“In the long term, the economy and the environment are the same thing. If it’s unenvironmental it is uneconomical. That is the rule of nature.” – Mollie Beattie

BlueberriesI admit that I’m a newbie to the sustainable living movement. Only since the beginning of Queercents have I honed in on ways to save money by reducing our household consumption. Most of these ideas have come through the weekly posts submitted at the Festival of Frugality. Yet even now, the topic of sustainability is daunting. I’m not alone. Jeanine has a hard time getting through her bimonthly issue of E Magazine (E as in environmental), a subscription deposited as a stocking stuffer last Christmas. That said, we continue to give it the old college girl try.

And try we do. If you’re like us, here’s something that will help jumpstart the process. At LighterFootstep.com, Chris Baskind provides Ten First Steps to move toward a lighter, more sustainable lifestyle. One of his suggestions that made the top ten is to buy local and in season.

He writes, “According to the non-profit group Sustainable Table, the typical carrot travels 1,838 miles before it ends up in your kitchen. That’s a lot of food miles, and a tremendous amount of wasted fossil fuels and packaging.”

“Buying regionally produced food is a keystone of sustainability: not only does it save the energy costs associated with shipping bulk produce, it keeps a portion of your grocery money close to where live. So locate your local farmer’s market and add it to your weekly errands. You’ll be supporting local growers while enjoying fresh, seasonal produce.”

In California, many of us have either Whole Foods or Wild Oats nearby and I used to think that was the better, greener alternative to shopping at Ralph’s, the local supermarket chain owned by The Kroger Co.

But is it? Whole Foods defines and labels “locally grown” as, “Only produce that has traveled less than a day (7 or fewer hours) from the farm to our facility.” At Money Magazine, Stephen Gandel gives a few pointers to keep in mind when shopping at Whole Foods and reminds readers that even organic produce has a carbon footprint.

He writes, “Many contend that the real damage done to the earth by fruits and veggies is not how they are grown but how much fuel has to be burned to get them to you. After all, those organic strawberries didn’t walk from Mexico.”

“Whole Foods offers only a limited supply of local produce. Even in summer months, no more than 30 percent of the produce in the average Whole Foods store is grown locally – but it is clearly labeled. On one visit, just the veggies above (referencing picture of tomatoes, corn, artichoke and asparagus) were local. In early spring, only rhubarb was available.”

So what is a “localvore” to do when Whole Foods can’t even measure up? John Richardson at MaineToday.com writes, “The hot eco-food trend is eating local, as in meats and vegetables produced within 100 miles of your kitchen.” Eating with this radius is not an easy feat.

You’ve probably heard of the 100 Mile Diet… the authors have received a lot of buzz and their 13 Lucky Reasons to Eat Local is certainly worth noting. They’ve built this concept into a brand and that’s great. But if you’re like me and curious how one takes baby steps to get started, then someone like Katherine Gray in Portland, Oregon is a refreshing find.

I met Katherine at a blogging conference and she is a “former frenzied workaholic, now a mellowed work-at-home urban mama to two little girls, who found salvation in freezer jam.” She blogs at Dirt to Dish and is an inspiration when she writes, “Eating local does not have to be an all-or-nothing endeavor. Local-eating proponents say that even just spending $10 a week on local choices makes a big impact.”

If Katherine can do it with her hectic schedule, then shouldn’t Jeanine and I give it a whirl?