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The Green Life: An Artist's Clever Way to Make You Wonder: Did Your Food Travel Too Far?

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October 22, 2010

An Artist's Clever Way to Make You Wonder: Did Your Food Travel Too Far?

P5310305 That exotic dragon fruit at the supermarket may look tempting, and those clementines sure are mouth-watering. But would you buy them if someone told you they'd traveled thousands of miles to get to you? If you knew that a journey made by Argentinian tomatoes had released of 5,100 grams of carbon dioxide, would you be inspired to start a garden and grow some yourself?

These are questions British designer James Reynolds hopes will arise when people see his “Far Foods” project. Its works depict supermarket produce in packaging that shows the distances the food traveled, and the amount of carbon dioxide released as a result.

His inspiration came from stumbling upon a strange fruit in a market and wondering where  it had come from. The label said China. “I was intrigued that there were hundreds of these exotic fruits imported from thousands of miles away,” he said. Even more amazing to him was that the common fruits he assumed were grown in his own country were actually from all over the world: “I started thinking about how the foods got there, how far they had traveled, and the damage done to the environment by importing them.”

The fossil fuels used for transportation worldwide contribute to more than 13% of greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the Encyclopedia of Earth. And the Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture reports that the typical American meal covers some 1,500 miles to get from farm to plate.

Reynolds believes that if we're presented with information about food mileage, in the same way that we're presented with nutrition information, we may consider buying and growing locally.

--Molly Oleson

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