The unfortunate answer to the question about whether we should purchase non-local, organic food or local, non-organic food is that we should not be having the discussion at all.
All food should be organic and come from the closest possible farm. The True Resource Efficiency trade model and Food Production factor of the Formula of Sustainable Design proves this beyond doubt by summarizing the principles and benefits of local trade and organic farming.
However, the debate continues between two factions who should be united rather than fragmented. These two groups are locavores and organic only consumers.
Locavores believe that all their food should come from within a 100 mile radius. The 100 mile radius is a good ideal; however, it may prove more practical to accept food within a 500 mile radius. In general, everyone should try to find organic food within a 25 mile radius. According to the True Resource Efficiency Trade Model, the 25 mile radius is called the Local Trade Area. It is the best option if practical. Then trade within a 100 mile radius. Next, trade within a 250 mile radius. Finally, trade within a 500 mile radius. All products, not just food products, should comply with this system.
If, however, given the choice between a product produced by unsustainable methods but within the 25 mile trade radius and a product produced by sustainable methods within a 500 mile radius, then choose the more distant product that is sustainably produced. However, it certainly would not be the optimum choice. The optimum choice is a product that is produced by sustainable methods within the 25 mile trade radius.
For example, using a non-food product such as energy from coal mined within a 25 mile trade radius or energy from a wind turbine within a 250 mile trade radius, then the better choice is from the wind energy even though it is produce farther away. However, wind energy within a 25 mile trade radius is best.
In short, consumers must consider many factors and weigh them to determine the best possible choice. It’s a good idea to study all the factors of the Formula of Sustainable Design and apply what you learn.
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