J500 Media and the Environment


Twinkie transport: a gas-guzzling gaffe by justinlev7
January 30, 2009, 4:48 pm
Filed under: Food + Health, Science + Tech

roadtrip

While these articles succeeded in making me mistrust what goes into commonplace snacks, I couldn’t help but feel that they ignored something even more ominous—the sheer energy it must have taken to bring all 39 of those ingredients together! Indonesia, Peru, Chad, Switzerland, France and China are all sources for the raw materials contained in a Twinkie. First, consider the equipment used to harvest the ingredients at each location. Then, think about the trucks needed to transport them to the nearest airport. After a flight to America, more trucks transported these ingredients to manufacturers where they were ‘processed’ (resulting, of course, in ‘processed food.’) From there, even more trucks transported the finished snacks to retailers.

Count ‘em: one, two, three separate long-distance truck trips, not to mention the energy burned while harvesting, during the plane trip, and in production. According to MOVE.org, a research group under the not-for-profit Rocky Mountain Institute, 2,087,000 trucks were registered in 2005, each with an average fuel economy of 5.9 miles per gallon. Multiply 5.9 mpg, by a couple million trucks, by the distance the average trucker travels each day… It doesn’t take a math degree to see that this is a jaw-dropping level of energy consumption. And that’s just in the US.

Twinkie, Deconstructed shined a well-needed light on the suspicious contents of processed food products. But I am not too concerned by health problems that could stem from baking soda mined deep in the earth. Nor am I concerned about consuming thiamine mononitrate refined by Chinese petroleum factories. I’m more, shall I say, ‘concerned’, by feverish global temperature increases and melting polar icecaps that we cause by burning nonrenewable petroleum at ever increasing rates.

Why is processed food so important to the American consumer, when fresh, local alternatives can be found at the nearest farmer’s market? Why must a simple snack cake require a fleet of worldwide gas-guzzlers and a tangled network of wasted energy? It’s time we reconsider our values and demand reduction of wasteful transportation practices. Let’s begin by leaving the Twinkies on the shelf.

Justin Leverett … is counting trucks before falling asleep.

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6 Comments so far
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I like your perspective on the issue. Its true healthier foods are readily available and more attention need be put on the global effects of consuming these products in addition to the individual ones.

Comment by christinaw09

I agree that we are a wasteful society, and there are better alternatives to lots of mass manufactured food and goods, especially on a more local scale. I know we have an impact on the environment, but a lot of people don’t realize that the earth goes through warming and cooling periods on its own. I took a nature and culture class where we spent part of the quarter talking about global warming and historical trends. Think about it, without a little global warming we’d still be in the ice age.

Comment by meganr21

I didn’t even think about the transportation of the Twinkies! I think all of these issues are more complicated than we thought and it’s important to look at everything in as many ways as possible.

Comment by tylerw09

Justin,
I like where you went with this. The carbon footprint for eating one of these puppies has got to be enormous! It’s sickening to think about, and I’m sure many people prefer not to.

Comment by amandat09

>>”While these articles succeeded in making me mistrust what goes into commonplace snacks, I couldn’t help but feel that they ignored something even more ominous—the sheer energy it must have taken to bring all 39 of those ingredients together!”

Your first sentence was my thought exactly. The gas-guzzling is something that I think we need to worry about immediately because the ingredients don’t seem as scary as they are portrayed.

Comment by Lauren Keith

I hope I never have to think about the carbon footprint for eating a puppy! (lol, bad joke.) Tyler, you’re definitely right to say every issue is complicated, but I don’t agree with Megan that recent changes can be explained away as just another temporary warming period. The change in the last century has been far more dramatic than in any other time period and polar icecap disappearance is well documented. The industrial revolution was only about a century ago, and I think it’d be too much of a coincidence to say that was not a cause. In any case, whether or not this is just another shift, current rates of petroleum use are egregious.

Justin

Comment by justinl7




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