Food Miles

“Food Miles” refers to the distance that your food has been transported between its source farm and where you buy it. Food miles are one measure of the amount of energy used to transport your food and the consequent pollutants released by that transport. Estimates vary but transport may account for 20% or more of the total energy use associated with the provision of a given food item. As such, Food Miles is a relatively simple statistic that can be used to demonstrate the ecological importance of local foods.

Seventeen per cent of this nation’s petroleum consumption is dedicated to on-the-farm food production. Add on processing, packaging, refrigeration and transport of edibles and food takes a big bite out of affordable oil supplies and contributes to pollution. Domestic food as basic as lettuce we could grow in front yards most of the year, and greenhouses in winter, travels up to 3,000 miles from field to table.

The science behind calculating food miles starts with a basic formula to calculate “weighted average source distances” (the average distance that food travels from where it’s produced to where it is consumed).

the standard formula for the WASD is:

WASD = S (m(k) x d(k))
S m(k)


k = different location points of the production
m = weight (amount) from each point of production, and
d = distance from each point of production to each point of use (or sale).

Planting a Victory Garden and supplementing with local foods from your Farmer’s Market can significantly reduce your food miles.