By Ben Gerig
Food miles—the distance groceries travel from farm to plate—may not be as critical to consumers’ overall carbon footprints as previously thought.
In the last few years “local eating” movements have sprouted nationwide, exhorting consumers to eat food grown within a 100-mile radius of their homes. However, Sharon Collinge, an Environmental Studies professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, points out that it’s the number of miles consumers drive to grocery stores that causes the most harm to the environment, not necessarily the distance food travels from where it originates.
However, the issue goes much deeper than simply food miles. As Collinge indicates, there are numerous factors that contribute to efficiency, or lack of it, in our food systems. People need to take better ownership of understanding where their food actually comes from and how it is produced, Collinge said.
“The main argument that’s made for eating locally is food miles,” Collinge said during a recent presentation at the CU-Boulder campus. “Oftentimes food travelling from oversees is packaged, shipped and distributed with more efficiency than a local grower can muster,” she said. The process of getting blueberries from farms in Chile to markets in the U.S. is often very efficient, even though they are traveling a greater distance, Collinge observed.