Food Sources and Carbon Cost

Worksheet: food sources and carbon cost

Societies today depend upon agriculture to some extent in order to provide food for the people who live there. Often, food is grown/raised in close proximity to where it is used. More often, though, it is transported from somewhere else, often from a source very far from where it is actually consumed. The energy, usually fossil fuel, used becomes part of the cost of the food. This cost must also be figured into pollution from the exhaust and wastes produced from burning fossil fuel. In addition, the aim of “buying local” is to put much needed funds into the small businesses and farms that exist and depend upon the community itself.

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The goal of this worksheet is to find out what food sources are available in your area. You may be surprised!

1. Think of the last time you went grocery shopping. List five things that you purchased from either the meat/deli, dairy, or produce sections in the Table provided.

2. Find out where the product came from – often it is on the packaging/sticker.

3. Look online or ask around to find out the closest source of that food.

4. Estimate the approximate extra distance the food had to be transported (#2 – #3)

5. Calculate the fuel used in that transport, then estimate the portion applicable to that one product.

6. Calculate the additional carbon cost of transporting that one item. You will use an average of 25 mpg for this calculation. Divide the number of miles you calculated in #4 by 25mpg. That will give you the number of gallons used. Now, since your one item was not transported alone, let’s estimate that it was one of about 100,000 other items sharing that ride. So, divide by 100,000. That is the portion of fuel needed to transport this item. Now, since every gallon of gasoline produces about 20 lbs of Carbon Dioxide, let’s multiply your number by 20 to find out how many pound of CO2 are produced just to transport this one item.


a. #4/25 MPG= #5 (gallons of gasoline used)


b. Divide by 100,000 to get portion of gasoline used to transport one item.



c. Multiply this by 20 lbs CO2/gallon gasoline to get the amount of CO2 produced to transport this one item. This number goes into column #6 of the table.


1. FOOD 2. Original Source 3. Local Source 4. Approximate Difference in Distance 5. Fuel Used 6. CO2 Produced

















Questions :

1. What is the total amount of carbon dioxide that was produced by transporting these 5 items?

2. What are the negative effects of Carbon Dioxide on the environment?

3. Calculate the total fuel cost to transport your one item using the current cost/gallon.

4. Who do you think pays this cost?

5. What benefits are there for buying food as local as possible?

**Be sure to provide data information from your worksheet on the corresponding Q&A Forum**

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