A Carnegie Mellon study shows that only 11% of food’s carbon footprint is from transportation. So why do people focus so much on eating local? By worrying about the firecracker of the problem (transportation) are people ignoring the dynamite of the problem (food that is made in an energy efficient way)?

The Chicago Tribune ran a front page story today about the costs and benefits of the “locavore” movement. It describes the growing number of people who are trying very hard to eat locally: food produced within a 100-300 mile radius of where they live. The jury is still out on which foods actually make an environmental impact by being produced locally.

I think it should be pointed out why eating locally might be bad for the environment over food produced thousands of miles away: growing raspberries in Illinois (where, to my knowledge, they are not naturally occurring and cannot stand the harsh weather) can take a lot of energy. To withstand the weather or non-ideal soil conditions, extra energy needs to be put into things like greenhouses or fertilizers. Overall, this can take more energy than just getting the raspberries from their natural environment and shipping them to Chicago.

People also might buy local for things like feelings of fellowship, community, or just supporting your friends (all of which I think are absolute bullshit). And although some studies seem to be coming out shortly that measure the possibly trivial and possibly huge difference buying local makes, the environmental aspect seems to be quite a firecracker characteristic.