Food Miles

Food miles is the distance food travels from production to when we consume it. Energy is used to produce, package, transport and store food. Even energy use to travel to shops to purchase food is counted. All of this contributes to increased greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2). An increase in the distance food travels is largely due to globalisation of trade.

Production - Most of the greenhouse gas emissions created by food have their origin in the production phases, which is estimated to create 83% of overall CO2 emissions associated with food miles (Weber and Matthews, 2008).

Packaging - Most things we buy has packaging, however some food has excessive packaging, so more energy is used to make it, package it and transport it from the factory, to the shop and to your home.

Transport - Fruit and vegetables can have a certain growing season and will be ready to harvest and eat at a certain time of year. For example, Irish strawberries, grown outdoors, will be ripe in summer. Some fruits and vegetables are grown in heated greenhouses or bought from warmer countries so they are available during winter. This uses energy, so it’s better to choose food that is ‘in season’. We grow lots of food in Ireland during our growing seasons. We also sell food to and buy food from other countries around the world. When we buy produce from South Africa they travel 6000 miles. However, it is better for the environment to buy food that is grown nearby and in season.

Storing/Food waste - On average each of us is throwing out about 80kg of food waste each year (which is the same weight as a baby elephant!) so the average Irish household may be throwing out between €400 – €1,000 worth of food into the bin each year!

  • The foods we throw out most include salad, fruit & veg and bread.
  • While we compost a lot of our food waste using brown bins, a lot of food still ends up in the dump and it takes additional energy (CO2) to transport and treat this waste.
  • Rotting food in dumps can cause pollution.

What can we do?

  • Think before you buy - Choose locally grown food that is in season.
  • Try to buy certified organic food.
  • Find out about your local farmers markets.
  • Talk to your local greengrocer, butcher and fishmonger and find out where their produce comes from.
  • Grow some of your own fruit and vegetables at home
  • Choose products with the least packaging.
  • Leave the car at home and bring your own re-usable bags when going shopping.
  • Try to buy what you need when you need it and store your food properly.
  • Compost food waste

Click here to watch a video explaining food miles in practice.


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