Environmental Studies Program


Date of this Version

Fall 12-2012


Currently there are trends for consumers to start choosing more sustainable options in every aspect of their life, including food. There are many negative consequences for both the environment and human health due to conventional industrial agricultural practices (Horrigan et al., 2002; Leitzman and Cannon, 2005). Sustainable agricultural practices are being promoted as part of a larger sustainable food system. As Leo Horrigan et al. describe it, “sustainable agriculture is not merely a package of prescribed methods. More important, it is a change in mindset whereby agriculture acknowledges its dependence on a finite natural resource base” (Horrigan et al., 2002: pg 454). A sustainable food system relies on consumers having the mindset that making a transition in their diets to focus more on foods that are local, plant-based and/or organic will have profound impacts on the environment and their health. There are various environmental and nutritional benefits associated with sustainable food systems. There have also been studies of what motivates consumers to choose specific foods in this system, such as organic foods (Lockie et al., 2002; Magnusson, 2008). This particular study will not focus on any one characteristic of sustainable foods, but instead will focus on the venues where foods that encompass multiple sustainable qualities can be purchased (e.g. farmers market, community supported agriculture, food co-ops). It is clear that a sustainable food system is needed, but it is important now to understand how to motivate consumers to choose foods that possess these sustainable qualities. Diet choices impact both health and the environment (Marlow, 2009; Feenstra, 1997), but consumers could be considering other factors such as economics. This research will help in understanding what consumers care about most when making their food choices and what specifically helped them transition to a sustainable food system.