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Gregory 1 Cheryl Gregory June 2010 A Look at the Environmental Impacts of the Locavore Movement Background: On the World

Environmental Day in 2005, Jessica Prentice of San Francisco first coined the term locavore to describe people who, in trying to feed themselves more sustainably, had begun to eat primarily foods grown locally, usually within one hundred miles. Since then, the locavore movement has grown and the definition of local food has morphed many times. Originally the movement to eat locally was influenced by the idea of food miles: essentially how far food travels from the point of production and to the point of consumption. In response to global warming and the concern of increased greenhouse gas emissions, people began looking for methods to cut back on carbon dioxide production. Increased globalization of food systems and the growth of large industrialized food systems had led to increased transportation of food. Scientists and environmentalists began to look into the greenhouse gas emissions caused by food miles and in the meantime, some people began to eat and promote eating locally. Today, food miles are not considered sufficient markers of total environmental impact or even of total greenhouse gas emissions. However, people still promote eating local. The new locavore movement, according to Gail Feenstra of the University of California Agriculture Research & Education Program, can be defined as a collaborative effort to build more locally based, self-reliant food economies one in which sustainable food production, processing, distribution, and consumption is integrated to enhance the economic, environmental and social health of a particular place (Feenstra). While Feenstras definition may be the goal of the locavore movement, the current reality is locavores still make consumption decisions based primarily on food miles. In theory, the model food economy proposed by the locavore movement would be more sustainable than the current industrialized global food economy. However, the movement often over-simplifies the problems of the food system. This over-simplification, as well as lack of solid research, has led the movement to overlook such aspects as overall environmental impacts of transportation, differences in supply chain distribution, particularly differences in production or growing methods, various environmental impacts of specific food types, the benefits of the globalization

Gregory 2 of food systems and the obstacles likely to be encountered in achieving local benefits. The locavore movement succeeds in achieving environmental sustainability in only small parts of the food system. Transportation: The original local food movement based its claim to sustainability primarily in the shrinking of food miles. Food miles can be defined as the distance that food must travel to reach the consumer (Liaw 1). This claim to sustainability assumes that one: the distance covered during transportation is responsible for much of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted during the process of getting food to consumers and two: that transportation accounts for many of the negative environmental effects created in the process of getting food onto plates. In fact, according to a study on greenhouse gas emissions by Christopher Weber and H. Scott Matthews of Carnegie Mellon University, transportation only contributes 11 percent of greenhouse gas emissions on average-with the transportation leg from producer to retailer accounting for just 4 percent (Liaw 1). This means consuming local produce may not have a significant effect on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, while individually locavores may be shrinking their carbon footprint, if large populations were to convert to eating local, there would be an increase in total CO2 emissions. For example, as reported by Richard Woods, just over a ton of goods moved six miles as part of 22-ton lorry load generates about 14 ounces of CO2; moved in 50 cars, each carrying 40 pounds, it generates about 22 ounces of CO2 (Woods). The movement does not recognize that the global industrial food system may have reduced the overall CO2 emissions released during transport. Another aspect overlooked by the initial locavore movement is the coordination of transport. Without central warehouses and with more people delivering goods directly to stores, there would be more vehicles and more traffic. In fact, [Nicola Ellen of Safeway] argues that if all producers and suppliers were to deliver their wares directly to stores then there would be gridlock on nearby roads (Saunders et. al.). The industrialized transport system may not be perfect, but the coordination has helped prevent such problems as gridlock. There would be problems with creating an entirely local food system. One of the biggest variables in greenhouse gas emissions when reviewing environmental impacts of transportation is the mode of transportation: car, truck, airfreight, or ocean-liner. Many locavore consumers do not account for differences in the mode of

