Eat local, save energy

January 17, 2009 at 6:02 pm Leave a comment

Consider this: If each of us living in the U.S. ate just one meal a week (breakfast, lunch or dinner) using food that was locally grown and pesticide-free, we would reduce our national oil consumption by more than 1.1 million barrels of oil — every single week. That’s more than 57.2 million barrels of oil saved per year. Here’s why.

We use almost as much petroleum raising food in America — 400 gallons of oil per year per resident — as we use driving our cars. That’s because the mega commodity farms that provide the mass-produced food we find in fast-food joints, convenience stores, supermarket chains and most restaurants requires oil for tractors, harvesters and other farm equipment, as well as for pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers to compensate for the soil depleted by mono-culture farming practices.

But producing the food in this wasteful manner takes only about one-fith of the total oil needed for the American diet. The big culprit is transportation, getting the food from the field to the processing plant to the warehouse and eventually to your supermarket. Each ingredient in a typical American meal travels an average of 1,500 miles.

Then there’s the energy consumed in processing (drying, milling, cutting, sorting, baking), packaging, storing and chilling our food. Turns out that the energy calories used for all of this outweighs the calories we receive when we consume this food.

(From Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver, Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver, based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and “The Oil We Eat,” by Richard Manning in Harper’s Magazine, Feb. 2004.

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