Thursday, January 9, 2014

What Difference Does Local Make? A Spatial Analysis of Food Miles for Central Texas

Ellen Hoyer, Environmental Studies Program

Since the 1990s, there has been a surge of interest in eating “local” food, accompanied by considerable growth in the number of farmers’ markets throughout the United States. While there are a range of motivations for this change, the most pervasive has been the desire to eat in an environmentally sustainable fashion. The concept of “food miles” emphasizes the long distances that most produce travels before reaching the customer and how this affects global climate change through the carbon dioxide emissions. The logic is that through buying food from local vendors instead of conventional grocery stores, people can reduce their carbon footprint. The purpose of this study is to calculate the decrease in food miles and carbon emissions from shopping at a farmers’ market rather than a conventional grocery store. In this study, she will consider a few common produce items from both the Downtown Austin Farmers Market and the local H-E-B. Using a Geographic Information System, Ms. Hoyer will map the path of these produce items from the farm to the store or market, then calculate the food miles and carbon emissions of each to discover how effective the choice to “eat locally” is in reducing one’s carbon footprint.

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