• Mathieu

A regional and conventional agriculture product or imported but organic?

Mis à jour : janv. 30

For the smallest possible carbon footprint, which option would you choose? The regional / local product?

This very interesting question comes from Virginie, a member of the Hebdo Ecolo community.

She is aware that every decision she makes increases or decreases her personal ecological balance.

👉 I have also very often found myself in this situation of doubt 🤔, then Virginie led me to further my reflection, to do some research and here is a summary. 🤓

Article 3/3 of the chapter on conventional vs. organic food.( first article and the second one)

Let's put Virginia's questions into a real-life situation. She's in a traditional store and wants to buy tomatoes:

She is facing the first difficulty:

Is it better to consume organic from the other side of the world or a non-organic product / conventional but local agriculture?

Virgine has not done scientific studies on tomatoes 🍅 and its environmental impact according to the types of production and places of importation ... 🤓 and she is not the only one!

You too are wondering about it? 😃

Here is our analysis and what the GHG* (Greenhouse Gas) and energy balance figures tell us.

*GHG balance: This is an assessment of the amount of greenhouse gases emitted (or captured) in the atmosphere over a year by the activities of an organization or territory.

GHG principles by ADEME.

*Energy balance: These are the quantities of energy produced, transformed and consumed, during a given year and for a given country or regional grouping, defines the energy balance. (Gas, oil, coal, electricity, nuclear)

MTCO2 Eq. : Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent :

A metric measure used to compare the emissions from different greenhouse gases based upon their global warming potential (GWP). The carbon dioxide equivalent for a gas is derived by multiplying the tons of the gas by its associated GWP.

👉Total Emissions (MTCO2) = Emissions MTCO2+ CH4 Emissions (MTCO2 Eq.) + N2O Emissions (MTCO2 Eq.):

Global energy and carbon footprint of food in France (Source ADEME)

Each 100Kg carbon emission, agriculture is responsible and generates the majority of GHGs, up to 67Kg and transport comes in second place, up to 13Kg.

In terms of energy consumption, agriculture is also in the first place.

👉 It is therefore essential to take into consideration the production method 👀.

In the first article, we observed that an organic product emits 37% less greenhouse gases and 23% less energy. ⚡️👍

So, most often, between a tomato growing in a greenhouse near you (10 times more polluting than in the open air) and a product from AB that has traveled more than a few kilometers, the production method wins out.

The ORGANIC tomato 🍅, imported, but with a more favorable ecological balance is therefore in the basket! (Without plastic bag ❌🙃)

Besides the plastic, a second difficulty:

Virginie must now buy a vegetable, cucumber.

Two products 🥒, one local and conventional, one organic that has traveled more miles but wrapped in plastic.

Does plastic cancel out the more favorable ecological balance of the organic?

Here we will make a common-sense choice. Plastic packaging was introduced to reduce food waste since it increases the shelf life of the product.

Good 🤔, it would also have and implemented as a marketing object to push consumption. 🙄

Today 70 to 80% of the plastic used for fruit and vegetables is recyclable. ✅

We agree, this does not make plastic an ecological product ❌ and the nuance is important since recyclable does not mean recycled.

However, in the majority of cases, it would seem that organic or totally natural agriculture is the most powerful vector to reduce the energy and carbon footprint.

"The European Parliament has endorsed a ban on single-use plastics in the EU from 2021." Really?

Whew, we're saved! No more debate in 2021 on this subject 😬🙄 (joke)

Further information and advice:

  • At the moment, it is "a trend" to consume locally. We love the movement and Hebdo Ecolo support it! 🚨 But be careful not to fall into the trap set 🚨 (Have you found out who is setting this trap? 🙈) Bad local "bad consumption" has much more devastating effects on the environment, the biodiversity of your country, the health of your fellow countrymen ... than reasoned but imported consumption. Why ? Read the first article

  • Pollution has no borders, let's think globally.

  • Let us consume seasonal fruit and vegetables, produced naturally and in the open air in our regions.

  • It's hard to say (and to hear?) ... buying a local but conventional product is to participate in the destruction of biodiversity (ladybirds, butterflies ...) near your home.

  • Nearly 40% of the greenhouse gases caused by the transport of food products are generated by the journey between the shop and the final consumer's home. Driving long distances to buy food ❌

  • Walk or bike instead ✅ (Buy less to waste less 😃)

  • Finally, the choice of food is more important than the place of production. Reducing the purchase of meat is the most powerful (and easy?) lever to reduce one's ecological footprint. For example, buying locally produced meat has more impact on the environment than fruit and vegetables, even imported.

Thank you for reading this post, thank you for supporting our association Hebdo Ecolo.

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Written by Mathieu

Double check by Lucie

From Hebdo Ecolo, The ecological progress community.

Sources :

Interfel | Suisse veg | Dossier de synthèse EMBALLAGE DES FRUITS ET LEGUMES – Fonctions, économie, matériaux et innovations (CTIFL, Février 2020) | ADEME | Encyclopédie énergie


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