The Megastore killed the Traveliing Salesman

I spent a fair bit of time not only reading the content of this weblog post applying Traveling Salesman to the transportation of produce, but also the extensive comments. The idea is that one hears people say that locally grown produce has less of an environmental impact, but when you consider the transportation of food for all people, you probably ought to be minimizing the fuel spent across the entire community, which may not be the same as minimizing the fuel spent to get food to a single individual. Essentially – that distribution centers add fuel efficiency.
I think it is clear, and the comments point this out, that this is not really a condemnation of buying local produce. Fuel expenditures are not the only reason to do so. The distribution center model may be perfectly sustainable on a regional level but become more problematic on a national or international scale. I think the question the post is really wanting people who focus on buying locally, and specifically at farmer’s markets, to ask themselves is – are you doing this out of an intuitive sense that local means traveled less far means less environmental impact? And if so, you may want to think about whether you are following the best route to accomplish your goals. I believe that you can come back to saying you want to buy locally and support farmers markets – because you know the food is at least from this region and not the other side of the world, because you can have first hand knowledge of how your food is grown, because you may be able to buy varieties of food that would not ship as well under a distribution model, because it helps keep local farmers in business, etc. But I enjoy seeing this type of analytical approach applied to social behavior because of the deeper conversation that you see cropping up in the comments of the post about why this should or should not be done.

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