Next time you sit down to a meal take a scrap of paper and a pencil with you. Write down all the items on the plate, then do a little homework.
Take this list to the supermarket or your pantry and look at where the items came from. For example oranges from California, coffee from Brazil.
You may be shocked when you use one of the many calculators that are available on the web to find out how far the food has travelled and how much carbon was produced moving it. See http://www.organiclinker.com/food-miles.cfm for example.
The Australian Conservation Foundation released a report entitled Food Mile Facts, in it they state
"Measuring the full environmental impacts of food production, transportation, sale and consumption can be a complex task. However, overseas studies reveal some sobering facts about the hidden environmental costs of imported food.
- The energy consumed in food freight often outweighs the nutritional energy in the food itself. For instance, it takes around 1,000 kilojoules of energy to ship 170kJ worth of strawberries from Chile to the United States.
- A recent German study found that a 240ml cup of yoghurt in a supermarket shelf in Berlin entails over 9,000km of transportation. (Germans eat three billion cups a year.)
- In the United States, the food for a typical meal has travelled nearly 2,100km, but if that meal contains off-season fruits or vegetables the total distance is many times higher.
- Even imported organic food can have a tremendous impact. A single Briton's shopping basket of 26 imported organic products could have travelled 241,000km and released as much CO2 into the atmosphere as an average four bedroom household does through cooking meals over eight months."
CERES Community Environment Park released a report Food Miles in Australia: A Preliminary study of Melbourne, Victoria; researched and written by Asha Bee Abraham and Sophie Gaballa, estimates the distances travelled for food items found in a typical Melburnian's shopping basket and the resulting greenhouse emissions from this transportation. In this report they state:
“The study revealed that food items like oranges, sausages, tea, baked beans etc with ingredients sourced from overseas have seen more of the world than most people. In fact, the report estimates that the total distance travelled by 29 of our most common food items is 70,803 km—that's nearly two times the distance around the Earth!”
What about choosing to buy organic, that will help the planet? Well, no Food miles still count here, what you need to do is:
• Buy Locally Produced direct from farmers either at the farm gate or at farmers markets.
• Buy in Season avoid summer fruits in winter.
• Grow your Own - now we are talking food feet, not food miles
• Learn to preserve the excess and
• Buy canned or bottled goods from your own country by preference.
Urban farming is all about bringing agriculture back into the communities we live in. It is about the consumer taking responsibility for creating demand for unsustainable food practices and doing something about it through their food choices.
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