, I'm just not sure. Studies such as this one (reported on here by the BBC, blogged about here) suggest that, in terms of net environmental impact, it's even more important to buy local than to buy organic. The authors of the study didn't look at human …
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Clark Williams-Derry is research director for the Seattle-based Sightline Institute, a nonprofit sustainability think tank working to promote smart solutions for the Pacific Northwest. He was formerly the webmaster for Grist.