Green Complexities

The “buy local” phenomenon is gaining momentum.  While I would like to consider myself as pro-environment as the next guy, I’ve always been skeptical of this particular aspect of the discussion.  Trade is a foundation of civilization and there isn’t much grown or manufactured in my community.

Yesterday I came across an article claiming that only 11% of the carbon footprint of beef found in a supermarket comes from transportation of final product.  The rest comes from the raising of cattle.  Buying local would be of less benefit than it may appear at first.  Today, the NY Times has a story on PepsiCo similarly determining that the majority of carbon footprint in a carton of Tropicana orange juice comes from production and packaging.  22% comes from distribution.

As we go about the “greening of America” we are going to have a long learning cycle and a number of false starts.

PepsiCo’s experience is a harbinger of the complexities other companies may face as they come under pressure to calculate their emission of carbon dioxide, a number known as a carbon footprint, and eventually to lower it.

While so many of us want to find a way to profit while doing good, investors will need to wade carefully into these waters.


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