The carbon footprint of the farmers' market
It's the drive there that kills us.
Kelly and I spend the summer in a cottage on a small lake near Dorset Ontario, just outside of Algonquin Park. It’s water access; we have a little tin boat with a 15hp motor to get across, about an 800-meter trip. It’s 5km to the nearest store which has a terrible vegetable selection, so once a week we drive to the nearest big town, Huntsville, for its Thursday Farmers’ Market. It’s a shadow of its pre-pandemic self but there is fresh corn and local, seasonal vegetables, just what we should be eating for a low-carbon diet.
The problem, of course, is getting there. It’s 47 km each way, and our little Subaru is pumping out 160 grams of CO2 per km. Include the embodied carbon from building it and according to Carbon Brief, it is probably up around 265 grams. That’s 25kg of CO2 or 3.6 times my daily carbon allowance under the 1.5 degree lifestyle. We only do it once a week so can divide it by seven, and it comes out to 3.57 kg, or over half my 6.8 kg daily allowance.
I devote part of a chapter in the book to how living up here demonstrates the disparity between living in the city and the country; everyone up here drives a lot, with full-time residents in pickups and the summer residents in SUVs, with massive carbon footprints. Kelly couldn’t get out of this parking space without me spotting her; she couldn’t see over the bed of the pickup next to her.
Our friends Brad and Elizabeth live up here full time, and own a Tesla Model 3; that might have been my answer for the Farmers Market trip, although when you figure out its emissions per kilometer including embodied carbon based on Carbon Brief, they come out to 147 grams per km, or 13.8 kg for the round trip. More recent research suggests that the 147 g/km estimate is way too high, but even if you cut it in half to 6.9 kg, that is just about exactly a day’s carbon allowance.
The hard reality is that having a car of any kind makes it difficult to live a 1.5 degree lifestyle, although if you barely drive it you can make the numbers work. Having a cottage in the country 250 km from home wasn’t such a bright idea either, although I bought it 30 years ago in a different world. I do stay here all summer and don’t have air conditioning, heating, or a shower so it is a low carbon lifestyle, but every time I get in the car I blow the carbon budget.