Thursday, January 12, 2012

January Conservation Tip

Most of us are aware that buying local is the way to go, it is supporting the local businesses, has the fresher produce and reduces the carbon footprint. But most often it is also a bit more expensive.

Inspired by the book "How Bad Are Bananas" , the carbon footprint of everything by Mike Berners-Lee, our son decided to make the carbon footprint of food the topic of his 8th grade science fair project.

With the question: 
"What is the carbon footprint of a burrito with locally bought ingredients VS a burrito with Costco bought ingredients? What is the price difference?" he wanted to find out exactly how much more expensive local food is and exactly how high the carbon footprints are in comparison.....and he did.

After determining what would go into the "test" burrito, he then went to the farmers market and New Leaf to get the ingredients, always checking and noting down where they came from. Then off to Costco to do the same. That was easier said then done, since at Costco one actually doesn't know where the food is produced, only where it is distributed from.  The ground beef, for example, had a huge USDA Select sticker on the packaging, but be aware, that doesn't tell you anything about the origin, this is just the quality. Looking closer, he found out, that this ground beef was mixed beef from: Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and USA.....

After that he had a lot of math to do and these are the results:

As assumed, the local "burrito" was more expensive, it did cost 2.4 x more then the Costco "burrito" , but who would have guessed that the Costco "burrito" had a 111 x higher carbon footprint???? Which doesn't even include the "food miles" from the production site to the distribution center.

Quite amazing, isn't it? 

The good news is, that he made First Place in the Ecology category at the Cunha Science Fair and the Gil Ellis Environmental Award.
He now will be off to the countywide Science Fair.

Congratulations, my Dear!

A big Thank You to Christine from the Potrero Nuevo Ranch and Dr.Volker Enders from Hara for their insightful interviews!


  1. Congratulations to you and your son! Making us all more aware of our impact on the environment.

  2. Congrats! That's quite the undertaking and about a topic most people don't even think about! Good luck at the county level.