"Field to Fork" Enviro-Quiz Challenge

A_local How far does the average fruit or vegetable travel from field to fork?

a. 50 miles
b. 500 miles
c. 1,500 miles

Answer: 1,500 miles

The produce you see in the local grocery store has been through quite a journey before it finally fuels your day. It may seem unbelievable, but your produce travels an average of 1,500 miles before it gets to your plate — that’s the distance between New York City and Cuba! And, all that extra travel equals increased processing, as fruits and veggies are often prepared for shipping prior to becoming ripe, and then injected with a hormone to bring out the color and appear ready.

Just imagine how much energy this process requires when you factor in the millions of grocery stores across the U.S., each filled with thousands of fruits and vegetables from around the world.


Cross Country Veggies

So, next time you see large shipping trucks on the highway, consider what’s in them, where they came from, and where they’re going. Chances are, at least one of those trucks is making a cross country trip to transport your food. Have you ever noticed the Florida sticker on your orange at lunchtime? That orange had to travel to you somehow, and it wasn’t as inexpensive as you may think – our environment paid the cost in unnecessary carbon dioxide emissions:

  • The average diesel truck requires about 110 gallons of fuel for a 1,500 mile journey, the average distance your orange would travel. According to the EPA’s emission calculator, that orange shipment added 674 pounds of carbon dioxide to our atmosphere.
  • And don’t forget the other harmful substances emitted during transportation such as nitric oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) which all contribute to the formation of smog.


Local Produce is Healthy Produce

Locally-grown foods have the double benefit of being healthier for you, and reducing your footprint. According to the Earth Day Network, produce manufacturers spray a billion pounds of pesticides each year to protect their crops from insects. Local farmers often use fewer harmful chemicals and pesticides because they operate on a smaller scale than big companies. Reducing your pesticide intake can go a long way to improving your health, as pesticide exposure has been linked to many serious side affects, one of which is increased risk for Myeloma.

Dead_zone By buying locally, you also save vital insects and microorganisms that fertilize our soil. Overuse of pesticides sets off a vicious cycle – creating infertile land that requires fertilizers to remain usable. Then, these fertilizers contaminate local watersheds and rivers by over-stimulating algae that deplete the water of oxygen, leaving dead zones in our rivers and oceans. According to the Sierra Club, the dead zone where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico is “now one of the largest hypoxic zones of water in the world.... In 2005, researchers mapping the Dead Zone found that it covered 4,564 square miles, an area slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut. In some years it has covered up to roughly 7,000 square miles.”


Grow your own!

Gardener In order to improve your own health and save our oceans and farms, why not change that 1,500 miles to 15 feet? Growing vegetables in a backyard garden eliminates the need for fuel and resulting emissions, as well as wasteful packaging stemming from commercial transport. Gardening can also be relaxing way to get exercise, remain active, and encourage family togetherness. By eating produce grown at home you can be sure that no harmful chemicals are going into your food. And, by eating in the season, your produce will be tastier than those fruits delivered from miles away.

The food industry is evolving into a mass machine of imports and exports. According to one report, Britain imported 114,000 metric tons of milk while it exported nearly the same amount in 1992. This environmentally-harmful system could be easily remedied if we allowed the food we buy to travel a little less. Think globally, EAT LOCALLY! Support the farms in your area.

So where can you buy local? Find a farmer’s market in your area!

Resources


Go Organic! EarthShare

Pesticide Exposure Increases Risk, Beyond Pesticides

Climate Change Solutions, What you can do Right now, Earth Day Network

Emission Facts: Average Carbon Dioxide Emissions Resulting from Gasoline and Diesel Fuel, the Environmental Protection Agency

Measuring Vehicle Contribution to Smog, the Sierra Club

The Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the Sierra Club

How Far Does Your Food Travel to get to Your Plate?, The Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture

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Sally

It is so sad to read much of the information on this site. Yet at the same time it is wonderful to see so many good people getting involved and making a difference. I am without doubt that in the end we can all make the needed change.

Sally

Nat

Great article!

EarthShare

Sarah,

Thanks so much for your kind words! It's really up to individuals like you to make small changes in their everyday lives to enact change. We hope you'll keep visiting for ways to get involved with EarthShare and its members so we can all make a difference!

Your friends at EarthShare

Sarah Buckley

I'm so glad some people are trying to inform others about Global Warming/Climate Change. If enough people realize what is happening and are strong enough and willful enough to take action, I believe that the human race can stop Global Warming/Climate Change in its tracks!

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