What have you done today to lower your impact?

We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.

Blog Archive

Monday, 30 August 2010

Buying less food does not equal driving less, for us.

In the Deconstructing Dinner podcast "CLIMATE FRIENDLY EATING (CONSCIENTIOUS COOKS VIII)" according to Bonnie Powell of the Ethicurean 31% of the carbon footprint of food, overall responsible for 1/5th of our energy usage, comes from refridgerating it and preparing it. 15% comes from transport. I've been trying to find what percntage of that transport if any is attributable to consumer transport from the market to home. Unfortunately most food mile calculations stop at the market loading dock. However, Gail Feenstra, food systems analyst, University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (Davis, CA) says that by driving 5 miles to the market to purchase your locally sourced food, which saves approximately 150 gms of CO2 per unspecifiied unit, uses approximately 2300gms of CO2. Over at Wikipedia I found this
"A commonly ignored element is the local loop. The act of driving further to a more "right-on" food source increases the total carbon footprint. A shopper may buy say 5 kg of meat and use about a gallon to get it. That piece of meat could have gone over 60,000 miles (97,000 km) by road (40tonner at 8mpg) to require the same carbon in transportation. However, this is an extreme scenario, in which a consumer burns a gallon of gasoline (30 or 40 miles (64 km) of travel) to buy a single food item, 5 kg of meat. While extreme consumer behaviours can certainly cancel any environmental benefit arising from any food-buying choice, it is a different question whether consumer behaviours do so in practice."

Here at the Sustainable living project our food bill has gone way down, we haven't bought tomatoes, tomatoe sauce, peppers or hot sauce, squash, corn, green beans, or melons since the harvest started coming in. We do still shop at grocery stores, mostly for dairy products, organic corn chips, soy and rice milk, and cleaning supplies. We also combine our grocery shopping with picking up produce trimmings for the store to add to our compost pile. I'm interested in how this new food economy in our household has impacted our automobile use. Since we got the car running we have used it almost everyday. We visit my parents and my sister, on Thursdays I cruise the neighborhood for firewood, garden supplies, and household items that folks have put on curb to go to landfill. We have also recently purchased another rental property and have been going there almost everyday to get it ready for occupancy. This will start to drop off after the first of the month. I also go to each property to mow the lawn once a week.So the question is, has our decreased need for grocery shopping decreased our driving. Not really. We almost never take the car out for dedicated trips to the store, it is always inconjunction with other errands, mentioned above. We consciously try to do this, delaying trips to a particular location until we have other errands nearby.

The bottom line is, reducing car use remains a challenge for us.  I do believe that our food habits are not contributing significantly to increasing car use.

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