Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step


October 14, 2005

Locally Grown Food

Category: Economics,Household,Organic & Local Food,Sustainability,Take Actions – Tom Harrison – 8:30 pm

Does it matter what food you eat? Yes … and no. As far as I can tell, an apple grown in Washington is just about as tasty as an apple grown here in my home state of Massachusetts. There might be some differences — I couldn’t tell you if Fuji’s or Macoun’s are grown here or there, and they do taste a little different. Actually, I wonder if Fuji’s are grown in Japan?

I should educate myself, and I should pay attention to this little thing. If I eat an apple grown in Washington or Japan, I have created a market for the product (the apple) and for the cost associated, namely the cost to package, refrigerate, truck, load and unload, package and otherwise make it suitable for sale here. Or, I could go to the local farm stand or whole foods market and buy my apples from a local grower. Now, instead of my apple traveling thousands of miles, it might only travel less than 100.

So I figure that from an energy perspective, a locally grown apple costs about 1/10th of one from afar.

Interestingly, the dollar cost may be the same, or even less for the faraway apple. There are lots of reasons for this, including labor costs, land costs, and other things. These may make it more economical to grow an apple in one place, but regardless, it uses a lot of extra energy to get that apple to me. The economics account for some of the costs (fuel, shipping and the like) but not all of them. Who pays for the pollution? No one.

And yes, the apply might even taste different, perhaps better. But then again, after all that travel, it might not be fresh, and it might not taste good at all. The difference may be real, but it has just as frequently been one I have paid no attention to.

So I guess, all other things being the same, why not seek out the local food?

1 Comment

  1. […] meat, is a much larger contributor to climate change than packaging. True and very, very important; I have been writing about the energy cost of food for a […]

    Pingback by Relative Energy Cost of Food vs. Food Bags | Five Percent: Conserve a Little Energy — April 12, 2008 @ 5:20 pm

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