Committing to a fully sustainable existence simply isn’t possible for everyone. It would be great if we could all raise our own food, walk or bike to work and get our energy from clean sources, but busy lives in this modern world make it impossible to become perfect green beings.
But, there are small things we can do to shave off some of the burden our families place on the world’s resources and on our shared environment. We can alter our thermostat settings by a couple degrees. We can plan a day of errands for maximum efficiency, reducing gas usage and carbon emissions. And, while running those errands, we can think about the products we buy and where they come from.
Manufacturing and shipping products consumes resources. Buying goods made in Memphis and the immediate region reduces this consumption by eliminating the need for long hauls in a tractor trailer. Additionally, local products lead to local jobs, local pride and perhaps most importantly, local flavor.
On a recent visit to Kroger for the standard weekly run, MemphisConnect took a moment in each aisle to scan for tasty treats made in the area. Expecting to find a scattering of local stuff, we were impressed at the breadth and variety of Mid-South goods on the shelves, and were happy to add them to the shopping cart.
In the produce department, we scored a sackful of Ripley tomatoes, grown 50 miles north of Memphis in Ripley, Tennessee. A yearly tradition around here, Memphians wait for late summer when these flavorful explosions of garden-goodness appear in our stores. The city of Ripley is so proud of their delicious ‘maters, they host a list of growers on their main website.
In the deli section, we found Odom’s Tennessee Pride sausage and King Cotton’s wide range of products. Odom’s is made between Memphis and Nashville, while King Cotton has been making and selling sausages, lunch meats and other goodies in Memphis since 1935.
With corporate offices in Stuttgart, Arkansas, Riceland is not a company, exactly. The group helps more than 9,000 growers of grains and legumes in the Mississippi Valley get their products to customers, under the guidance of a board of directors made up entirely of partner farmers. They sell to consumers in more than 75 foreign outlets, but in Memphis, Riceland is the local choice. It also feels good to know that a purchase benefits the farmers and not a huge, faceless corporation.
From among the many brands of coffee on the shelves, we chose a bag of Ugly Mug Good Vibes. A Memphis company, Ugly Mug pays a fair market price to the best growers in the world, and roasts their beans right here in the city. They place an emphasis on fairness and greenness, making sure to do right by the world’s coffee farmers, and by Mother Earth herself.
We snagged a tub of Pancho’s Cheese Dip in the dairy section and a bag of Las Delicias’ awesome tortilla chips. Pancho’s dips are the retail branch of local Mexican restaurants Pancho’s, which was founded my Memphians in 1956. Las Delicias is much newer, founded within the last couple years by a family who emigrated to Memphis from Mexico. The combo of old and new Memphis traditions is pretty delicious.
With a weekend cookout ahead of us, we grabbed a couple six-packs of Ghost River Golden Ale but had one more stop before checking out, in the store’s shrine to our regional cuisine- the barbecue sauce aisle. There, the Memphis options are numerous, and worth arguing with someone over. We all have a favorite and firmly hold onto the belief that our opinion is perfect fact and all others crazy. On this visit we chose a bottle of Dancing Pigs, the retail brand of Midtown’s Bar-B-Que Shop, yearly contenders on every best of Memphis list for their pulled pork, half chickens and ribs.
We can’t always do our shopping at farmers markets. But we can make local choices almost anywhere, if we take the time to do a little research and label-reading at the store. Small steps, when taken by an entire community, can shift us toward a more sustainable city and help grow our economy. When you can, shop local.