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What Are Food Miles?


Those lovely, orange, summer-ripened fruits had to travel so you could enjoy them out of season. But did you realize what impact this travel had on the environment?

In recent years in response to concerns about the environmental impact of shipping food across the globe to meet consumer demand, we began tracking food miles. But what exactly are they? And why do they matter so much? Let's have a look.


Understanding Food Miles

 A green map showing where different produce can be shipped to around the world

Credit: Mammoth Memory


The term 'food miles' refers to the overall distance food has traveled from its source to the consumer at the point of sale. Simply said, it's a technique for determining how far your food travels to reach your plate.

Nowadays, we can go to the store and pick up a wide variety of delicacies from all over the world. Your ingredients may have a large carbon impact if they have traveled a great distance.

This is especially likely if they arrived by plane, due to the planes' significant climatic influence. After all, shipping food by plane produces 10 times the carbon emissions of road transport and 50 times the emissions of shipping.

As transportation grows, so do carbon dioxide emissions and greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in increased global warming. Food transportation accounts for around 12% of the carbon cost of the food we consume.

Food miles are a useful tool for determining the long-term viability of food production and consumption. It is determined by multiplying the weight of food products in tonnes by the distance traveled in kilometers and is quantified in tonne-km.

It's also crucial to comprehend the type of transportation used to ship food. Road, air, rail, and sea all contribute differently to overall transportation carbon emissions. Food transported by express speed jet routes can have a carbon footprint 50 times greater than food transported slowly by sea.


How Do You Reduce Food Miles?


Here are some ways of minimizing food miles:


1) Buy Local Food

 Wooden crates of fresh fruit and vegetables ready to be sold

Credit: UNL Food


This not only helps local farms but also ensures that the food is of good quality and taste. When you shop locally, you're more likely to buy food that is in season, freshly produced or packed, and hasn't spent time (or too much time) in cold storage. If you're buying canned or preserved foods, look for the country of origin on the label and attempt to buy as near to home as feasible.

Better taste is one of the many advantages of using local produce. When you've tried local vegetables, for example, you'll never want to eat imported vegetables again. When you buy produce at a farmer's market, the farmer can inform you about the tiny distinctions in flavor between different varieties of produce.

Fruits and vegetables grown close to home are also healthier because they do not have to travel vast distances. They have more nutrients since they are harvested closer to optimum ripeness and left to ripen naturally. Eating locally reduces food miles, resulting in fewer food-related emissions from transportation such as planes, ships, and trucks.

A Local food system relies on a network of small, family farms that are usually run sustainably, which means they use fewer pesticides, use no-till agriculture and composting, and use very little or no packaging.

Local food systems help to support local economies, provide jobs, provide fresh food to individuals who otherwise would not have it, and reduce carbon footprints.


What Are Local Foods?


There is no universal definition, but most customers consider local food to be food farmed within a 100-mile radius. Local can also refer to food farmed inside a county, state, or province, or even within a country in the case of some small nations.


2) Eat Seasonally


Eating seasonally refers to consuming food products that are in season. When we consume imported food products from remote locations, we consume products that are not growing in season in our area. It impacts the nutritional value of the crop as well as increases food miles. As a result, eating locally produced food that is grown in season provides greater health and environmental benefits.

Find out what foods are in season in your area at various periods of the year to ensure that you consume products that are in season. These foods will have fewer food miles.


3) Grow Your Own

 A person standing next to their vegetable garden that they have created

Credit: Eartheasy Guides and Articles


There's no better time than now to consider producing your own produce this year. Nothing compares to the flavor of fresh fruit, veggies, and herbs grown in your own garden - or the sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that comes with it. Growing our own food is the most effective strategy to reduce food miles to zero.


4) Recycle Food Waste


What better method to feed your vegetable garden than with your own compost? Keep a small container in the kitchen to collect food scraps, which you can then put in your compost bin when it's full. You can utilize the compost to cultivate a plentiful supply of nutrient-dense fresh produce.


5) Avoid Packaged Foods


Plastic-wrapped, preprocessed, tinned, frozen, or processed foods should be avoided. Frozen items are perishable goods that have been pre-processed in order to be imported from abroad. They are nutritionally inadequate, as well as have a significant carbon footprint.


6) Transportation


Transportation includes not just the fossil fuels used to move crops over great distances and the energy used to preserve perishables, but also the energy and fuel used to go to distant markets to buy your daily necessities.

As a result, it is critical to move to a green mode of purchasing by minimizing extensive transportation distances between farmers and retailers, as well as retailers and consumers.

 Infographic of how to reduce food miles



With global warming and climate change on the ride, it's more important than ever to talk about food miles. Food miles is the distance food travels to reach your plate. So, the next time you're out shopping for exotic, imported foods, stop and consider your food miles. The more connected you are to your food, the better for you, the local producers, and the environment.

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