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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 02-23-08, 10:05 PM   #1
gerv 
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The Locavore

Article by Michael Specter in the New Yorker

I am really amazed that companies in the UK are miles ahead of those in the US in implementing carbon-footprint awareness for the products they sell. One example is head of the Tesco supermarket chain who is willing to add labeling to products to indicate whether they are locally produced and -- if not -- whether they have moved via airplane or truck.

Another twist for me is a new phenomenon called the "locavore". This is a natural evolution as more and more eco-aware people seek to buy only locally produced food.

However, Specter points out that the local equation is not always as "carbon-neutral" as we would think and occasionally imported goods are actually less prone to greenhouse gas production.

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Many factors influence the carbon footprint of a product: water use, cultivation and harvesting methods, quantity and type of fertilizer, even the type of fuel used to make the package. Sea-freight emissions are less than a sixtieth of those associated with airplanes, and you don’t have to build highways to berth a ship. Last year, a study of the carbon cost of the global wine trade found that it is actually more “green” for New Yorkers to drink wine from Bordeaux, which is shipped by sea, than wine from California, sent by truck. That is largely because shipping wine is mostly shipping glass. The study found that “the efficiencies of shipping drive a ‘green line’ all the way to Columbus, Ohio, the point where a wine from Bordeaux and Napa has the same carbon intensity.”
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Old 02-23-08, 10:38 PM   #2
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That's interesting about the French wine versus California wine. Also, they make pretty good wine in New York state. I wonder what the "footprint" would be for that truly local wine?

It really does take a lot of research and discussion to make the greenest choices. A lot of times people jump on the bandwagon for a green consumer cause, and later find out that they really aren't making much difference after all. Years ago, consumers boycotted colored toilet paper because it was supposed to pollute more than white TP. It went so far that the paper companies totally quit making colored TP. It really was a great moment in consumer activism. A few years later, it was discovered that colored TP actually isn't any worse than the white. But the funny thing is, they still don't make colored TP!

I suppose the same thing could happen with the locavore movement if we're not careful. We could end up doing things that are actually worse for the environment if we're not careful. I have to admit that decreasing GHGs is only one reason that I support local agriculture with my food purchases. I also like the idea of keeping the money in my community, I like sticking it to the huge corporations, and I like the idea of my region more self-reliant. And of course the main reason is that the food tastes so much better!
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Old 02-24-08, 08:13 AM   #3
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That's interesting about the French wine versus California wine. Also, they make pretty good wine in New York state. I wonder what the "footprint" would be for that truly local wine?

It really does take a lot of research and discussion to make the greenest choices. A lot of times people jump on the bandwagon for a green consumer cause, and later find out that they really aren't making much difference after all. Years ago, consumers boycotted colored toilet paper because it was supposed to pollute more than white TP. It went so far that the paper companies totally quit making colored TP. It really was a great moment in consumer activism. A few years later, it was discovered that colored TP actually isn't any worse than the white. But the funny thing is, they still don't make colored TP!

I suppose the same thing could happen with the locavore movement if we're not careful. We could end up doing things that are actually worse for the environment if we're not careful. I have to admit that decreasing GHGs is only one reason that I support local agriculture with my food purchases. I also like the idea of keeping the money in my community, I like sticking it to the huge corporations, and I like the idea of my region more self-reliant. And of course the main reason is that the food tastes so much better!
Around here the local wine selections are very limited, the only grapes that grow in this soil are muscadine, hard to get a Chardonnay or Merlot from Concord or Scuppernong

However I am in full agreement with attempting to purchase locally produced items. We have an IGA store that has his own meat packing plant and cannery, both in the county that most of his stores are located in. He also buys his cattle and most of his vegetables for canning from the local farmers....works for me!


