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Contributions of Local Farming to Urban Sustainability in the Northeast United States

Contributions of Local Farming to Urban Sustainability in the Northeast United States
Benjamin Paul Goldstein
Michael Hauschild
John E. Fernández
Morten Birkved
Journal Article
Environmental Science & Technology, Volume 51, Issue 13, Pages 7340-7349
Food consumption is an important contributor to a city's environmental impacts (carbon emissions, land occupation, water use, etc.) Urban farming (UF) has been advocated as a means to increase urban sustainability by reducing food-related transport and tapping into local resources. Taking Boston as an illustrative Northeast U.S. city, we developed a novel method to estimate sub-urban, food-borne carbon and land footprints using multiregion-input-output modeling and nutritional surveys. Computer simulations utilizing primary data explored UF's ability to reduce these footprints using select farming technologies, building on previous city-scale UF assessments which have hitherto been dependent on proxy data for UF. We found that UF generated meagre food-related carbon footprint reductions (1.1-2.9% of baseline 2211 kg CO2 equivalents/capita/annum) and land occupation increases (<1% of baseline 9000 m2 land occupation/capita/annum) under optimal production scenarios, informing future evidence-based urban design and policy crafting in the region. Notwithstanding UF's marginal environmental gains, UF could help Boston meet national nutritional guidelines for vegetable intake, generate an estimated $160 million U.S. in revenue to growers and act as a pedagogical and community building tool, though these benefits would hinge on large-scale UF proliferation, likely undergirded by environmental remediation of marginal lands in the city.
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