Food miles are how far your food has to travel to reach your plate, this could be 200 meters, 1000 miles or more. It’s also not as simple as from point A to B, there will be journeys via C, D, E and F along the way. But what is clear is these miles add to the growing levels of greenhouse gases due to the use of fossil fuels in transport, refrigeration, packaging... (I’m guessing here but helps to clarify I think).

There’s a lot of speculation about diets and consumer habits that best aid the planet, but when you take into consideration food miles, which one really is the best?

Take the avocado for example, typically grown in countries such as Mexico, Dominican Republic, Peru, Indonesia and Colombia. You’ll pick one up in your local supermarket, and it’s packaging or sticker will state that it is a ‘Product of Mexico’, but consumers have no way of really knowing where it has been en route from Mexico to the UK.

It is important to note that not all food miles contribute the same emissions. It is an extremely complex model, but it’s generally accepted that air freight is the most fuel and carbon intensive form of transport.

But what if my food has been packed or bagged in the UK?

Wording can make a big difference. The classic bag of trail mix you picked up from the shop proudly states it’s been bagged in the UK, which it has been, but the ingredients used can travel for miles before it reaches that packaging plant, for example the banana chips could be from India but dried in the Ukraine.

That’s not all, the chocolate could be made from Forastero cocoa beans from Venezuela and processed in Holland, then the raisins are from Iran and lastly the nuts come from Vietnam. You can see from this simple bag that the miles are adding up fast.

So how do we combat food miles?

You’d think the most obvious answer would be to shop locally, but this isn’t the most straightforward answer.

For example, tomatoes are grown across the UK, and can be purchased locally, but tomatoes are typically in season from June to October. This means that for the other seven months of the year, many are grown in massive, energy-hungry greenhouses which are artificially heated day and night to mimic the Mediterranean climate.

Where does this leave you?

The best thing to do is to stay shopping locally, but to also shop seasonally.

Eating seasonably relates to fruits and vegetables rather than animal products. Each season offers its own array of foods, for example, parsnips, sweet potatoes and figs are all autumnal foods and strawberries, asparagus and radishes are spring foods.

Eating food that’s in season at that time encourages a varied diet, which has the potential to introduce an array of vitamins and minerals that you wouldn’t normally receive. The quality of food is also higher than when it is out of season.

The main benefits of growing in season are =environmental. Human intervention is needed to grow food out of season to create artificial weather conditions. This requires a large amount of water and fossil fuels, for example you would need to recreate summer conditions to grow cucumber, blueberries and cherries out of season.

By following the UK’s seasonal growing routine, we can create more sustainable eating habits, which in turn creates more opportunities for sustainable farming.

At the CRT, sustainable farming is at the forefront of our work. Nature and farming go hand in hand, with wildlife being natural pollinators and pest control and farming creating breeding environments and food sources.