Assessing Fuel Efficiency and CO2 Emissions of Two Local Food Distribution Options in Iowa

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Pirog, Rich
Rasmussen, Rebecca
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Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture
The Leopold Center is a research and education center on the campus of Iowa State University created to identify and reduce negative environmental and social impacts of farming and develop new ways to farm profitably while conserving natural resources.
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The purpose of this study was to determine which transportation option consumed less fuel and emitted less CO 2 : farmer delivery or customer pick-up of food products for an Iowa Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) enterprise.

In order to perform this study, the following information was obtained from an Iowa CSA farmer: his exact route(s) of delivery (including customers’ addresses), what type of vehicle he used for deliveries, and what location and time of day he would utilize as a central pick-up point for customers if he chose not to deliver. With this information, the farmer’s route mileage was calculated us ing Mapquest and data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency to determine fuel usage and vehicle emissions. The fuel consumption and CO 2 emissions were determined for four different vehicle categories: Ford Ranger, Dodge Caravan, Toyota Prius, and U. S. average fuel economy for passenger vehicles. Mileage, fuel consumption, and CO 2 emissions also were calculated for customer pick-up using the same method, categories, and references as used for the delivery method. Assumptions were made concerning the pick -up routes of customers depending upon their place of employment and deta ils provided by the CSA farmer.

Findings showed that the delivery option using a Toyota Prius resulted in 2.77 times lower fuel usage and CO 2 emissions than the consumer pick-up option using U. S. average fuel economy for passenger vehicles. However, if all the CSA customers who used vehicles for pick-up drove a Toyota Prius, farmer distribution would still be more fuel efficient, but only 1.35 times more than that of customer pick-up.