Today we would like to talk to you about zero kilometer products.
What are they?
As the term itself indicates, they are commodities, especially fruits, vegetables, legumes, milk, eggs, wine, meat, cereals, that are produced and sold more or less in the same place, where the purchase/sale process is often managed by the producer without having to resort to several intermediaries.
In fact, as reported by Coldiretti – an organization of agricultural entrepreneurs at national and European level – it has been calculated that a kilo of cherries from Chile must travel almost 12,000 kilometers to reach the Italian tables, consuming 6.9 kilos of petrol with an emission of 21.6 kilos of carbon dioxide. Similarly, Brazilian watermelons, which travel for over 9,000 km, burn 5.3 kilos of oil and free 16.5 kilos of carbon dioxide for every kilo of product, through transport by air.
It is often hard for the consumers to identify foods that have travelled by air, because they are rarely labeled as such, which makes it hard to avoid them. What we can do is avoid products that have a very short shelf-life, that is they go bad quickly, cannot be stored for a long time and have traveled a long way: here we should look for a label that contains info about the country of origin.
Fresh fruits and vegetables that are shipped to other states are generally picked before they are ripe, which gives them less time to develop optimal levels of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. In addition, fruits and vegetables begin to lose nutrients moments after they are picked. Shipping and storage can also negatively impact nutrient content due to variables such as temperature, distance for shipping, and handling procedures, according to the USDA Agricultural Research Service Center.
When vegetables and fruit are grown in the same geographical area as the one of the consumer, they do not need to be transported over long distances, thus limiting the amount of exhaust gases released into the environment during transport. Zero kilometer food, in addition to being a friend of the environment, allows you to obtain quality products that better preserve their nutritional properties, provided that they are seasonal products bought while in season.
Of course, it is not without significance how our products were grown and what products we choose. Meat, even from a local supplier, will still be much more burdensome for the environment than vegetables or fruit. In fact, 14.5% of global climate changing gases are due to meat and dairy production, which is more than the impact of all forms of transport. Moreover, the content of vitamins in the diet is decreasing, i.e. twenty years ago, carrots contained more nutrients than today. This seems to have been caused by a combination of factors, among which the depletion of nutrients in the soil due to monoculture and the use of fertilizers, which simplify the biochemistry of the soil. The simplification of the soil, in turn, makes the plants more vulnerable to pests, making farmers use more pesticides. A vicious circle.
Foods with generally the lowest environmental impact often have the largest health benefits (lowest relative risks of disease or mortality), and the food with the largest environmental impact — such as unprocessed and processed red meat — often have the largest negative impact on human health.
Obviously our eating habits and our efforts to follow a balanced and varied diet do not allow us to rely on the zero-kilometer commercial system only. Globalization and free farmers’ markets are a phenomenon that is unlikely to have a turnaround, at least not soon.
Today, the food industry contributes a quarter of the global carbon footprint. However, limiting food trafficking is possible because it is a choice that each of us can make individually, producing beneficial effects for all. Trying to introduce more local products into one’s diet would help both the local economy and the environment, also offering us healthier, fresher and tastier food.
Furthermore, buying zero-kilometer products makes it easier to avoid unnecessary packaging and thus helps to reduce the volume of waste, especially plastic. We can use cotton bags to carry all the products bought at a stand in our neighborhood. Zero mile farming also helps limit the amount of food that is wasted before it even reaches the consumers.
We hope to be able, within Terra Franca, to cultivate plants compatible with the climate of Sicily, such as citrus fruits, thus promoting the idea of zero-kilometer food, reminding people of the richness of the Sicilian land and how important it is to know how to appreciate what is local.
Sicily is considered the Mecca of exquisite cuisine, and not without reason. This is largely due to the local products which form the basis of many dishes, rightly appreciated and loved. Zero kilometer products, in fact, focus on the bond with the Sicilian territory and pride. Dedicating a part of the Terra Franca land to the cultivation of vegetables and involving a number of people in the process will help increase awareness of how many factors influence the quality of the products that end up in our homes and would allow a better understanding of the work done by many farmers all over the world. It would explain where the difference in price of mass-grown products for export and local and organic products comes from.
Before it becomes reality, we would like to invite you to pay attention to the origin of the products you use in your kitchen. Where can we buy 0 km products? We will find them in local farmers’ markets, in solidarity purchasing groups, in the so-called farmer markets ( directly from agricultural entrepreneurs) and on stands supported by Coldiretti, such as Campagna Amica in Palermo.
According to Coldiretti, in 2018 almost a half of Italians at least once a month bought local, zero kilometer food products.
It is worth emphasizing that the idea of zero kilometer products does not apply only to food products.
Currently, many business and economic sectors have opened up to the idea of zero impact and eco-sustainability. More and more often we hear about products at 0 km also in other areas, for example cosmetics, which are based on raw materials, such as olive or almond oil. In fact, many Italian regions can boast of having companies that produce cosmetics, for the creation of which they use locally available ingredients, inspired by nature – and Sicily is no exception in this area!