• Eirini Sampson

Farmers Markets vs Supermarkets

Buying our groceries from the supermarket can sometimes be unsustainable for a multitude of reasons. For instance, grocery stores use massive amounts of energy to be lit, to keep refrigerators going, and to maintain storage. Stores also play with our consumer behaviour and tend to throw away edible food that ends up going to landfills because they might not look 'perfect'. Grocery stores also become a middle-man between the producer and the end-consumer, which carries transportation costs and emissions. Further, most supermarkets predominantly supply us with packaged options, without loose produce alternatives.

Alternatives can include 'organic' (and often overpriced) stores that can guarantee loose produce, recyclable/biodegradable/compostable packaging, and sustainable production. However, this is not accessible to everyone - whether they are not affordable, or not available in certain areas - there are other ways that we can buy our groceries while minimising our impact. This has been something I struggled with when looking at my food consumption. When I realized how much more expensive organic groceries are, I was hit with a very harsh reality: grocery stores were my only option and I would have to suck up buying packaged products. In this I tried to consider which alternatives would be the most affordable and also sustainable to me. For example, would ordering my groceries online reduce my impact and plastic waste? Jeff Bezos seemed to think so.

Alternatives to supermarkets that has predated most ‘green’ grocery stores have been farmers markets. Traditionally, farmers markets take place once a week in a designated location. When considering sustainable food consumption, farmers markets have become a symbol of sustainable agricultural consumption. Unlike the grocery store supply chain, farmers markets reduce the actors involved in the final consumption of produce. This reduces the potential of unsustainable food production and consumption as our fruits and vegetables do not have to go through several stages to reach us. Farmers markets reduce the impact of transportation, packaging, repackaging, grocery store display and the emissions from a grocery trip. Instead, products are grown and sold directly to the consumer without the middle-man (the grocery stores). Locally sourced produce travels about 27 times less distance than conventionally sourced produce. Further, 3 in 4 farmers use practices consistent with organic standards, but often sold to consumers at a much lower price than supermarkets. Buying your produce from the farmers market also means that you are more likely to be buying products that are in season and are not imported. This is important as it reduced the transportation costs derived from exports, which also makes your products more likely to be fresh.