LETTER- City market greener than stores

I write to correct a misstatement about the local food movement in the Charlottesville area in your Annual Manual ["Greener or meaner? August 7]. The Hook first misrepresented UVA research by fourth-year civil engineer Lauren Doucette– for which I was the technical advisor– in the "Green Issue" this past spring.

Noting that Ms. Doucette's research (cited as "a recent UVA study") found that the "local City Market burns as much energy as 18 homes," the Hook then casts this as a reason Charlottesville is "destroying the planet." That figure is meaningless and nonsensical on its own. It can carry weight only in comparison with energy burned by conventional food retailers. Our study uses the same calculation to show Harris Teeter burns as much energy as 123 homes. And that's just one grocery store.

The more telling conclusion from the study is that energy use at grocery stores– not just the fossil fuels used to get food to the store, as in the figure above– is a more significant concern. 

Here the advantages for the City Market and localvores are most apparent. While the Farmers Market uses 0.0172 kWh per capita per week, Harris Teeter, estimates show, uses close to 2.31 kWh. In other words– and to make the comparison with the "18 homes" figure more apt– this is about the equivalent of 241 homes. 

The localvore movement does in fact seem to mean greener living in Charlottesville. The data– the quantitative aspects of which are themselves but a part of the full range of moral, cultural, and community benefits local food brings– support broader evidence that the local food movement is a healthy and important symbol of Charlottesville's environmental character. 

Our region, in fact, offers a good example of the possibilities and opportunities for local food systems across the country.

Benjamin R. Cohen