We all know we should be leaving our cars at home if we are to help reduce the harmful environmental effects of carbon dioxide emmissions – but did you realise your dinner could be increasing the global warming problem? Today, in the final part of our sustainability series, Joanna Geary investigates how many miles your Christmas dinner will travel to reach your plate
Roast turkey with all the trimmings is traditional British fare when it comes to Christmas. But, depending on the food you buy, your turkey dinner could turn out to have a rather international flavour and have massive impact on carbon dioxide emissions.
Using some of the destinations that supply the UK with food, your meal could travel over 40,000 miles to reach your plate - nearly one-and-a-half times round the world!
But if you buy your Christmas food from West Midland producers, it could have travelled as little as 440 miles.
The turkey could come frozen from Brazil, 5,464 miles away from Birmingham, compared to 8.3 miles away if the bird was from Wythall in Worcestershire.
Wine creates some of the largest food miles with red wine from Chile travelling 7,254 miles and Australian white wine 10,554 miles – a whopping 17,700 miles further than wine from Welford-on-Avon in Warwickshire and Stourport-on-Severn in Worcestershire.
Substituting a few of the more exotic additions to your festive fare could also slash the total.
Swapping Champagne for sparking wine from Worcestershire could cut the total by 188 miles. Choosing mature carrots from Stretton under Fosse in Warwickshire over baby carrots from Kenya could cut down the mileage by more than 4,200 miles.
Louise Pickford, Business Development Manager for Heart of England fine foods, said: "Buying locally not only helps reduce food miles and the associated environmental impact, it also contributes to sustaining the local economy and gives the added confidence of knowing exactly where and in what conditions your food has been produced. "
Jeanette Longfield, co-ordinator for the UK alliance for better food and farming Sustain, said she shocked by the figures and urged consumers to think carefully when shopping for their Christmas meal.
"One of the really positive things is that people are starting to realise that it's madness for the environment, the local economy and animal welfare to ship all this stuff in from all over the planet," she said.
"I am not suggesting that the UK develop a siege mentality and only live off turnips over the winter. As long as we keep global warming under control, I think we will always have imports of exotic foods such as kiwis and mangoes.
"But if we can get what we need form the UK in the right season then, for goodness sake, we should provide for ourselves here."
Ms Longfield's comments were echoed by Chris Crean, spokesman for Friends of the Earth in the West Midlands.
"This shows how the footprint of consumption at Christmas effects the planet and society as a whole," he said.
"If we can all start to think about the source and methods by which our food is processed and brought to our table, then we can massively reduce our carbon footprint and enable local farmers to develop closer markets.
"This would bring the farmer's gate closer to the dinner plate."