It’s week eleven of 52 Weeks for Earth, the 52-week challenge to gradually reduce your impact on the planet. We’ve talked about the carbon impacts of other aspects of food, such as food waste and eating meat. Another big carbon contributor of carbon in our food system is from the transportation of food all over the world. This week we’ll endeavor to buy local products, and local produce.
As food travels long distances to reach our plates, the impacts on the planet adds up through the fuels used to transport and refrigerator it along the way. It’s estimated that an average American meal travels roughly 2400 km from farm to plate, and along the way takes 10x the fossil fuel energy than the energy we get from that food.
We can avoid this carbon heavy process by being selective about what we buy and from where. Choosing to buy locally, whether that’s from your community at a local farmers market, or produced within your own country when at the grocery store, can reduce this fossil fuel consumption. As well as that, different types of food have different storage and transportation requirements. For example, berries and leafy greens require energy intensive refrigeration during transportation, so save these and other easily-perishable items for your trip to the farmers market.
And the same applies to everything we buy and consume. The farmers market can provide more than just food, you might be able to find locally made soaps, cosmetics, crafts, home furnishing and other things you’d normally buy.
Depending on your country, there may be a recognizable label for products made in your country, such as Australia’s “Australian made” logo with the kangaroo. Otherwise look a little harder at the products you buy and look for that small text stating “made in..”. If you can’t find this information on a branded product, have a look online with a Google search like “where is ___ made?”, or by visiting the manufacturer’s website ‘about’ page. It’s worth noting just because a company is based somewhere doesn’t mean the product isn’t actually produced on the other side of the planet.
Yes, it can take some effort to made an extra trip to the market, or research products to find an alternative that’s locally made, but it’s worth it to reduce what you can of the 11% of your food-related climate footprint currently made up by transportation. If there’s no alternative you can find that made in your country consider whether you really even need to make this purchase before you buy imported.
I recognize that unfortunately you can’t buy everything locally made, such as electronics. In this instance, I’d encourage you to still try to buy from a local store rather than the endless options of online stores.