Written by Kira Kraiman,
Why Shop at the Co-op? Because it’s good for the environment!
As the weather warms, many of us are making plans for our summer vacations. We look forward to time with our families and traveling to wonderful places near and far. There’s something else that is preparing to travel and that is most of the food that we find in our grocery stores! Most of our food journeys many miles, more than a thousand in many cases, to get to our tables.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the average American meal typically contains ingredients from five countries.
Food is shipped around the country and the world by three main methods, plane, truck and boat. It turns out that the method of shipment makes a difference on the environmental impact. Food shipped by airplane creates the most pollution, followed by food that is trucked to its destination. Food that arrives by ship has the least environmental impact, depending on the type of ship used. The NRDC studied the impact of food shipment into the major California ports and several alarming, though not surprising things emerged:
- Almost 250,000 tons of global warming gases released were attributable to imports of food products—the equivalent amount of pollution produced by more than 40,000 vehicles on the road or nearly two power plants.
- More than 6,000 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides were released into the air— the equivalent of almost 1.5 million vehicles or 263 power plants!
- 300 tons of sooty particulate matter were released into the air—the equivalent of more than 1.2 million cars or 53 power plants.
- Approximately 950 cases of asthma, 16,870 missed schools days, 43 hospital admissions, and 37 premature deaths could be attributed to the worsened air quality from food imports, according to freight transport–related projections by the California Air Resources Board.
This study also looked at specific food products imported into the state. These same food products are also produced and exported out of California. They compared environmental and health impacts of importing vs growing these products locally. They found that harmful air pollution was 45 times greater with the imported foods than the local and global warming pollution was up to 500 times higher if the food product was imported by plane!! It is clear that the locally grown produce has a far lower impact on the environment and on people’s health.
We're all used to buying almost any produce at any time of the year, regardless of our local season. But it is clear that we need to change our habits, for the good of our environmental health. This is part of the mission of the Doylestown Food Co-op! By supporting local farmers and bringing more and more local food to the community, and by teaching people why we need to eat local, we can begin to reduce the impact of imported food.
As we prepare to celebrate Earth Day on April 22, we can do a few things to help with this mission. We can buy local, seasonal food as much as possible. Imported foods can be an occasional treat as opposed to a regular purchase. We can buy and freeze seasonal produce that we really like, such as strawberries, peaches and garden vegetables, so we will have them available during the winter months, rather than buying ones that have been flown in from South American or New Zealand. It takes a village to rebuild a food system but the payoff will be great as we support local farmers and preserve farmland in Bucks County for future generations. So join a CSA, shop at the Farmer’s Market and shop at the Co-op year round for the best, freshest, most nutritious local food.
*Check out the following link for more detailed information about the NRDC study.