Gregory 3 transportation used in food distribution. While comparing the greenhouse gas emissions produced by apples produced in New Zealand versus apples produced in the United Kingdom, both for sale in the UK, Caroline Saunders and colleagues of the Agribusiness & Economics Research Unit at Lincoln University found the mode of transportation was very important. The environmental impact of transport from New Zealand by sea is not dissimilar to that of transport from southern Europe by road, even though the distance is far greater (Saunders et al). In this case, the mode of transport is as significant, if not more significant, than the number of miles traveled. The transport of apples from New Zealand is not more damaging than transport across Europe because New Zealand uses primarily ocean transport, as opposed to shipping their products through the skies. Food Standards Agency (2004) claim that air transport is the worst offender, producing between 40 and 200 times the CO2 emissions of marine transport (Saunders et al). The negative impacts of air-freight can be further seen in the report by Woods which states, [air freighted food] accounts for less than 1% of food transport but 11 % of the GHGs from all food transport (Woods). Note, however, these differences are based only on the GHGs emitted during transport and do not consider differences in GHGs emitted in the production of airplanes or cargo-ships or differences in overall environmental impacts such as sound pollution in the ocean or deforestation to accommodate road systems. Yet, just in looking at GHGs, the difference in environmental impact between varying modes of transportation is apparent. In order to ensure eating locally is truly more sustainable, locavores will need to consider the environmental impact of the mode of transportation used. By using food miles to determine how sustainably food is delivered to people, the locavore movement overlooks differences in transportation technology. The industrial food system has provided a setting for many technological innovations in transportation which help to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. For example, today there are companies who use diesel-electric hybrid trucks which have lower GHG emissions than traditional, diesel-only, trucks. However, it must be noted here that the production of an entirely new fleet of hybrid trucks and the disassembly of an entire old fleet may in fact produce enough GHG to offset any advantages gained in the engine technology. In order to be sure which mode of transportation has the least environmental impact and produces the least amount of GHGs, scientists must conduct a thorough comparison of all GHGs produced during the development and use of a new food transportation technology and all GHGs produced using traditional, current transportation

Gregory 4 technology (note: current transportation technologies may vary region to region). Engine technology is not the only transportation technology unaccounted for by food miles. There are multiple fuel types in existence today. For example, petrol, diesel, ethanol, each with their own complex impact on the environment. To gather a true count of sustainability, the impacts of mining or drilling, processing, as well as burning these fuels, must all be taken into account. In order to be sure a new local food system is in fact more sustainable, advances in technology must be fully considered. Distribution Organization: The locavore movement proposes an alternative food supply chain compared to those currently employed in the global industrial food system. However, there is minimal research to back the proposed environmental and social impacts of a local food supply chain. A supply chain may be defined as an integrated manufacturing process wherein raw materials are converted into final products, then delivered to customers. At its highest level, a supply chain is comprised of two basic, integrated processes: (1) the Production Planning and Inventory Control Process, and (2) the Distribution and Logistics Process (Beamon). The proposed locavore supply chain is more direct. In one example of the conventional supply chain, food travels from farmer to packing house then to a production warehouse or factory then to a storage warehouse then travels to a distribution warehouse then finally to a supermarket where a consumer may purchase the food product. In the ideal locavore model, many of the middle men are cut out. For example, in proposed local food supply chains, the food may travel directly from the farm to a farmers market. In Berkeley, there is even a (now chain) grocery store, Berkeley Bowl, which sends employees to farms to buy produce to stock shelves. In another local model, food travels from the farm directly to the consumer. As seen in Michael Pollans The Omnivores Dilemma, there are farms, such as Joel Salatins, which sell directly to consumer at the farm (Pollan). Or, as in the case of Berkeleys restaurant, Che Panis, farms can sell and deliver directly to restaurants. With these models the locavore food supply chain may seem more sustainable. Individually people may be reducing their carbon footprint. There are fewer middle men, allowing more effective communication and possibly higher efficiency. Theoretically, money spent by consumers would go directly to local businesses and farms,

