producing foods in the most efficient regions (e.g., pineapples
in Thailand, lamb in New Zealand) the savings in energy at the
farm level may lower the carbon footprint of food, even if that
food requires greater food-miles. Or it may not—it just depends.
It is impossible to determine whether local food is truly more
environmentally friendly, but we do know that fossil fuels are
both emitters of carbon and a large component of a business'
costs. If nonlocal lettuce is cheaper, that is a good sign that
less fossil fuel was used, and thus a smaller carbon footprint
results. Not even this rule is perfectly reliable though, as fossil
fuels are just one of many costs involved in food production,
and greenhouse gas emissions are not the only pollutant of
concern. It is possible that a certain food could be cheaper and
have a larger carbon footprint.
Does Buying Local Foods Stimulate the Local Economy?
It is true that spending dollars on imported food causes those
dollars to leave the local economy, and that paying a local
farmer $30 keeps that $30 (for a while) in the hands of your
friends and neighbors. Buying local, then, seems to have an
altruistic component, in that you are choosing to favor some-
one who lives close to you rather than a distant stranger. Many
locavores thus argue that local foods are ethically superior
because they provide economic support to those you know
and favor. In addition, as that dollar paid to a local farmer cir-
culates from one person to another in your area, your purchase
of local foods acts as a local economic stimulus. One docu-
mentary on local foods has even claimed that spending one
dollar on local food increases the region's total income by five
or more dollars. If this were true every person in the modern
world could become much richer by simply purchasing only
local foods. If that sounds too good to be true, it is.
A publication by the Union of Concerned Scientists has sug-
gested that each dollar spent on local food generates an extra
$0.78 in income (in addition to the $1 spent) to the region—a