The Farmers’ Market and climate change

The carbon footprint of eating is time sensitive. On a lovely late July evening, I wanted a mixed green salad with dinner. I had gone to the farmers’ market on Saturday, so I had locally grown spinach, tomato, onion, pepper, radish, broccoli, celery, and cucumber in the fridge. I wondered how large the “carbon footprint” of the ‘June’ salad was. I figured an average of 5 truck miles to deliver each vegetable from “farm to fork.” Let’s assume that each ingredient comes from a different local farm. A Ford F-150 pick-up truck averages 22 miles per gallon and emits 407 grams of CO 2 per mile. So, my “June” dinner salad with eight ingredients has a maximum carbon footprint of 5 miles x 407 grams CO 2 /mile x 8 ingredients equals 16,280 grams CO 2.

If I wanted the same dinner salad in December, or I had bought the same ingredients in June from City Market, they would have been imported from, let us say, California’s Imperial Valley, which is 742 miles from Montrose. Let’s assume the ingredients come from separate farms in the valley as part of a semi-trailer truck load. A semi-trailer truck averages 6 miles per gallon and emits 162 grams CO2 per ton-mile. Therefore, the “December” dinner salad has a maximum carbon footprint of 742 miles x 162 grams CO 2 /ton-mile x 8 ingredients equals 961,632 grams CO 2 or about 60 times more than the ‘June’ salad. Shopping local, when you can, even for just a simple dinner salad, has a large impact on climate change.

Peter A. Borgo


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