Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Having to spend each day the color of the leaves...

Wait, maybe it's easier than we think:

It takes 17 percent of the fossil fuel consumed in the United States to produce the food we eat. The result is three-quarters of a ton of carbon dioxide emissions per person, according to researchers at the University of Chicago. And that doesn't account for the fuel it takes to get the products to market. Food travels an average 1,500 miles before it's bought and eaten. Even carbon-friendly organic food comes with an emissions price tag—the CO2 given off by processing, packaging, and transportation. As organic food becomes mass-produced, there's increasing debate about whether the movement is losing its soul and its ethic of sustainability. Whatever the upside of big organic, there's no question that eating locally grown foods and shopping at your farmers' market help reduce CO2 emissions by cutting down on transport.

Whether you're a carnivore or herbivore also has CO2 consequences. We don't blame you for enjoying the occasional filet mignon. But the average meat eater causes a ton and a half more carbon dioxide emissions for food production than the average vegetarian. Like it or not, your diet can have just as much effect on your carbon emissions as your choice of car. It's like the difference between a Camry, say, and a Prius.

Changes in agricultural practices could reduce U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions by one-fifth, according to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. But until farmers, lobbyists, and Congress get their act together, here are a few things you can do to eat a little greener:

• Buy locally grown food—at the farmers market and in the grocery store. Read labels, especially on produce, to find out where your food is coming from. If you don't see much that's local and you're feeling bold, ask your grocer to stock more produce from the region. (Click here to find a farmers' market near you.)

The Slate article linked at the top has several additional suggestions on how to go green.

Which is a good way of letting you know that this Sunday is opening day of the Oakland Mills Farmers' Market, the only one in Columbia that takes place on a weekend. Whether you're looking for good food, a way to reduce your environmental impact or something fun to do on a Sunday morning, the Farmers' Market is the way to go.


FreeMarket said...

Vegetarians rule!

Anonymous said...

Carnivores drool!

FreeMarket said...

This article shows that there can be a huge trade off in terms of quality for buying locally. The article focuses on a project to produce a man’s suit using components from within 100 miles of a certain location. The final suit really looks like crap- check out the photos.

When it comes to veggies, local products are probably better. But reliance on a narrow geographical area for too many things can be the road to poverty. The best solution is to reduce the environmental impact of transportation.

Jessie Newburn said...

My sister (Becky Newburn, for those of you who graduated from a Howard County school around '84) is a middle school math teacher. She lives out in the Bay Area and is rather informed about environmental sustainability.

She recently made a Squidoo lens on how to measure one's "ecological footprint." Check it out. It's fun, engaging and informative.

Jessie N re Becky's site said...

Here's the link: http://www.squidoo.com/EcologicalFootprint/

Greg Pultorak said...

Man - that farmer's market was LAME. Can we expect better later this year?

Karen said...


In a word, yes. It's early in the season. Many crops haven't even been planted yet. Usually at this time of year, the main items are strawberries, greens, and plants (like herbs). Some of the farmers don't even come to the very early market days. There will be much more variety as the season progresses.

People get used to going to a supermarket expecting there to be a full array of choices at all times. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that for locally grown produce. You only get what's in season, but what you do get is wonderful and fresh.

I don't know what time you came, but we were there early and got strawberries, lettuce, asparagus, breads, tomatoes, and green onions.

Please give it another try.

Jessie N said...


I'm chiming in with Karen here. I've been going to the farmer's markets since it started in Oakland Mills Village Center many years ago. (I had an have an office in the OMVC, which was just wonderful and convenient!)

From what I understand, farmers at this market have to produce the food they sell. They can't zip over to Jessup warehouses and buy bananas and peaches to resell. So, your choices at the market will always be local seasonal foods. And seasonal foods in the spring are ... well, not much. (Ref. Karen's post for details.)

Eat your greens. Spring greens help clear out winter muck in the body. :-)

Anonymous said...

"The Oil We Eat" is another good related discussion of the topic. It still kind of makes me queasy thinking about eating oil. Yuck.

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