How important is local food?

From a purely climatic point of view.

Assuming the following:

  1. For each calorie of food you consume, the equivalent of 9 additional calories worth of gas were burned to get the food to your plate (this is industrial food production).
  2. You eat 2000 calories per day.
  3. Your car gets 30 miles per gallon.
  4. Each gallon of gas contains the equivalent of 30,000 calories worth of energy.

So your daily food is about 2/3 of a gallon worth of gas, or ~20 miles of driving. If eating local and organic reduces the fuel per calorie of food by 50%, that’s the equivalent of reducing your annual driving by about 3650 miles, or about 25% of the average American’s driving. Certainly non-trivial, but not huge. If you figure in the additional equivalent fuel used to produce the gallon of gasoline in the first place, it’s more like 40,000-50,000 calories per gallon total, which reduce the miles-equivalent of your food to something more like 14, equivalent to more like 2500 miles annually.

Going car-free makes a much bigger difference.

One thought on “How important is local food?”

  1. An interesting paper came up recently looking at this from another point of view: What portion of the GHG emissions from the production of your food comes from its transport? According to this research (the results of which are hidden behind a stupid subscription firewall), only 11% of your food’s greenhouse gas footprint is due to transport, and only 4% is due to transport of the food to the end user. Changing what kind of food you eat can make a much bigger difference: cutting out the red meat and dairy makes a bigger difference than eating local.

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