Green America: Growing the Green Economy for People and the Planet

Climate & Energy

Economic action to stop global warming

Food Miles and Global Warming

Agricultural Trucking“Food miles” is a term used to describe the distance between where a food is produced and where it is consumed. While organics has come to be synonymous with eco-friendly foods, consumers, scientists, and sustainable-food advocates are turning their attention to food miles as well.

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture estimates that in Iowa, the average food-mile count for locally grown produce is 56 miles. Produce from sources outside the state travel approximately 1,494 miles to reach consumers.

The simplest calculation can be done on single-ingredient, single-origin foods. For example, a California tomato sold in Washington, DC, has traveled approximately 2,800 miles from farm to plate. Using the EPA calculator, the transportation alone adds 165,256 lbs of carbon dioxide emissions.

What You Can Do?

Buy local and organic when available
Find farmers markets in your area and try to make most of your fruit and vegetable purchases there. Often, other food suppliers will have stands at the market selling locally crafted cheese, breads, pastries, and more. Another way to support local agriculture is to join a community supported agriculture project.  Find one in your area. www.localharvest.org

Ask your supermarket to support local farmers
If there are no farmers’ markets in your area, you can still work to bring local produce and foods to your supermarket by asking your store manager to look into local sourcing options. Fill out a comment card where you shop. Better yet, ask to speak with the manager directly.

Eat less meat
According to the Center for a New American Dream, eating one less beef meal each week saves 300 lbs of carbon dioxide each year. Try cutting back on the amount of meat that you eat – for your own health and the health of the planet.  If you are thinking of switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet, but need some help and resources, check out the Vegetarian Resource Group.

Support small-scale farmers globally
Many of the foods that we consume in the US are not indigenous to and do not grow primarily in the continental US – coffee, cocoa, bananas and other tropical fruits, and rice, are examples. However, you can support small-scale farmers that minimize their ecological impacts and help promote economic justice by purchasing Fair Trade foods. 
Find Fair Trade Foods in the National Green Pages.

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