Food Miles and Carbon Footprints

Have you ever tried to calculate how far your food has travelled, what the carbon footprint for your food is or thought about the effect of food miles on the environment?

Food miles are simply the number of miles your food has to travel from the place of production to your kitchen. Remember many foods will travel from the farm to a packaging factory, then on to supermarkets before you even see it.

Let’s just take fruit, the UK only produces 5 percent of the fruit we consume, so that means that 95% of the fruit consumed in the UK has a much higher carbon footprint than the fruit produced in Britain.

The fastest way to get fresh fruit and vegetables to our supermarkets is by air but this produces 177 times more greenhouse gases than shipping.

Many people that thought they were buying British pork would have been surprised recently to learn that their pork could have come from just about anywhere, because the packaging laws simply do not require producers to inform us where the food was reared and slaughtered.

Now head over to the food miles calculator and put in the country of origin of the food in your kitchen and your country … I bet the results surprise you.

If you want to support British farmers it can be a bit of a moral dilemma really but they only produce 5% of our fruit so of course you have to buy imported food. Of sourse if we all supported British growers in preference to imports then our farmers would produce more but is there enough land to produce that much fruit? There is also the issue of supporting developing countries.

Fear not, there is a solution:

Grow Your Own

If you have room for even a small vegetable patch or a couple of fruit trees then simply grow your own where you’ll get some fresh air, know what is sprayed on your food and there is zero food miles.

Buy Local Seasonal Food

If you buy out of season food then it is almost guaranteed to be produced in another climate to ours, so buy local seasonal food and learn to freeze. A great website for finding out what is currently available is just click the calendar on the right of their page and you will see a list of what is in season in the UK for that month, then get your cook books out and get creative.

Buy Fair Trade

When you can’t buy locally produced food then buy fair trade. Most fair trade fruit is shipped by sea, rather than flown. You not only help the evironment but also farmers in developing countries. The is excellent, just click on a category (eg fresh fruit) and it will list the major supermarkets and which fair trade products they sell. Look out for the fairtrade mark on fruit labels.

Fair trade isn’t as expensive as people think, check out fair trade – comparing prices you might be pleasantly surprised.

It really takes little effort to change shopping habits and you can do so much to support British farming, reduce greenhouse gases, eat healthier food and support farmers in developing countries .. it’s a win – win situation.

Here are some websites that will help you source locally produced food:

Farmers Markets

Farm Shopping

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4 Responses to “Food Miles and Carbon Footprints”

  1. Paul from UK shore (1 comments.) Says:

    The growth of farm shops in recent years has made it easier to buy local produce. I buy fairtrade coffee now as it is no more expensive.

    Paul’s last blog post..Kent coast

  2. Sally Says:

    Good to hear about the growth of farm shops in your area Paul, may I ask which part of the country you are in?

  3. Maggie from Wheatland farm eco lodges and cottage, Devon (7 comments.) Says:

    Thanks for some useful links. And here’s a thought about Fair Trade. The farm shop near us would make a better profit margin buying their fair trade stock from Tesco in the nearest big town (Barnstaple) than buying it from their wholesalers, who just don’t have the same negotiating power as the big supermarkets. Surely fair trade ought to support the small businesses at both ends of the chain?

  4. Sally Says:

    Oh my goodness, thanks for the information Maggie …. I’m off to investigate, watch out for coming blog post on this subject …. that’s shoking.

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