UCARE: Undergraduate Creative Activities & Research Experiences


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Harner K, Kieffer M. Environmental Performance of Local Versus Conventional Food Systems with a Focus on Fresh Vegetables Sold in the City of Lincoln. Poster presented at: UNL Spring Research Fair; April 2016; Lincoln, NE.


Copyright (c) 2016 Katie Harner & Melanie Kieffer


This study examines the early stages to collect data on energy expenditure of fresh vegetables sold at Lincoln farmer’s markets in comparison to those sold at conventional grocery stores via lifecycle analysis. Results from the life cycle analysis would determine what the energy costs are for both local food markets and grocery retailers and how these energy costs may differ. This research is important as previous work has shown that the US food system is a significant contributor to fossil fuel combustion, accounting for about 15% of total energy use in the country. The ability to determine which market is more environmentally sustainable will ultimately allow consumers to make educated purchasing decisions and influence producers to use energy more efficiently and, according to USDA, local foods can play a major part. The life cycle analysis is examining the variables that require energy for five vegetables from the farmer to the home. These variables include the inputs, production, processing, distribution, consumption, and disposal of the vegetables. Our current focus is primarily on the distribution and consumption of these five vegetables. The process of collecting quantitative data for these variables is being done through two surveys: 1) conduct a census of producers at farmer’s markets to collect data about vegetable costs and transportation methods, and 2) conduct an exit poll of consumers at the farmer’s market to collect data about energy expenditure from transportation to market and home. From our data we are analyzing the total energy expenditure from each of the separate markets to relate the environmental impacts each of the food systems has on fossil fuel emissions.