Gregory 5 thereby making the system less susceptible to global market fluctuations. Local business would promote improved local relations. There would be a diminished need for large storage or warehouse systems. On first look this would appear to decrease GHG emissions because the system does not require excess refrigeration or construction of warehouses etcetera. However, as already seen in the case of transportation, decreasing the size of the operation but increasing the number operations needed may not actually decrease environmental impact. Not to mention, the decentralization of a food supply chain may cause transportation congestion, especially in cities. More research is still needed to show the environmental, as well as the social, effects of a local food supply chain. Moreover, the locavore movement overlooks differences within the current industrialized global food supply chain. These differences could in fact provide more sustainable alternatives than a local food system. For instance, today there are at least two main types of supply chains including competitive and collaborative chain. In collaborative chains two or more independent companies work jointly to plan and execute supply chain operations with greater success than when acting in isolation (Lambert). The collaborative chain is likely to have overall, fewer negative environmental impacts. Differences at all levels of the supply chain will need to be examined in order to obtain true measures of impact. Differences among production methods will vary greatly depending on the type of food, as will be later discussed. Differences among distribution methods are more similar across all food types and are therefore, more easily compared. Distribution in collaborative chains is likely to be more environmentally friendly because companies coordinate to streamline distribution. Companies share warehouses and transportation systems. This would eliminate the need of several smaller warehouses and shipping operations which may have a greater environmental impact than one large warehouse. More overall acreage, more roads, and a higher number of vehicles would be needed to support a non-collaborative system. Therefore, the non-collaborative system is likely to have a stronger negative environmental impact. Moreover, especially in transportation, collaborative supply chains have the ability to maximize efficiency: they use fewer trucks, cargo-ships etcetera which would in turn also help to minimize gridlock, GHG emissions, sound pollution etcetera. The distribution system that would be used in an entirely local-based food supply chain would not necessarily be more environmentally friendly. More research is needed to support the claims that a local system would have fewer negative environmental impacts.

Gregory 6 Growth and Production Methods: The local food movement does not fully consider the impacts of growth and production methods of food. Eating locally does not equate to eating sustainably grown or produced food. There are however, production benefits to a local food system. For example, growing for a local population would theoretically decrease monoculture cropping. People demand a diverse selection of foods and thereby, would force farmers to grow a wider variety of crops. For example, Iowa would not be able to feed its population using solely corn. Farmers would be forced to diversify their crops. Also, people would need food year round and so fields could not be left unplanted during winter months. Instead, farmers would need to plant nutrient-fixing plants such as legumes in order to both feed the people and ensure the soil was replenished with nutrients when the time came to plant spring and summer crops again. In theory, a local food system would promote crop diversity and promote sustainable care of the land. However, in reality, simply eating locally produced food does not guarantee sustainability. For example, in Haiti farmers produced rice for local consumption. Since the local demand for rice was high, farmers mono-cropped their fields and depleted their soils until the land became unsuitable for any crop. While there were many forces at work in Haiti, the depletion of resources despite a local food economy demonstrates that the locavore movement cannot base sustainability solely on location. The movement will have to promote consumer and producer education on sustainable practices and the movement should stress the importance of sustainable production methods rather than simply promoting consumption of local food. While eating locally could potentially reduce environmental impact, there is no guarantee that the food grown next door is grown sustainably. The growing methods of food must be accounted for when trying to discern which food is most sustainable. There have been studies showing that food grown around the globe may in fact be more sustainable than food grown nearby. For example, as Saunders et al reports, New Zealand [NZ] products compare favorably with lower energy and emissions per ton of product delivered to the United Kingdom [UK] compared to other UK sources. In the case of dairy NZ is at least twice as efficient; and for sheep meat four times as efficient (Saunders). In this case, the citizens of the United Kingdom would be eating more sustainably if they purchased certain food from New Zealand. Another report done by AEA Technology Environment showed, it can be more sustainable (at least in energy efficiency terms) to import tomatoes from Spain than to produce them in heated

Gregory 7 greenhouses in the UK outside the summer months (Smith). Since the food system in not entirely local, no will it ever likely be entirely local, the theoretical benefits of local growth and production methods are likely to never materialize. Therefore, people would be acting more sustainably if they purchased foods based on the current growth/production methods rather than the location of production. There are many reasons why food produced in distant location may be more sustainable or alternatively, why foods produced locally may be less sustainable. For instance, differences in climate can drastically alter the type of production necessary to produce food in an economically efficient manner. Production in warmer, more temperate climates, is often, more sustainable. As Saunders reports, New Zealand has greater production efficiency in many food commodities compared to the UK. For example New Zealand agriculture tends to apply less fertilizers (which require large amounts of energy to produce and cause significant CO2 emissions) and animals are able to graze year round outside eating grass instead of large quantities of brought-in feed such as concentrates (Saunders). Firstly, in this example, climate allows New Zealand to raise their cattle more sustainably because environmentally costly feed is not necessary. Year round production or grazing is one way temperate zones may have the environmental advantage. Secondly, New Zealand generally uses fewer fertilizers. Fertilizer use is another major example of how differences in production method can affect sustainability. Fertilizer use is a widespread problem in farming which has very damaging environmental consequences. According to Saunders et al, the potential consequences [of the excessive use of fertilizers such as nitrogen and phosphorus] include eutrophication of coastal and freshwater ecosystems, which can lead to degraded habitat for fish and decreased quality of water for consumption by humans and livestock. In addition to these effects, the production of such fertilizers is also energy intensive and causes significant emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 (Saunders). These are just some of the known effects of fertilizer on ecosystems and the environment. There are even more damaging effects of fertilizers such as the environmental costs of production or the cost to human health. Considering how damaging excessive fertilizer use can be and how

