We’ve all heard of carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores, but a lesser known classification of eaters are the locavores. According to Merriam-Webster, a locavore is “one who eats foods grown/raised locally whenever possible”. Often times “locally” is considered to be within a one hundred mile radius of your residence. (but can be flexible depending on your situation)
What’s the problem with food from a land far, far away?
First of all, moving food across the country or even across oceans takes lots of energy! There is also a lot of processing, packaging and chemical application to keep food fresh as it flies over vast oceans, drives across grassy plains, and is trucked along to your grocery store. Let’s compare the amount of CO2 produced per pound of apples during transportation from a conventional supplier and from a farmers market as an example.
Washington state produces two-thirds of the country’s apples, so when you buy an apple at the grocery store it is very likely that it is coming from Washington. The journey to transport apples from Washington to New Jersey is 2,810 miles. A typical refrigerated truck has a fuel efficiency of four to eight miles per gallon. This means that 351 gallons of fossil fuels are burned, resulting in the release of 7,025 pounds of CO2. (each gallon of gasoline produces about 20 pounds of CO2) Now let’s see how much CO2 per pound of apples that is if we assume that the truck contains only apples. A typical refrigerated truck can hold 44,000 pounds. Therefore each pound of apples produces 0.16 pounds of CO2. Instead, lets say that you walk or bike to your local farmers market and buy apples from a farm that is 15 miles from the market. The farmer has a standard pickup truck with a fuel efficiency of 20 miles per gallon, therefore it uses 0.75 gallons of gas. This is the equivalent of 15 pounds of C)2. It can hold up to 1,000 pounds of apples, so its apples produce 0.00075 pounds of CO2 per pound of apples. The difference between 0.00075 and 0.16 is a factor of over 200!! (See sources at the end of the blog to see where I got these numbers)
Additionally, the apples from Washington will take approximately two days of driving, plus at least one day of sorting and unloading to reach you. Then they will sit for over a week in the produce aisle. Therefore it is highly possible that you are buying week old apples that are going to go bad rather quickly. Farmers market apples have been picked one or two days before and have not been sitting out for any more than a few hours at the time of your purchase. This gives nearly an extra week of freshness to your produce without any processing, packaging, or chemicals. It also puts you more in touch with the growing season in your area. A strict locavore from the Northeast will appreciate berries in the summer much more than someone who has been purchasing imported berries all winter.
The last problem with food from far away is that you don’t know how your food was grown and who grew it. Were the workers who picked your apples being treated well and being paid a fair wage? Are the farming methods used on the orchard sustainable? While these questions may be very difficult to answer in regards to a grocery store bought apple, they are easy to find out from a farmer working her apple stand at a farmers market. Often small farmers are more willing and interested to rely on organic methods of growing crops because it is a more sustainable practice that allows them to grow successfully for years to come. For this reason, there is greater attention paid to using compost as a fertilizer and crop rotation to keep soil quality high as well as genetic diversity among the varieties of produce. To promote this, traditional heirloom crops with unique flavors are often found at farmers markets and small farm stands. As an added bonus, being at a farmers market brings communities who are interested in the quality of their food and the health of their environment together for a more personal shopping experience than at a grocery store.
The Princeton Locavore
Hooked on eating local yet? As a student there are some clear challenges with trying to become a locavore (AKA the dining hall, being part of an eating club, not having access to a car). However, pushing your eating club or dining hall to source their foods locally is a great start. Dining Services already buys about half of their food from within 250 miles of the University. Check out some of their other sustainability accomplishments here: http://www.princeton.edu/us/dining/sustain/purchase/ Mathey’s Real Food Co-op strives to bring sustainable foods to its members and buys some of their produce from the Forbes Garden.
You can support locally made food when you go to Nassau Street by going to Halo Pub or Mediterra among others. You can also order local seasonal specialties that are often featured at restaurants. Instead of the U-Store try going to the Princeton Farmer’s Market on Thursdays in front of the Princeton Public Library to get snacks. It is a great way to meet and support local farmers and cooks. (http://www.princetonfarmersmarket.com/)
If you are here for a summer you may want to consider joining the Cherry Grove Organic Farm CSA (only three miles south of Princeton!) or Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. To participate you pay a fee at the beginning of the growing season, which lasts from June until November to receive fresh produce each week. Some farms, such as Cherry Grove, ask that you drive to pick up your food, while others, such as Honey Brook, have a refrigerated truck which they use to make deliveries. CSA’s and co-ops are becoming more and more common, so if you live anywhere in NJ check out this listing to find a CSA that works for you: http://jerseyfresh.nj.gov/find/communitysupportedag.html
Happy eating, locavores!
Apple Statistics: http://www.usapple.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=179&Itemid=285
Distance from Washington to NJ: https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=distance%20from%20washington%20state%20to%20nj
Fuel Efficiencies of trucks: http://cta.ornl.gov/vtmarketreport/pdf/chapter3_heavy_trucks.pdf
How many pounds of CO2 is produced from burning gasoline: http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=307&t=11
Information about apple packaging: http://www.tis-gdv.de/tis_e/ware/obst/apfel/apfel.htm#transport
Refrigerated truck specs: file:///Users/lindseyconlan/Downloads/TruckloadEquipmentGuide.pdf
Changing tons to pounds: https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=ton+to+pounds
Changing feet to meters: https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=feet%20cubed%20to%20meters%20cubed
How much weight can a pickup truck hold: http://www.rocksanddirt.com/preview_008.htm