Sunday, March 04, 2007

Energy Use: Boiling vs. Transporting Potatoes

Some environmentalists are concerned with food miles, or reducing the amount of miles that your food travels to get to your plate. One reason to do so is to minimize the amount of fossil fuels needed to transport them. I took a look at the potential impact of buying local, and found that it doesn't really reduce CO2 emissions much and you are better off focusing on how you get to the store, how far away it is and how often you go.

Now I have become aware that more then that you might want to focus on how you cook your food.

Indeed, our research suggests that when considering UK grown potatoes, 48% of all energy used during the potato's life cycle is expended in the kitchen (the life cycle encompasses the sowing, growing, harvesting, packaging, storage, transport and consumption of potatoes). Boiling potatoes is horrendously energy intensive, and this simple act dwarfs the energy consumed during their production and transport.
This implies that the best way to reduce energy use and carbon emissions is to focus on how you cook your food. I would guess that switching from boiling the potatoes to cooking them in a microwave would save more energy than making sure all of your potatoes are grown locally.

I have emailed the author to get a copy of the report, so I can understand the underlying assumptions in this calculation. Hopefully I will hear back soon and can refine this analysis further.

via BBC via WorldChanging and Biofibre

Update: The author was kind enough to email me back and let me know that the report is not yet out. He instead pointed me to this pdf document on the Environmental Impact of Food Production and Consumption which I am currently reading. He also recommended the book The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter.

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