Developing a Methodology for Estimating Transport-Related CO2 Emissions for Food Commodities

  •  Ujue Fresan    
  •  Helen Harwatt    
  •  Joan Sabate    


There is a significant and growing interaction between the transport sector and the food sector as globalized markets continue to increase the demand for ‘food miles’ i.e. the number of miles a food item travels throughout its life cycle. The concept of ‘food miles’ has become interesting to the public and policy makers as a way to assess the relative carbon footprint of food choices. However, there is currently a lack of information available about the transport-related greenhouse gas emissions that would allow to accurately differentiate between food items. To help address these current knowledge gaps, this paper presents a transferable methodological approach to estimating the transport related CO2 emissions of 10 popular food commodities transported from the farm gate to the retailer. The methodology combines GIS, data from the scientific literature and detailed commodity specific data from personal communication with one of the largest food retailers in California. To travel from the farm gate to the retailer, the amounts of CO2 emissions varied amongst the 10 foods, ranging from 47 g CO2/kg oranges, to 78 g CO2/kg almonds. While California was used as a case study, this method would be replicable across other locations and food life cycle assessments.

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