Lexicon of Sustainability
Watchword: Locavore

Watchword: Locavore

To draw attention to the best and brightest ideas in sustainability, the Lexicon of Sustainability's Food List project defines the words that are integral to a healthy, transparent, and accountable food system. Each week, we explore a new word through artwork, films, recipes, and written works. See all Food List words here. 

Locavore: From the Latin word “Locus”, meaning “local” and “Vorare”, meaning “to devour”.

Jessica Prentice created the term Locavore in 2005. According to her, the term refers to, “A person who bases their diet on foods that are grown or produced in the geographic region where they live, are in touch with the seasonality of their food systems, and seek to cultivate relationships with local producers and processors. Locavores also have some kind of hands on interaction with their food (cooking, gardens, baking, fermenting) either domestically or professionally.” Jessica is part of a movement of people across the United States who are committed to relocalizing their food system. She values the relationships she shares with her food producers, knowing that face certification is as important as other forms of labeling when making decisions about where to buy her food.


Title: Locavore
Featuring: Jessica Prentice, Locavore
Location: Berkeley Farmers Market, Berkeley, CA

Short video: Why Eat Local? 

In this short film from the Nourish Initiative, Michael Pollan explains why it’s important to eat local. For the past twenty-five years, Pollan has been writing books and articles about the places where nature and culture intersect: on our plates, in our farms and gardens, and in the built environment. He is the author of Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (2013) and of four New York Times bestsellers: Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual (2010); In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (2008); The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2006) and The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World (2001). Pollan was named to the 2010 TIME 100, the magazine’s annual list of the world’s 100 most influential people. In 2009 he was named by Newsweek as one of the top 10 “New Thought Leaders.”

Local food systems: 

Food systems can be divided into two major types: the global industrial food system, of which there is only one, and sustainable/local (or regional) food systems, of which there are many. But defining local food systems can be a tricky task. Grace Communications Foundation explores the definitions here. 

Here are a few facts from their information sheet: 

  • A 2008 survey found that half of consumers surveyed described “local” as “made or produced within a hundred miles” (of their homes), while another 37% described “local” as “made or produced in my state.”
  • Many people now equate the terms "local food” and “sustainable food,” using local as a synonym for characteristics such as fresh, healthful, and produced in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. Technically though, “local” means only that a food was produced relatively close to where it’s sold – the term doesn’t provide any indication of food qualities such as freshness, nutritional value, or production practices, and can’t be used as a reliable indicator of sustainability.
  • In addition, although the concept of “food miles” (i.e., the number of miles a food item travels from farm to consumer) has been criticized as an unreliable indicator of the environmental impact of industrially produced food, it should be noted that conventional food is estimated to typically travel between 1,500 and 3,000 miles to reach the consumer and usually requires additional packaging and refrigeration

Local vs. Organic

In this film, two farmers, Edwin Marty of Alabama’s Jones Valley Urban Farm and Jay Martin of Provident Organic Farms in Bivalve, Maryland, weigh in on local versus organic and why a piece of paper may not insure you’re getting the best food available.


For the past three years, the Lexicon of Sustainability has sought out the foremost practitioners of sustainability in food and farming to gain their insights and experiences on this important subject. What began as a photography project to spread their knowledge has grown to include short films, study guides, traveling shows, a book, and a website where people can add their own terms to this ever-evolving lexicon. See more at www.lexiconofsustainability.com.

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