A real reason for eating local


I’m ambivalent about the “100 mile diet” and other approaches to “eating local”, when it’s seen as a panacea. The problem is that:

  1. Transport distance is only one factor in the carbon impact from transport (cargo ships being far cleaner than trucks, for example)
  2. The carbon impact from transport is only one component of total carbon impact
  3. Carbon impact is one component of environmental impact (though the evidence says it’s an extremely important component, at this time in history).

So it’s not surprising that food from the other side of the world can be cleaner than local food, in some cases. Heated, artifically lit greenhouses can be worse than shipping costs.

An argument for growing locally that I find more compelling is that when you grow local food in season, and it travels a minimum distance to your plate, you experience a freshness that doesn’t survive a long international trip, at least for some foods. The nicest strawberries that you can grow in full sun and rich soil will never be challenged by strawberries shipped all the way across the Pacific. The right varieties of tomatoes ripened on the vine (especially heirloom tomatoes) can be amazing – tomatoes shipped long distances can never compete.

Just stick to suitable crops for the season, and simple tech (like greenhouses, mulch and simple plastic cover suspended over seedlings). Grow a variety of the foods that areĀ  or even better, grow a small number of crops and trade with your neighbors! On that note, check the yardsharing resource below.

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