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Old 02-24-08, 08:28 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gerv View Post
Article by Michael Specter in the New Yorker

I am really amazed that companies in the UK are miles ahead of those in the US in implementing carbon-footprint awareness for the products they sell. One example is head of the Tesco supermarket chain who is willing to add labeling to products to indicate whether they are locally produced and -- if not -- whether they have moved via airplane or truck.
Not sure if you got to the end of the article, but the Tesco people themseves said:
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“One of our real responsibilities is to say to our customers, ‘The most important thing you can do to effect climate change is insulate your house properly,’ ” she went on. “ ‘Next would be to get double-glazed windows,’ ” which prevent heat from escaping in the winter. “Third, everyone should get a new boiler.’ We are trying to put this into context, not to say, ‘Buy English potatoes.’ ”
I'm all for gardening and eating local, but it seems to be in the splash compared to big ones like a well insulated house.
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Old 02-24-08, 08:49 AM   #5
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Not sure if you got to the end of the article, but the Tesco people themseves said:
“One of our real responsibilities is to say to our customers, ‘The most important thing you can do to effect climate change is insulate your house properly,’ ” she went on. “ ‘Next would be to get double-glazed windows,’ ” which prevent heat from escaping in the winter. “Third, everyone should get a new boiler.’ We are trying to put this into context, not to say, ‘Buy English potatoes.’ ”
I'm all for gardening and eating local, but it seems to be in the splash compared to big ones like a well insulated house.
I am of the opinion that every little bit helps. Kind of like picking up a piece of trash on the side of the road...I may only pick up one piece but if 1,000 people pick up a piece on that same stretch of road there wouldn't be any left to pick up. The current house I live in is very poorly insulated and it would be very expensive to upgrade the insulation, in fact the one quote I have was more than the value of the house (cheap house BTW) We are looking to build something much greener and more energy efficient in the near future.

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Old 02-24-08, 09:59 AM   #6
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Not sure if you got to the end of the article, but the Tesco people themseves said:

I'm all for gardening and eating local, but it seems to be in the splash compared to big ones like a well insulated house.
More so than you might think. Just think of how much it takes to get a bag of grapes from Chile to your table. Now repeat that daily.

A well insulated house could be foregone with the application of extra sweaters and blankets.
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Old 02-24-08, 10:11 AM   #7
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Not sure if you got to the end of the article, but the Tesco people themseves said:

I'm all for gardening and eating local, but it seems to be in the splash compared to big ones like a well insulated house
.
I agree...to an extent. But food production is an enormous source of air and water pollution, independent of the GHG issue. And small local farms are much more likely to follow sustainable farming practices than the big boys are. I know that the local growers I buy food from care deeply about their land. They own it, they live and work on it, and they plan to hold it for many years. They also follow a business model that emphasizes direct relationships with their consumers, so they have lots of concerned people keeping an eye on what they do.
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Old 02-24-08, 02:26 PM   #8
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I'm all for gardening and eating local, but it seems to be in the splash compared to big ones like a well insulated house.
I think eating lots of non-local, gigantic-farm-produced meat causes about as much environmental damage as having a big house with bad insulation. Of course, if you're a vegetarian eating factory-farm non-meat foods it's different. Best thing is to eat lots of plants and lots of local food, but there's no need to be dogmatic about it.
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Old 02-24-08, 05:05 PM   #9
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With food of local origin, we have a better chance of knowing something about its production The article points out how much more sustainable New Zealand agriculture is than European or North American. However, if I'm stuck in a supermarket, having to choose between local (Iowa) lamb and New Zealand lamb, there's almost no way I could every fully understand the carbon footprint of a lamb chop from New Zealand. If I buy from a relatively local farmer, I can at least get some information on the origin of the product. Also, I figure that no matter how ecologically sound New Zealand is, that lamb chop did not have to make a truck trip from California or some other Pacific port.

The article is trying (somewhat unconvincingly to my mind...) to make the point that these types of equations are way too complex. The author seems to support carbon taxes... a notion I still have trouble getting my mind around. It's a lot like the marauding Crusaders of the Medieval period purchasing indulgences to cover their sins.

I know some of these considerations can be complex, but where common sense suggests an answer, I think we should go with it.
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Old 02-26-08, 04:41 PM   #10
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the local debate

I've heard the argument that some nonlocal products have a local carbon footprint but I think that's because not all produce is going to naturally thrive in any environment and by trying to force it to grow you may be causing more harm then good.

That said I do try to buy as local as possible, usually from a farmer's market in the summer months. Due to greater consumer awareness more stores in the US are labeling the location of origin on products so you can know what is and is not local.

My fiance and I are definitely trying to be more green and have even started our own blog about it http://badhuman.wordpress.com It does seem like the more we learn the more realize how little is truly known about what the most green choices are but I would rather do something then nothing.

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