Thinking about Food Miles at the Jefferson Carbon Footprint Fair

Last week, Jefferson High School hosted their second annual Carbon Footprint Fair.  The event featured student projects and activities focused on environmental issues such as waste reduction, alternative energy, carbon footprints, and transportation.  Local non-profits were also offered an opportunity to share their insights on how to reduce our community’s carbon output (check out our friends at Bicycle Transportation Alliance for a great example of an organization working to reduce our carbon footprints).

GROWINGGARDENS‘ offered an activity for students on food miles and how transporting food impacts our carbon output. In a slightly belated effort to honor Earth Day, we wanted to share this activity (and some resources on food miles) with you.

At the GROWINGGARDENS table, we laid out maps of Oregon, the U.S., and the world, marking places various fruits and veggies traveled from to reach local stores. Jefferson students guessed how far the different fruits and veggies traveled to get to our grocery stores, and were presented with issues related to food seasonality, agricultural practices, and transportation in considering the carbon footprint of our food .  Most students were surprised by how far foods like bananas and grapes (in spring) traveled to reach grocery stores in Portland. Other students had questions about  how/why you can buy Oregon grown melons at the end of the summer, but when you see them in the store here in April, they are likely from Mexico or Central America.

Students left with their own bag of carrot seeds and a better understanding of the distance food can travel to get to their local store.  Students also learned a little about alternatives, such as our home and school gardens, as a way to reduce the carbon impact of food (while also supporting local food security and improving nutritional health).

If you’re interested in learning how far your food has traveled, we found these neat web resources in our preparations for the Carbon Footprint Fair.  Check them out!

  • A food miles project for teachers, including some great resources for calculating emissions and finding local foods.

The temperatures are warming up and more local fruits and vegetables will soon be making their way to markets and stores all around Portland.  When you have a chance, think a little about where your food comes from-and if you can, reduce your carbon footprint by growing a little of your own!

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