Is Localism The Solution To Food Miles?

If we are to be serious about sustainability in the hospitality sector, questions must extend beyond simply what form of energy is used by hotels and restaurants or where and how hospitality staff uniforms are made. The food itself needs more attention.

Some see that issue purely in terms of agricultural emissions, arguing for a more plant-based diet. But such talk may omit important questions of food miles and the emissions involved in important and exporting produce, not to mention food security - both questions that have been prominent amid concerns over the safety of shipping transporting grain exports from Ukraine.

A potential alternative to the need to import food over long distances has been suggested by Sir Tim Smit, founder of the Eden Project in Cornwall, England. He believes developed nations can grow far more domestically, using greenhouses to artificially create the climates needed to produce food normally associated with warmer climes.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph about environmental issues as COP27 takes places, Sir Tim said the technology used in the Eden Project’s vast greenhouses could be used on a smaller scale everywhere, predicting a “muscular localism” with emerge in the next 20 years in which people will want to grow more food locally.

Questioning the benefits of contemporary agricultural practices and noting the high levels of fossil full use involved, he said a world with abundant renewables will be one in which “you can grow under glass whatever it is you want, wherever you are”.

A government report on food in the UK published a year ago stated that 54 per cent of what Britons eat is produced domestically, although the figure fluctuates seasonally. This also varies between food types, with all oats and barley and most wheat produced on British farms. 

By contrast, despite being an island nation it is a net importer of fish and seafood, while only 16 per cent of the fruit eaten in Britain is grown in the country, the last of these due to climatic constraints that mass growing in greenhouses might obviate.  

November 30, 2022 — Jacob Blakey