Gregory 8 differences in climate can alter production methods, advocates of the locavore movement should consider that choosing foods based on production methods could be more environmentally important than choosing foods based on location. Types of Food: Another of the main flaws of the locavore movement is the lack of discrimination between types of food. The environmental impact from food type to food type, between dairy products and legumes, for example, varies dramatically. The locavore diet does not distinguish between environmentally friendly food types and unfriendly types. Some advocates of the locavore diet may even go so far as to recommend eating local beef even though many studies have shown that red meat is the most environmentally damaging food. For example, Liaw reports the start-tofinish process of raising and distributing red meat causes more greenhouse gas emission than any other food group, with dairy products coming in second. (Liaw 1) The differences in environmental impacts between food types are due in part to varying production methods: the amount of fertilizer needed, the use of pesticide, the amount and type of feed needed, in the case of beef: the amount of pasture-land needed for cattle grazing, or other production factors. Differences are also due in part to differences in processing or even differences in waste production. In short, people may be more effectively protecting the environment by abstaining from the consumption of the most environmentally damaging food types, such as beef, than by buying food locally. Vegetarianism may in fact be help preserve the environment better than locavorism. One of the reasons people may advocate for local foods without discrimination of food type, could be that by encouraging people to buy locally, people will begin to see firsthand the environmental effects of their food. Perhaps people believe if everyone ate locally people would realize when overconsumption of a product was destroying the land and therefore, limit the amount of, for example, beef they consume. This could theoretically, eventually lead to an overall decrease in the amount of environmentally unfriendly food types grown or raised across the globe. However, this is only theory. In Haiti, people mono-cropped rice to feed their fellow countrymen until the land became so overworked that the area is now arid and no crops can grow. While there were many factors which led to the desertification of Haiti, this shows that simply eating local will not protect the land from environmental damage. People need to be aware of the environmental impact of the type of food they are eating.

Gregory 9 Globalization of Food Systems: Globalization has changed the way food systems are organized, altered production methods, changed where crops are or even can be grown, and has even changed what type of food entire populations consume. The local food movement is, in part, a reaction to the negative effects of the globalization of the food economy and food system. However, the local movement may judge globalization of the food system too harshly. In todays global food system, food may travel farther, from New Zealand to the United Kingdom or from Chile to Canada. Liaw admits Globalization often adds large distances to a food items journey to the consumer, from 1997 to 2004, the average distance covered by good increased by about 25%, from 6760 kilometers to 8240 kilometers (Liaw). Locavores take this information to mean globalization has increased the greenhouse gas emissions in the transport of food. However Liaw also reports that the study concluded globalization of the food market has only increased greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent (Liaw). This study looks at only greenhouse gas emissions, but still shows that the overall environmental effects of globalization must be taken into account when deciding which food systems are more sustainable. Also, globalization has permitted countries to specialize in particular products. As seen with the New Zealand and United Kingdom case, some countries are capable of producing crops more economically efficiently than others. As noted by Saunders, the fact that New Zealand farmers do not require subsidies to be internationally competitive, unlike their British counterparts, indicates these efficiencies of production in this country (Saunders). This could possibly mean foods are produced more sustainably. Crops may be grown in their native environments and then shipped to another part of the world. While transport is increased, native crops often require less chemicals, are produced more efficiently and disrupt the surrounding environment less than introduced or non-native crops, making them overall more sustainable. Even if the crops are not native, often the produce which is grown most economically efficient requires less chemical use. Perhaps the increased economical efficiency of food production found in global food systems could be due to exploitation. Locavores are concerned the global market survives through the exploitation of underprivileged people and unprotected lands, often in impoverished third world countries. For instance, Saunders et al reports that some advocates of the locavore movement show concern that UK is able to import some food products cheaply because

