Zero-Mile Dieting: Unlocking Its’ Benefits

Embrace a healthier, greener lifestyle with the zero-mile diet.

By Maryruth Belsey-Priebe

Fact checked by Sander Tamm

Zero-Mile Diet
Zero-Mile Diet

The core concept of the zero-mile diet is that you grow your own food. By being self-sufficient, you become in control of your food security and severely reduce your carbon footprint.

This article highlights:

What is the zero-mile diet?

The zero-mile diet is the practice of eating only home-grown foods, allowing you to be self-sufficient, secure your food sources, and minimize your carbon footprint. More than the 100-mile diet, the zero-mile diet unlocks the full benefits of seasonal eating, local freshness, organic eating, and eco-friendly living.

This is, after all, how our ancestors fed themselves. This hyperlocavore way of getting your fruits and veggies is perhaps one of the most energy-efficient, nutritionally sound, and economically-viable methods of feeding the planet. And it can be great fun, too! There are a few essential principles inherent in the zero-mile diet philosophy, including:

  • Using organic growing methods
  • Growing food all year round
  • Saving seeds for next  year’s garden
  • Cooking with seasonal foods
  • Preserving what you harvest

What are the benefits of a zero-mile diet?

The zero mile diet comes with most of the same benefits as other locavore diets, or buying from a farmers market or a CSA – healthy, seasonal, organic foods, environmental sustainability, etc. – but with a few added perks:

  • Cheap: Growing your own food year-round is probably the cheapest way to feed yourself. Even though it will require more of your time just think of all the exercise and fresh air you’ll be getting.
  • Complete input control: By cultivating your own garden, you can control exactly what goes into growing your own food. With some good organic gardening principles, you’ll be able to create the healthiest food possible!
  • Convenient: Forget trekking out to the farmers market or waiting for your local CSA to deliver your box. By growing, storing, and preserving your own food, you can grab what you need whenever you want! You don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own home (unless you’re growing your food at a local community garden, of course).

How to start implementing a zero-mile diet

Have you already dug up part of your lawn to make room for a garden but aren’t really sure how a zero-mile diet gets started? Here are the basics of incorporating your own garden to reduce your food miles down to zero:

  1. Get supplies: You’ll need native seeds, gardening tools, and a guide to help you with the gardening process. If you live in a region whose winters receive sub-zero temperatures, read up on using cold frames.
  2. Plan your harvests: Working with the seasons, determine where and when to plant various crops so that you have food growing year-round.
  3. Prepare your soil: Using organic soil amendments, prepare the soil to receive the seeds. Either enrich the soil with compost or other organic fertilizers to create a fertile home for your plants to thrive.
  4. Control pests: Read up on natural, organic methods for encouraging the growth of beneficial insects and pest predators.
  5. Set up your drainage: Consider using raised beds, creating a slight slope, or installing a drainage system to prevent waterlogging.
  6. Prepare your irrigation systems: In addition to installing a rainwater collection system, prepare the garden so that it will require as little artificial irrigation as possible.
  7. Preserve your produce: If you don’t already know how to can, jar, and freeze fresh produce, do some reading on that subject as well. Also make sure to take a look at our canning season calendar.
If you need a little more guidance, consider reading Carolyn Herriot’s “The Zero-Mile Diet: A Year-Round Guide to Growing Organic Food“.