Campus Sustainability Office

Food Miles

Continue to selected references

The term 'food miles' refers to the number of miles food must travel in order to get from places of production to places of consumption. The concept of a globalized food market is not new. It began thousands of years ago with the spice trade, expanded with colonial exploitation of other lands, and continues today with technology allowing quick transportation of fresh foods.

While the context focuses primarily on the fossil fuels used to move food, it is also relevant to understand other factors. Life cycle (or cradle-to-grave) analysis has been proposed as a deeper look into the environmental, economic, and social issues surrounding transportation of not just food but all goods.

However, food miles in and of themselves are an easily digestible concept that can be broken down into mathematical terms. Naturally the further your food must travel (i.e. apples from New Zealand to Wisconsin travel ~8,400 miles) the more energy will be used to transport it. With roughly 3-7 days worth of food available at any given time in supermarkets, any disruption in the current system could lead to massive food shortages and destabilization of connected social systems. The sustainability viewpoint challenges the current system by not simply looking at profit, logistics, or risks but by analyzing data trends to find solutions that increase the standard of living for all people while protecting the planet.

Some methods that help reduce or eliminate foods miles include: localism, cold-climate greenhouse growingpermaculturecommunity gardening/farmingurban farmingaquaculturefarmers marketsorganicsbiodynamicsagroecological restorationedible landscaping, and more.

Continue to selected references

Document Actions

The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh — Where Excellence and Opportunity Meet.