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Monday, June 8, 2009

Farmers' Market or Organic Delivery Service? Weighing the Eco Options

Posted By on Mon, Jun 8, 2009 at 1:22 PM

Heart of the City market: Low carbon footprint? - HEATHER/FLICKR
  • heather/Flickr
  • Heart of the City market: Low carbon footprint?
Agoraphobic? Is it raining out? Or maybe you're just too lazy to drag your ass to the farmers' market. Spud, the largest organic food delivery service in North America, can hook you up. But is that entirely a good thing?

It is if convenience is your chief value. Spud, which began its grocery delivery business in Vancouver more than a dozen years ago, launched locally in January 2008, before the proliferation of city farmers' markets (we count eight, with at least one more planned for July). Spud's highly customizable program allows you to put together an a la carte box of organic produce, delivered right to your door. You can also get staples like butter, milk, and bread, and even a few prepared foods (there's a 5 percent discount on standing orders).

Prices are pretty good when you consider that you have to do nothing more than point and click to accomplish your week's grocery shopping. A quart of Clover organic milk is $3.59 and you can get a head of organic butter lettuce for $2.55. The company is carbon neutral, meaning, in this case, it purchases carbon credits from My Climate to offset emissions it can't avoid in running this huge, er, industrial operation. My Climate then puts this money to use for projects that reduce the use of fossil fuels and promote the use of renewable energy sources, many in developing countries.

But several indications are it ain't all that. Spud's "commitment to buying local" (it claims that more than 60 percent of its products are "local") includes sourcing stuff from as far afield as Carpinteria (325 miles) and Oceanside (472 miles). Is that really local? And how much does it co-opt farmers' market foot traffic? Many of Spud's products come from Earthbound Farms, produce mega-suppliers, which is, yes, organic, but on a scale that has the potential to threaten small family farms.

Meanwhile, if you just stroll over to your neighborhood market with your own reusable bags, pay in cash, and chat with the local farmers who are actually your neighbors, you don't have to feel the need to rush home and offset your carbon footprint. And you might also luck out and get to pet some baby goats or something.

Whole Foods probably wishes they had thought of this.

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Kim Westerman


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