Buy local, save gas

Graduate student’s findings support buying locally produced foods

The first Farmer’s Market at Queen’s will take place on Monday in the Lower Ceildh from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The first Farmer’s Market at Queen’s will take place on Monday in the Lower Ceildh from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Jackie Alvarez

Buying locally grown foods can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, says environmental
studies masters student Sunny Lam.

As a part of his study, Lam is studying how food travels to our tables, and the subsequent effect on
the environment. “Right now we have all imports— what happens if we decide to take in more food from local and real farmers?” Lam said.

“We could probably prevent or reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20,000 tonnes, and that’s the
equivalent of taking 6,700 cars off the road per year,” Lam said.

Lam’s findings measure the total numbers of food miles that any given food travels: the distance from
the point of production to the point of consumption.

Lam modeled his study after the study conducted to assess the Waterloo Region’s food system as part of the Regional Growth Management Study commissioned by Region of Waterloo Public Health in 2005.
Strategies to strengthen the local food system and make purchasing food more convenient for consumers have the potential to reduce the environmental impact of food miles in Kingston, he said.

In his research, Lam looked specifically at 58 different foods. “Food items were selected on the basis of whether they could be grown or raised locally,” the report states. According to Lam’s findings, beef
accounts for nearly 30 per cent of food miles, meaning simply by consuming locally grown beef, the equivalent of 1,948 cars would be taken off the road for a year. Lam said the reason beef accounts
for more pollution is because there is a lot more involved in raising livestock. “Beef, we grow it here, then we send it across the United States to process and then it comes back to be sold here,” Lam said.
Lettuce came in second as the equivalent of 625 cars and fresh pears came in third as the equivalent of 618 cars in a year.

Lam also found that food actually has to travel farther to Kingston compared to the similar study conducted in Waterloo, because of a greater distance from main shipping routes.

Lam hopes that his report will influence the way people think about the food they eat. Lam also encourages local purchases for economic reasons as well.

“Direct is better, from the farmers, they’re not getting enough money,” he said.

Lam believes that students can do their part as well. “Students should come up to the market, talk to local farmers, buy local, encourage stores to stock more local stuff, even the chain ones.”

Lam’s study of food travel is one part of his larger research project on urban agriculture and how to grow food in an urban environment. He expects to publish his final report by the end of this year.

5 ways to live more sustainably

By Dr. Gary vanLoon, Professor of EN SC 390: Sustainability

Sustainability is one of the most important words in a 21st-century vocabulary.
In its full sense, sustainability includes issues of environment, economics and
society, but a healthy environment is the foundation of everything. Without
environmental integrity we cannot build healthy societies and flourishing

It’s interesting that students at Queen’s are in some ways living in a much more
sustainable manner than most Canadians, and probably more sustainably than
will be the case after graduation. You live close to the campus, in very high
density housing. You walk to carry out many of your activities, have a public
transit pass for local travel and fill buses for weekend trips to Toronto and
elsewhere. Compared to the rest of us who are often located in sprawling
suburbs, settled in large half-empty houses and moving everywhere by car,
the student lifestyle is highly commendable. But not in every aspect! Here
are some further ways in which you can contribute to local and global

1. Reduce the resource demands of your home in Kingston. Minimize
energy use by doing your best to ensure proper insulation of the house,
and learn to enjoy a living temperature of 20 C or less. Minimize water use,
especially hot water.

2. Enjoy a sustainable diet. Where possible, purchase local foods, thus
reducing the energy costs of transport. The new student initiative to sponsor
a monthly local farmers’ market at Queen’s is worthy of strong support.
Because the energy content of vegetables is much less than of meats, cut
down on consumption of animal products – a healthy as well as a sustainable

3. Think very carefully about travel. Long distance travel contributes
in a big way to the ecological footprints of most Canadians. Think carefully
about this, and structure your life in a way that does not involve excessive
travel. For long distance flights, consider using the website of Tree Canada
( to support the planting of trees that will sequester the
carbon dioxide that is produced when you fly. For example, the Tree Canada
calculator estimates that a round trip from Toronto to Vancouver generates
carbon dioxide (per traveler) that can be offset by the growth of 5.4 trees
during their 80-year lifetime. A donation of $22 to this foundation will cover
the cost of planting and maintaining the trees.

4. Nurture your social conscience. Look for ways through career, family
life and volunteer activities to promote social good—poverty alleviation, social
equity, global justice.

5. Support the ideas of green economics—this is not synonymous with
the Green Party, but can be applied to political views of both the right and the
left. Simply put, it means working toward an economic system that supports
by financial means good sustainable activities and penalizes those that operate
against sustainability.

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