Today’s library resources find is an interesting article in a journal called Environmental Science and Technology. I discovered the journal whilst hunting in the American Chemical Society e-journals database for articles I could use as references, as I am teaching a session to chemistry students next week about Refworks (an online tool which lets you save book and article references).
The article, Food-Miles and the Relative Climate Impacts of Food Choices in the United States, by Christopher L. Weber and H. Scott Mathews was published in April 2008, and is currently the journal’s most read article. They compare the greenhouse gas emissions released by transporting food with greenhouse gas emissions released by food production, and conclude that producing red meat and dairy releases far more emissions than is produced by transporting food.
Therefore, they conclude that although eating locally is still a good environmental choice, the most effective way of reducing the climate impacts caused by your eating habits is to reduce the amount of red meat and dairy that you consume (I am a vegetarian, so that’s a good start, but I do like a bit of cheese…). I personally think that both dietary changes and eating locally are important, for various reasons, not just greenhouse gas emissions. Buying local food supports local food producers, the food often tastes good, and shopping in this way does contribute to reducing food transport pollution, even if the impact is small compared to food production impacts.
Members of Bangor University can find the article by selecting American Chemical Society from the list of Physical and Applied Science Databases, clicking on Environmental Science and Technology in the journals list, and then clicking on the tab at the top of the journal list of contents which says most read. At the moment, Food-Miles is at the top of this list.
If you’re not at the university, there are a lot of articles about the conclusions drawn in the paper available online, including this article on Food Miles versus Food Choice in The Ethicurean, which summarises the article, but also points out the importance of buying local food.