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Keep it local

There’s an easy way to shop more ethically when it comes to your groceries
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
The Local Greens Veg Box team, Herne Hill

This article first appeared in our Earth Day issue of My Green Pod Magazine, published 22 April 2024. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Main image: The Local Greens Veg Box team, Herne Hill

Shopping for groceries at the supermarket has become the norm in the UK, but many are now seeking more local and sustainable alternatives.

Whether it’s getting a veg box from your local grower, buying groceries online from a local farm shop or deli, visiting a farmer’s market or supporting your high-street baker, butcher and greengrocer, there are many ways to buy more ethically.

The produce usually has a lower carbon footprint and your pounds will be channelled back to British farmers and the local economy.

Better Food Traders is an accreditation that helps you find local retailers and suppliers who are truly sustainable.

It builds on the trusted certifications of Soil Association and other organic kitemarks to make sure traders are selling produce that is grown without fossil-fuel based chemicals, with animal welfare of the highest level and in a way that protects soils and ecosystems.

The Better Food Traders standard also means that traders prioritise buying from small- and medium-scale UK farms rather than the mega-farms that destroy their local ecosystems.

Buyers get reassurance that farmers and staff are paid fair prices and wages; retailers avoid air-freighted produce and commit to working in and for their local communities, guided by an environmental and social mission that values people and planet.

A support network

On top of being a customer-facing accreditation, Better Food Traders gives its members lots of practical support including business advice, skills training, funding opportunities and mentoring.

It also runs a nationwide network where ethical traders can get together, both online and at in-person events, to swap knowledge and advice. 

This is all part of its mission to support sustainable, independent food traders – and in turn to help send more money back to organic and regenerative farmers so they can thrive and grow.

A sustainable food system

A really important factor in making the UK’s food production and distribution more sustainable is having more routes to market for climate- and nature-friendly farmers.

If they can sell through a shorter supply chain, either directly or through independent retailers, they are not beholden to supermarkets and can have more power over their prices and their contracts.

This approach also means that produce doesn’t have to travel along the complex supply chains that create more carbon emissions, plastic packaging and food waste.

One myth that Better Food Traders wants to bust is that independent food traders are more expensive.

Supermarkets sell organic fruit and veg as premium products, adding a large mark up.

It always pays to find your nearest veg box scheme or market garden; buying in season can also make a difference.

Products like sourdough bread and handmade cheese are not going to compare on price with supermarket basics because they are totally different products.

If you want the best quality and taste, shop local and you’ll find delicious produce that also reflects the region and the season.

By shopping at a Better Food Trader your pound is also going to stay in the local economy and help support the transition to a more sustainable food system.

Finding local produce

All over the country, there are independent food traders who sell delicious locally grown, climate- and nature-friendly produce.

Some award-winning examples include Regather in Sheffield, Better Food in Bristol, Low Sizergh Barn in Kendal, Bowhouse in Fife, Unicorn in Manchester, Ripple Farm Organics in Kent, Growing Communities and Fridge of Plenty in London and Soul Farm in Falmouth.

To find your nearest Better Food Trader, there’s an interactive map on the Better Food Traders website.

Veg box schemes, online sellers with home-delivery routes, farmers’ markets and other local retailers are regularly added to the map as the number of local and sustainable food traders grows.

If you’re curious to change your shopping habits, this is a great resource.

Even if you find the supermarket habit hard to break, making the switch to a local veg box delivery – or deciding to shop locally at least once a month – helps to make a difference, and really does support local traders and farmers.

If you know any local food traders in your area who should be listed, you can submit your recommendations using the form on the Better Food Traders website.

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