PUBLISHED 2013-04-29

Locally produced food not the best climate choice

A grocery bag with locally produced food only emits slightly less greenhouse gas than the average Swedish grocery bag. What consumers choose to fill their grocery bags with is far more important than where the groceries are from, this according to a new study by ENTWINED and IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.

In the report Food consumption choices and climate change, the climate impact of locally grown and conventional foods has been analysed using the LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) method. To illustrate the influence that consumers have through their choice of food with regards to the climate, various types of grocery bags have been compared.

The report shows that a grocery bag containing local food options have only slightly lower greenhouse gas emissions than an average Swedish grocery bag. Even though the Swedish bag contains items that have been transported long distances.

- The debate regarding climate friendly food has been focused on the wrong factors, which has led many consumers to believe that local produced food is always the most climate friendly choice. Contrary to this our study shows that the transport distance can actually be quite insignificant, says Stefan Åström, researcher at IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.

A significantly greater reduction in emissions will occur when beef is replaced with vegetarian options. A grocery bag containing seasonal vegetarian food has the lowest emission of all the compared bags.

- By eating vegetarian food that is in season the consumer can cut the emissions of greenhouse gases by half. A general estimate shows that if all Swedes would make such a dietary choice, Sweden would reduce GHG emissions by approximately 3.6 million tons of carbon dioxide, says Stefan Åström.

Link to the report Food consumption choices and climate change.

For further information:

Stefan Åström, stefan.astrom@ivl.se phone.  +46 31-725 62 05 or Maria Kardborn, maria.kardborn@ivl.se phone. +46 31 725 62 50

Updated: 2013-09-25