Reducing our ecological footprint on our plates (3/4)

Impact écolo


ecological footprint of our plate

Having already discussed food waste and meat consumption, the question of where food comes from, when calculating the ecological footprint of our plates, is a natural one.

A few figures on food imports

According to the Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ), in 2020, the value of Quebec's international imports totaled $7.8 billion, representing a 3% increase over 2019.
Here, it is estimated that the value of the increases has risen, but this does not mean that the quantity has also increased.

We were unable to find the value of local food production.
However, the following table shows that the food demand of the Quebec population is $51.1 billion. This figure represents what consumers spend annually on food.

We can therefore estimate that imports account for around 20-25% of total food demand revenue.

Top of the list are beverages (22% of total imports) and fruit and vegetables (21%).

Eat local

We can't be against virtue, eating local is a good thing.

Not only is it important for our economy, proximity reduces transportation and we also have more transparent information (imperfect but more transparent) than for many imported products.

Carboneutre gives us a good example of the difference in ecological impact between a grocery basket filled with local food and one of international origin. An international basket of 20 kilos of food would produce 700g of CO2 if imported by train (24 times more if imported by plane), whereas a local basket would produce 50g. Huge difference!

eating locally ecological footprint

Small nuances

It seems that, depending on climate and season, importing produce is less damaging to the environment than growing it locally in a greenhouse. This means that the environmental cost of transport is outweighed by the strategies used to grow it here. Heated greenhouses are a case in point.

Here, it's important to eat vegetables in season, and ideally to find strategies for preserving them over the winter.

A few strategies

  • Eating responsibly grown, seasonal fruit and vegetables is, of course, ideal. Stocking up on them, by freezing them for example, is an environmentally-friendly way to ensure a year-round variety of fruit, and to counter the undeniable fact that local fruit is in short supply in Quebec winters.
  • Urban agriculture is a local, and therefore ecological, production option. Think of community gardens, or even a vegetable garden when you have the space. It's even possible to grow one on your own balcony, on a small scale.
  • We're now used to eating imported foods. We can all be tempted to eat a citrus fruit. It is possible to validate that these foods come from agro-responsible farms by choosing them fair-trade and/or organic.  

This brings us to our 4th and final article on the ecological footprint and food. There are different modes of production, above ground (e.g. hydroponics), organic and non-organic, which have different impacts on the environment. This is what we'll cover in the next and final article on reducing the ecological footprint of our food.

Ecologically yours,

eco loco


ecological store



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