Food miles, by definition, are the distance our food travels from point of production to point of consumption. It is also important to not only understand the numbers behind the food we eat, but the environmental impact of it getting to our table.
In order to supply the increasing demands in exotic and off season foods, producers today have to import their foods from further and further away. Unfortunately, this increase in imported foods along with the centralization of distribution have made distances they travel a great concern due to their environmental impacts.
Although not all food miles are the same (taking under consideration the type of transportation used, the amount of food carried by one food carrier and the type of fossil fuel used in the transport), it is important to understand these impacts.
According to WWF Canada’s new Localicious event going on from October 2 to October 18, it is important to understand what local and sustainable foods are and what impact they have on lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
“When food is transported over long distances - especially if by planes or trucks that burn fossil fuel energy - it contributes to global warming and pollution. Consider that the average food product travels 2,000 km before it reaches your home. Now multiply that by each food item you eat each day! That's a lot of fuel, which also means a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. Although local food isn't always available due to seasonality, it's all about doing your best. Every choice you make has an environmental impact and can help lower your carbon footprint.”
There are many ways to counteract the high levels of GHGs emitted through our food consumption without feeling like we have to give up everything we love.
Buy local sustainable food when possible. In the best of worlds, we would always have access to local, organic and sustainable foods. When these are not available, try and think of at least doing one of these criterias. When buying coffee, go for fair trade. Teas as well. When you have a choice between carrots from your local farmer’s market or pre-cut ones at the grocery store, opt for your local farmer. When buying flour, as they come from the Prairies, buy it organic. You’ll know you aren’t contributing to vast sprawls of pesticide sprayed fields. Every little bit counts.
Look for Eco-labels. Certifications and eco-labels give you good hints about how the food was produced and that way you know you have a lesser impact on the environment.
When buying staples like grains, flour, cereal, spices, sugar, try to buy in bulk. There are lots of places where you can buy ingredients in bulk. That way, you know that the same amount of GHGs was put into the atmosphere carrying the large drums than it would having the small prepackaged bag, but there are many people that will benefit from the drum so the food miles are split up between consumers.
Try to live with the seasons. Although fresh juicy tomatoes are very tempting in the middle of winter, try tasting seasonal veggies and fruits. In countries and regions where winter means no agriculture, try buying green house produce from closer destinations. Green house produce is usually pesticide free and grown year round.
Just remember: Every little bit counts. If all of us would try 20% of the time, the world would be a much cleaner and healthier place.
Visit Blog Action Day 2009 at www.blogactionday.org for other posts and topics!
WWF - Localicious http://community.wwf.ca/localicious/LocalTruth.cfm