Saving the planet by shopping locally

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The decline of family-owned farms and mom-and-pop shops was a terrible development for our communities. In less than half a century, we lost a sense of place, of belonging. School districts also lost a key component of their tax bases, forcing them to raise property taxes on local homeowners.

What, in the end, did we save? Not much. At the same time, we lost a great deal of who and what we once were.

Lappé argues that we lost even more than we might think. On a number of levels, mega-stores are bad for the environment. They promote a culture of fast-and-furious consumption that unnecessarily depletes natural resources. At the same time, mega-stores are often located well outside the places where their customers live. That, Lappé argues, is a very big environmental problem.

“Walmart has gotten big press for pushing green initiatives … But what do we know about the bigger Walmart picture?” she writes. “Walmart big-box stores are a large factor in the more than 40 percent increase since the early 1990s in the number of miles Americans typically travel to shop, as the company sets up shop far from downtown … forcing people to drive farther for their shopping.”

Driving farther means greater carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. The typical passenger vehicle emits 423 grams, or nearly a pound, of carbon dioxide for each mile driven, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA also says that carbon dioxide is among the main drivers of climate change, a.k.a. global warming. The more carbon we send into the atmosphere, the hotter our planet gets.

My local downtown in Merrick is a mile from my home, so driving to and from it would emit roughly two pounds of carbon. The nearest Walmart, in East Meadow, is a little more than eight miles away. Driving to it would emit 16 pounds of carbon –– or eight times as much as shopping locally.
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