Because of the globalization of the food supply, much of the food consumed in many communities is not locally grown. Food products often travel long distances, crossing several trading points, markets, and roads before they reach the plate. With widely used transportation methods today, food transportation was already a substantial source of greenhouse gas emissions.
As people are becoming increasingly concerned about climate change, the concept of “food miles” (1 mile = 1.609 kilometers) was introduced in the 1990s to emphasize the connection between food transportation with mounting greenhouse gas emissions. Basically, the longer the distance traveled, the higher the contribution to global emissions.
Currently, food miles are calculated using the Weighted Average Emissions Ratio (WAER) formula developed by a nonprofit organization, LifeCycles, in 2004. The formula doesn’t only take into account the distance traveled, but more importantly, the mode of transportation. However, there are still debates among agriculturists and scientists regarding the accuracy of calculating the food miles. Some argue that the value doesn’t holistically account the carbon footprint of food, and some also said that buying locally doesn’t necessarily mean lesser emissions.
While there are still debates on the calculations, all agree on the need to consider the impacts of food products on the worsening climate crisis. Growing our own food, cutting out meat consumption, and preference for seasonal produce are just some ways to reduce the carbon footprint of the food consumed.