Mark Bernstein ’83’s “Sustaining Princeton” article notes that the University is pushing more “sustainable” food, defined as “food that is locally grown, organic, humanely produced, or socially just.” The school should go back to the drawing board.
Truly “sustainable” food production will be that which most efficiently generates the calories needed to nourish 9 billion people in the coming decades, with the minimum land and water-use impacts. Locally produced or organic items are often not such foods. Food miles often comprise a minuscule portion of an item’s total environmental footprint. Imported (either regionally or internationally) items from the most highly efficient producers often could be the most Earth-friendly choice.
Foods fitting the current definition may have other benefits valued by the University community, but they are luxury-good choices that we ought not to misrepresent as inherently more “sustainable.”