Are food miles something you should worry about?

If you are concerned about your carbon footprint, chances are you spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about your lifestyle and what impact it has on the planet.

You may be working towards eliminating single use plastics in your household, turn off the lights when you’re not using them, or purchased organic foods to reduce the amount of fossil fuels you are responsible for.

Food miles are part of your carbon footprint, although probably not the biggest part of your diet. When you’re trying to change to an eco-friendly lifestyle however, it’s valuable to know as much as you can about your carbon footprint so you can cut out what ever is easiest.

If you like gardening, eating local, or are simply looking for additional ways to cut your carbon footprint, tracking your food miles can be useful to cutting down.

Food miles explained

Take a walk around a grocery story and you will see bountiful amounts of food, but of course that food didn’t get there by itself. Most of the food there will have trucked hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of miles to get there.

The most carbon intensive foods however, are those that have to be flown instead of trucked. These are typically parishable items that have to be flown from where they are in season to where they will be sold in order to get there before they rot.

On average, your food will travel 1,500 miles to your plate, but some travel much more. If you live in the UK, and purchase a pineapple air-freighted from Ghana, that pineapple’s food miles will be 6.26 kilograms per pineapple. The same pineapple sent by sea? Just 0.22kg.

The difference can get even more extreme when you think about processed foods that have many components that come from many different areas. These must all be trucked to the manufacturer, and then trucked to stores. Although it may not have the same impact as an air freighted pineapple, it does have increased food miles associated with them.

The solution?

Eating local is the best way to cut down on food miles. If you’ve decided to grow a garden, that reduces the food miles for your vegetables to 0. If you eat local from a farmer’s market or a CSA, the miles are very, very low.

If these things aren’t available, or gardening isn’t your thing, reducing your food miles can be as simple as getting on your bicycle. Even if you can’t do anything about the food miles the food takes to your grocery store, if you hop on your bike to go get the groceries you’ll be reducing the food miles they took to get to your home.

If you’re curious about the food miles it takes for your food to get to your home, try this calculator that tells you the distance your food had to travel in order to get to you. It’s both enlightening, and humbling, especially if you like out of season foods.

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