Transportation Cost Reduction
One method the average consumer can use to reduce their overall contribution to the world’s pollution is to, where and when feasible, to buy local or regional produce, meats and other foodstuffs. The rationale is that the “shorter” supply-chain will result in less energy being used to get the food from farm to table and therefore be greener to the environment.
Recent studies have found that “conventional” over-the-road transportation used 4 to 17 times more fuel and emitted 5 to 17 times more CO2 from burning of the fuel than a regional-based food distribution system. This is a growing problem. In 1965, there were an estimated 787,000 combination trucks registered in the United States, and these vehicles consumed 6.658 billion gallons of fuel. In 1997, there were 1,790,000 combination trucks that used 20.294 billion gallons of fuel! Many of these trucks transport food throughout the United States. A recent study indicated that in California alone more than 485,000 truckloads of fresh fruit and vegetables leave the state every year and travel an average of 1,500 miles to reach their destinations.
The energy used to transport a one pound can of corn to the consumer’s home and to prepare it exceeds the energy needed to produce the corn.
By encouraging and supporting local or regional food systems consumers can help the environment by dropping those transportation miles from an average of 1,500 miles to and average of only 45 miles.
Supporting Local & Regional Small Growers
By taking part in a local or regional food distribution system consumers would be in many cases supporting smaller growers who cannot compete with the large national agrobusines consortiums. Many smaller growers use far less chemicals – fertilizers or pesticides – than the larger growers do. Supporting their efforts would further reduce the overall environmental impact of food distribution.
The question is not whether small producers should participate in supermarket-driven supply chains but rather how they can do so in a manner that improves their livelihoods.
Consumers can aid small growers, referred to as Smallholder, by choosing to by local or regional foodstuffs. Supermarkets base all or most of their policies on profitability. If the consumers choose to buy local or regional products as opposed to national or transnational brands, then supermarkets will choose to stock more local or regional goods.