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Food miles and carbon dioxide

Food miles (or food kilometres) describe the distance that food is transported as it travels from producer to consumer.

In the UK, our food travels an amazing 30 billion kilometres each year. This includes imports by boat and air and transport by lorries and cars

Food transport is responsible for the UK adding nearly 19 million tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year. Over 2 million tonnes of this is produced simply by cars travelling to and from shops.

Choosing food that is local and in season means it does not have to travel so far. Reducing food miles can have a dramatic effect on reducing carbon dioxide emissions.


Looking at food miles
An activity in which children use a pre-written spreadsheet to find the total food miles for some different meal choices
MS Excel® spreadsheet for activity
The spreadsheet allows children to select a meal and have the food miles calculated for their selection
Food Pairs
Comparing similar foods from different sources and countries, and thinking about the choices we make

Food Contribution to Carbon Dioxide


Link to text description of graph: Contribution of food to carbon dioxide emissions

Note: One issue when calculating these figures is whether the carbon dioxide resulting from transport during import/export is attributed to the importing or exporting country. The graph shown here includes transport within the UK, but not overseas transport during import/export.

Data: Food Climate Research Network

Please note: this site was produced in 2006, and is no longer updated. As a result, some of the figures may be out of date.