Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Local shmocal?

Reporting on a new study published in Environmental Science & Technology, The Organic Consumers Association asks the question, do food miles matter? The answer, not so much.
"In fact, eating less red meat and dairy can be a more effective way to lower an average U.S. household's food-related climate footprint than buying local food, says lead author Christopher Weber of Carnegie Mellon University.
Weber and colleague Scott Matthews, also of Carnegie Mellon, conducted a life-cycle assessment of greenhouse gases emitted during all stages of growing and transporting food consumed in the U.S. They found that transportation creates only 11% of the 8.1 metric tons (t) of greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents) that an average U.S. household generates annually as a result of food consumption. The agricultural and industrial practices that go into growing and harvesting food are responsible for most (83%) of its greenhouse gas emissions.
For perspective, food accounts for 13% of every U.S. household's 60 t share of total U.S. emissions; this includes industrial and other emissions outside the home. By comparison, driving a car that gets 25 miles per gallon of gasoline for 12,000 miles per year (the U.S. average) produces about 4.4 t of CO2. Switching to a totally local diet is equivalent to driving about 1000 miles less per year, Weber says.
A relatively small dietary shift can accomplish about the same greenhouse gas reduction as eating locally, Weber adds. Replacing red meat and dairy with chicken, fish, or eggs for one day per week reduces emissions equal to 760 miles per year of driving. And switching to vegetables one day per week cuts the equivalent of driving 1160 miles per year." http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_11662.cfm

At the end of the article are some responses worth reading that reflect and expand on what I have been writing about for the last few posts.
It seems to me that even if the amount of ghg eliminated by buying local is small, hell, even if there were NO impact on emissions, it still makes sense to buy locally grown and produced food, clothing, furniture and whatever else you can. The more we have our own local farmers, woodworkers etc, the less we are dependent on them nasty old fossil fuels and big time capitalists.


Fred said...

I agree that it's almost always best to buy local. Another reason I like about this is trust. We have a great deal of trust for the faceless suppliers of our food. It's crazy, but they don't always have our best interests in mind. Heck, they usually don't even _claim_ to have our best interests in mind. So why all the trust?

I think because it's a habit. It's learned. It's funny to think that most of my friends trust my cooking less than some stranger with an address and a logo. People are changing, however.

I like being able to talk to the person who grew my food. I like seeing their face, learning their name, and coming back to them.

As I learned in a lecture recently, this used to be normal. It was not always normal to trust a stranger to produce our food.


arduous said...

Thanks so much for bringing this up on your blog and my blog. I'm going to try and do some reading and expand it into a post.