Wal-Mart recently announced that it will be taking steps towards sourcing more of its produce locally. Eating locally is one of the best things you can do to protect the environment, by cutting down on the amount of fossil fuels that are consumed in the process of shipping, and the pollution created by emissions.
While the superstore’s measures are certainly modest, they do bring the issue of local eating to mainstream attention in a big way. Wal-Mart is the world’s largest grocer, so the decision to source nine percent of the produce it sells in the U.S. can have a major impact. Not only will it give more shoppers the opportunity to buy local, it will give small farmers a chance at more revenue and reduce food-waste and spoilage. In Canada, Wal-Mart intends to make as much as 30 percent of the produce sold local. “Our food business in Canada is brand new, so there’s a lot they can do,” said Wal-Mart’s vice president of sustainability Andrea Thomas, reports The New York Times.
Many, however, feel that the steps Wal-Mart is taking are not enough. “It’s very impressive,” said Margaret Mellon, director of the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s encouraging that Wal-Mart understands that the path forward in agriculture isn’t through making the big bigger, it’s really through encouraging the small and medium-sized farms.” However, Mellon expressed disappointment over the lack of goals centered around organic food.
I agree with Mellon that it’s encouraging to see major retailers address the question of sustainable food, but it will take a lot of major changes to make Wal-Mart into a dependable provider of sustainable foods.