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Green Thinking

Here’s a letter sent yesterday to a DC-area all-news radio station, WTOP:

I missed the name of the expert interviewed today, during the 11am hour, who said that farmers’ markets are better for the environment than are supermarkets because foods sold at farmers’ markets “are shipped shorter distances” than are foods sold at supermarkets.

This expert jumps too quickly to what is probably a mistaken conclusion.

Although foods sold at farmers’ markets are indeed grown close to the places where they are sold, these foods are also transported from farm to market in small vehicles – typically, in pick-up trucks.  In contrast, foods sold in supermarkets are generally shipped from farm to market in very large vehicles, each of which moves to market multiple times more foods than is moved by pick-up trucks – each of which moves each unit of food one mile using less fuel than is used by a (much-)smaller pick-up truck to move each unit of food to a farmers’ market.  Therefore, the amount of carbon used to transport, say, each tomato and each link of artisan sausage to a supermarket is likely less than is the amount of carbon emitted to transport each of these items to a farmers’ market.

Donald J. Boudreaux