How many food miles did your last meal rack up? As consumers, we’re often blissfully unaware of the journey our food has been on before it’s served up on our plates.
From tomatoes grown in the Netherlands to oranges ripened in Spain, our food goes on quite an adventure to reach us.
So, what are food miles and are they bad for the environment? Is eating locally the answer to living more sustainably? Find out with our food miles guide.
UK food miles: Some facts & statistics
- Did you know that over 45% of all food is imported into the UK?
- The biggest import category is fruit and vegetables, with the BioEthics Education Project reporting that 95% of fruit and 50% of vegetables eaten in the UK come from abroad.
- The Food Foundation reveals that the majority of our fruit and veg is grown in Spain, the Netherlands, South Africa, the Republic of Ireland, Chile and Costa Rica.
How do food miles affect the environment?
If you’re wondering how food miles affect the environment, first we have to look at how food is transported.
Plane, train, lorry and car; all of these forms of transportation cause pollution by releasing carbon emissions into the air – even your trip to the supermarket adds to your items’ food miles. While air freight only accounts for around 11% of the UK’s food transport emissions, this method of transport creates around 50 times more carbon emissions than shipping and ten times the emissions of road transport.
These emissions degrade air quality and produce greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and can stay in the air for just a few to thousands of years, warming up the planet and causing climate change.
How to reduce your food miles
If you want to reduce food miles, first you must look at where your food is coming from. But it’s not quite as straightforward as just shopping locally.
Fruit and veg grown out-of-season in the UK can actually have a higher carbon footprint than food grown abroad and transported into the UK. This is because our normal climate can’t produce strawberries, wheat or berries year-round, unless intensive heating and farming methods are used. Therefore, it can actually be kinder on the environment to source fruit and veg from abroad.
Another important food miles fact to consider is when different foods come together to create one product; like trail mix or cereal. For instance, the nuts in your morning cereal may come from China, before being mixed with other grains in Switzerland and transported to the UK. This all adds to the product’s food miles and, ultimately, its carbon footprint.
Are food miles important?
With all these factors to consider, are food miles important? The simple answer is yes – reducing your food miles can drastically reduce your household’s carbon footprint. However, with little information available on supermarket packaging around carbon emissions, it can be hard to weigh up the real cost of buying your produce from the UK or overseas.
One of the easiest ways to live more sustainably and reduce food miles is by eating what’s in season and sourcing it locally. At Pikt Fresh, our organic fruit and veg boxes are designed with the seasons in mind. We partner with farmers and growers that care about producing the best possible fruit and veg going and work with nature – to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Discover more about our seasonal boxes or check out our blog to find out more about what’s in season and when.