Developing a Software Tool to Estimate Food Transportation Carbon Emissions

  •  Breuklyn Opp    
  •  Kurt A. Rosentrater    


Food transportation is an increasingly important consideration to total food sustainability in a rapidly globalizing world. To maintain the efficiency of regionalized production, food travels great distances to the consumer’s plate. While this long-distance sourcing is often more sustainable from a production standpoint, the routes from origin to consumer are frequently unoptimized. To reduce emissions due to transportation, many have tried to limit the miles travelled by food items. However, the mode of travel is an equally important factor. Different modes produce vastly different emissions over equivalent distances. To effectively model these routes, a set of transportation emissions estimation tools has been created. This program uses an Excel interface to allow users to input key factors (like cargo mass, origin, and destination) and experiment with different modes and routes of travel to find the optimal transportation system for their application. This program may be used to analyze or improve the total life cycle analysis of a variety of products. In a case of the comparison of transportation modes, a salmon transportation route from the Faroe Islands (America’s 2nd largest source of imported fresh salmon) to Richmond, VA, USA, resulted in a roughly 98% reduction of emissions when shipped via sea rather than flown. In a case of transportation optimization, the reciprocal trade of beef between Costa Rica and the United States was found to result in at least 158,000 kg of CO2eq annually. These cases (and others) show the great need for better route optimization in food transportation systems.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1927-0887
  • ISSN(Online): 1927-0895
  • Started: 2012
  • Frequency: bimonthly

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