Aug. 11, 2008

Eating less, eating local and eating better could slash U.S. energy use, CU study finds

How much energy we use to produce food could be cut in half if Americans ate less and ate local foods, wolfed down less meat, dairy and junk food, and used more traditional farming methods, says a new Cornell study.

"We could reduce the fossil energy used in the U.S. food system by about 50 percent with relatively simple changes in how we produce, process, package, transport and consume our food," said David Pimentel, professor emeritus of ecology and agriculture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell.

Pimentel's analysis, co-authored with five former Cornell undergraduates who were in Pimentel's Environmental Policy course in 2006, is published in the academic journal Human Ecology.

Pimentel says that about 19 percent of the total fossil fuel used in this country goes into the food system -- about the same amount we use to fuel cars. His analysis details how changes in the food system could reduce energy.

For example, the researchers recommend:

The study's co-authors are Sean Williamson, Courtney Alexander, Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Caitlin Kontak and Steven Mulkey, all Cornell Class of 2007.