There are a lot of areas where saving the earth also saves you money. But when it comes to your eating habits -- one of the most important tools you have for slowing global warming -- there's no question that it's going to cost you.
With food, what's good for your pocketbook is bad for the earth. Really bad.
Why? Because the huge companies that grow, process and ship most of the food that most of us eat don't have to pay what their business operations actually cost. They don't have to pay to clean up the nitrogen that their chemical fertilizers pour into our waterways, or for the carbon dioxide that's spewed out when our food is shipped thousands of miles. Video: Visit a local pig farm
Just think about this: For every mile traveled by a huge tractor-trailer to haul our food, according to a University of Iowa study, 3.74 pounds of carbon dioxide are emitted. So shipping, say, one load of strawberries from California to New York puts more than 11,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere -- more than 4 ounces of carbon dioxide for each 12-ounce box of strawberries. Making matters worse, perishable foods are increasingly being flown long distances in refrigerated cargo planes.
Those transportation costs are tax-deductible for the big food corporations, meaning that taxpayers get the bill. So as we look harder at how we're contributing to global warming, these food miles are surfacing as one of the big problems.
It's a problem you can't necessarily solve by eating organic. Growing food organically does cut down on pollution, including the pollution caused by the manufacture of all those chemical fertilizers. But as its popularity grows, organic food is increasingly moving into the commercial food distribution system, which means it's shipped as far as any other kind of food.
But you can eat in a way that cuts almost all of those food miles. The secret? Eat locally. Video: How far your food travels
It's an idea that's being embraced more widely by chefs, writers and a growing number of ordinary folks. Already on the bandwagon: Alice Waters of famed Berkeley, Calif., restaurant Chez Panisse and authors Michael Pollan, Bill McKibben and Barbara Kingsolver.
In response to student demand, college cafeterias are going local. When the cafeteria at Yale's Berkeley College switched to local food, students from other Yale colleges started counterfeiting ID cards to get in. One of Google's cafeterias serves only food grown within 150 miles of the company's headquarters. Promise Academy in Harlem serves local food and sponsors a farmers market.
There's no denying that eating locally can cost more,