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Local, seasonal or both? A guide to more sustainable eating this September

As we kick start a new academic year with a fresh load of motivation, there is no better time to get inspired to eat more sustainably and add some nutritious new recipes to your repertoire. Here Sixtine Liesch writes on the main (and unsurprising) benefits of prioritising seasonal and local food.


Image credits: PublicDomainArchive on Pixabay


It is more environmentally-friendly


With the last of the summer sun blending into cooler autumn temperatures, September’s harvest brings an abundance of locally grown produce, from the last summer berries to the first autumn squashes.


It is no secret that eating foods that grow naturally in the UK is hugely beneficial for the environment. Reducing our food miles - the distance our food travels - and our reliance on energy-intensive micro-climates that comes with growing tropical or out-of-season produce artificially has a considerable impact on CO2 emissions. For example, flying a pack of asparagus from Peru contributes a substantial 3.5kg of CO2 to the atmosphere, whereas locally-grown asparagus produces only 125g of CO2. Meanwhile, eating seasonal produce removes the need for artificial heating (of greenhouses that might try to grow tomatoes year-round for example), refrigeration for its preservation, and long-distance transportation therefore helping to reduce the carbon footprint of the food that eventually ends up on our plate.


As well as distance, the type of transport used has a huge impact on carbon dioxide emissions. Transporting food by sea produces 50 times less CO2 than transporting it by air. So although foods like bananas, kiwis and even sweet potatoes are never going to be local or seasonal to the UK, as they have a long shelf life they tend to be shipped whereas foods with a shorter shelf life have to be flown in.


Increased nutritional benefits


It makes sense that produce that has been harvested locally and in season would be better for our health. And indeed, studies have shown that storing fruit and vegetables for long periods of time causes a decrease in their antioxidant content and the health benefits that we can gain from these, such as reduced risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease.


For example, food that is eaten out of season may have been subjected to cold storage, irradiation (used to eliminate bacteria but also important vitamins) or waxing and other preservation methods to ensure long-term freshness. Whereas produce grown in the right climate at the right time that has been allowed to ripen perfectly is much more nutritious. This helps to improve our gut health, favouring better skin, sleep, digestion and mood and boosts our overall immunity which is especially important as we transition into winter.


Cheaper


Harvested at the right time, produce that grows naturally in the UK is likely to be more plentiful. This is due to the number and time of post-harvest steps being dramatically cut down, also helping to make seasonal produce cheaper.


How to make the most of September’s local fruit and veg?


September delivers a great diversity of British-grown produce including:


- Apples

- Autumn-fruiting raspberries

- Beetroot

- Blueberries

- Broccoli

- Cabbage

- Cauliflower

- Carrots

- Celery

- Chard

- Courgettes and summer squash

- Cucumbers

- Fennel

- Figs

- French beans

- Lettuce and other salad leaves

- Pears

- Peppers and chillies

- Plums

- Potatoes

- Runner beans

- Spinach

- Sweetcorn

- Tomatoes


It’s a long list! You might look out for some of these in your next weekly shop; supermarkets do tend to showcase a selection of British produce as you walk in, sometimes promoting special deals. It’s the perfect opportunity to be more creative with your cooking and switch up your porridge or yoghurt toppings, add an unexpected vegetable to a stew or curry, and play around to make a vegetable packed sauce or pesto for your next pasta night!


About the Author: Sixtine Liesch is currently in her third and final year of studying Biology at the University of York. Having a particular interest in nutrition, she is hoping to specialise in this field after she graduates with the goal to pursue a career relating to food, health and wellbeing.

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