This is the final week of our Month of Action, and we’ve saved one of the most interesting, and complicated, issues for last: food.   Three years ago the NWEI community started talking about and acting on sustainable food issues, with our Menu for the Future program. Since then the conversation has moved into the mainstream media– with movies like Food, Inc.Ingredients, and Fresh calling attention to the realities of our industrial food systems.

The food systems that we depend on are inextricably linked to fossil fuel consumption. From beginning to end, our food system uses energy–every step from growing practices (generation of fertilizers and pesticides, for example), to food storage, to transporting edibles depends on fuel. And right now, 85% of the energy used in the United States is generated by fossil fuels. While we’re hopeful that alternative fuel sources will be part of the solution (think hybrid trucks transporting goods) and that organic farming will play a role (organic farming practices eliminate the need for artificial fertilizers and pesticides, which currently account for 40% of the energy used in the food system!), we’re also of the mind that we, as consumers, have a very big role to play in making the shift to a lower impact food system.

This week we’ll propose actions you can take in order to eat a “low energy diet”  (and don’t worry we’re not talking about a “diet” in the traditional sacrificial sense of the word).  Over the course of the next few days, we’ll focus on ways you can act, eat and garden your way toward a more sustainable food future.

Today’s action is: Vote with your food dollars.

We encourage you to adopt the mindset of “voting with your food dollars” when you grocery shop and eat out.  Casting your vote for local foods is a simple way to immediately support a lower-impact food system. The math is simple: the fewer miles your meals travel to you, the less fuel required.  If you make a trip to a grocer or restaurant today focus on local options–and if you’re unsure which options are local, ask!

If you’re not shopping or eating out today, consider doing some research on locally owned grocery stores, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms in your area, and local farmers markets, so you’re prepared the next time you need to go shopping.

This is also the perfect time to plant a spring garden–and come summer you’ll be eating super locally.

And if you’re already eating a locally focused diet, then consider taking the next step and becoming an advocate for change. Reach out to a friend or family member to encourage them!