Gregory 10 workers overseas are being exploited by poor wages and working conditions. The belief is that if these workers were treated fairly, the product would cost more (Saunders). However, the production efficiency created by globalization is probably more likely due to a cross between exploitive practices and the use of more suitable lands. More research looking at the overall environmental, as well as social, impacts of the global food system is needed to determine which aspects are in fact sustainable and which need to be rethought or revised. The locavore movement should not entirely dismiss the global food system, but should look to adopt some of the environmentally sustainable practices currently present in the global food system. Proposed Local Benefits of a Local Food System: Advocates of the locavore movement believe eating local will benefit the local environmental, economic, and social health. The locavore movement hopes for the preservation of local food heritage, preservation of local cultures and economic freedom from the fluctuations of the global economy. By promoting local consumption, the movement hopes the environment and social problems will begin to right themselves. As stated by Kloppenburg et al, A community which depends upon its human neighbors, neighboring lands, and native species to supply the majority of its needs must ensure that the social and natural resources it utilized to fulfill those needs remain healthy (Kloppenburg). When forced to face the facts of the limits of earths resources, people may begin to change their habits. The locavore movement hopes that by consuming local foods people will not be able to deny when harmful production and consumption practices are damaging their own surroundings. However, recognition of environmental and social damage will not guarantee recognition of the cause. Nor will the recognition of damage guarantee action or a change in behavior. As seen in the case of Haiti mentioned previously, simply eating local will not protect lands from damage. Environmental education is needed along with a promotion of local foods, in order to help people recognize the underlying cause of environmental or even social damage. The education could be formal, taught to children in grade-school, or informal such as a farmer talking with a costumer at a farmers market. Many current sustainability measures have been promoted using labeling: organic, grass-fed, free-range etcetera. Then, on top of education, the locavore movement should propose methods or steps for individuals or communities to take in order to initiate change. The locavore movement will encounter many obstacles, such as environmental education, in

Gregory 11 achieving local benefits. The movement will have to do more than just promote buying food locally in order to see a significant improvement in local environmental and social well-being. Conclusion: The locavore movement overlooks many aspects of the current food systems significant environmental impacts. The original local food movement does not account for the total quantity of greenhouse gasses emitted in a complete transportation system, nor does it account for differences in transportation technology. The impacts of supply chain distribution methods are over-simplified and there is minimal research supporting the environmental claims of a local distribution system. The locavore movement does not emphasize enough the importance of sustainable productions or growing methods. Differences in environmental impact based on type of food are also overlooked. The movement ignores some of the important environmental gains from the globalization of the food system. Also, the locavore movement proposes local benefits without fully addressing the obstacles likely to be encountered in achieving a truly sustainable system. In short, the environmental impact of consuming locally produced food is overstated and may in fact be less significant than the people of the locavore movement believe. Further research is needed to show what changes should be adapted to the proposed locavore food system design in order to create a truly sustainable system with a significant impact. This design should be sure to account for environmental impacts of transportation, distribution, production, processing, waste management, and etcetera. Until then, as current research shows, individuals can help reduce their negative environmental impact by consuming food produced in a sustainable manner and by limiting intake of environmentally damaging food types such as beef or other animal products.

Gregory 12 References: Beamon, BM. Supply chain design and analysis: models and methods. International journal of production economics (1998). Feenstra, G. Creating space for sustainable food systems: lessons from the field. Agriculture and Human Values (2002): 19(2). 99-106. Kloppenburg, Jack Jr., John Hendrickson and G. W. Stevenson.(1996) "Coming Into the Foodshed." Agriculture and Human Values 13:3 (Summer): 33-42. http://www.wisc.edu/cias/pubs/comingin.PDF Liaw, Jane. Food miles are less important to environment than food choices, study concludes. Special to mongabay.com June 2, 2008. Pollan, Michael. The Omnivores Dilemma. Penguin Books: New York, NY. 2006. Saunders, Caroline, Andrew Barber and Greg Taylor. Food Miles: Comparative Energy/Emissions Performance of New Zealands Agriculture Industry. Research to improve decisions and outcomes in agribusiness, resource, environmental, and social issues. Research Report 285. (July 2006). Smith, A. et al. The Validity of Food Miles as an Indicator of Sustainable Development: Final report. DEFRA, London. (2005). https://statistics.defra.gov.uk/esg/reports/foodmiles/default.asp. Woods, Richard. "Why long-haul food may be greener than local food with low air-miles." http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article3294448.ece 6/13/2010