Un Poco Local: The Carbon Next Door
Here's something you may not have thought about. Every time you buy something, you are paying somebody else to use energy and emit carbon on your behalf. The product was transported to the store where you bought it. It was manufactured. It was packaged. The things that went into its manufacture and packaging were themselves transported, manufactured, grown, and otherwise processed. And every step along the way, energy was used and carbon was sent into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. This is true for everything from the simplest (like a head of lettuce) to the most complex (like a house or a car).
You can't just stop buying stuff, and I'm not going to suggest you do so. And, without a huge grant and access to proprietary info from every company you do business with, there is no way to calculate the true impact of what you buy. But there are a few things you can do to get a clue, and you can use that clue to influence your decision on what to buy.
- Look at the number of ingredients. This is easier with some things than others. But next time you are at the grocery store, pick up two packages of the same type of product made by different companies. Count the number of lines of ingredients listed. You can guess that the one with the longer list had a bigger impact when it was manufactured.
- Buy the product with the least processing. Every step someone took to create this wonderful product used energy and contributed to global warming. That's right, organically grown, whole-grain, unenriched, zero additives, and all those other things that are supposed to be good for you also have less of an impact on the environment. Oh, and packaging also counts as a step in the processing chain, so less packaging is better.
- Buy local. This is not just to support your local economy, local farmers, and local businesses. Local products don't have to be transported over long distances to get to you.