Google Earth: Food Mapping

Google Earth: Food Mapping. Google Earth: Food Mapping. Most people in western developed countries have three meals per day – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Begin by making a list of all food items and/or ingredients that would be part of a typical day of meals for you.
Once you have compiled this list, find out where the different items probably came from. For example, the Brussels sprouts you ate for dinner may have been grown in California. It may be more difficult to ascertain the actual origin of processed food such as a box of cereal. Cereal made in a production facility in Iowa may include corn from all over the ‘corn belt’. The location of the production plant for processed foods will suffice for the purpose of this assignment.
Open up Google Earth.
Plot your location (i.e. where you live) and the locations from which the ingredients originated in Google Earth using place marks.
Measure the straight-line distance each ingredient traveled using the measure tool in Google Earth. The straight-line distance is not an entirely accurate measure of the actual distance food travels to get to youu, but for the purpose of this assignment it is good enough as a comparative measure.
Calculate the number of miles (straight-line) each food item/ingredient was transported and the total miles for each meal. You will use these numbers in order to calculate CO2 emissions in Part B.

Part B – Calculating carbon and water footprints

In recent years we have become increasingly concerned about global climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore it has become increasingly important to think about how decisions from the global to local scale impact greenhouse gas emissions. Use the distances calculated from the Food Mapping portion of the exercise to calculate the CO2 emissions for each meal.
Calculate the emissions for each food item/ingredient using the following web resources:
In the calculator you have to select your food category, commodity (your food item/ingredient), distance traveled (your measured distances), estimated quantity of each item (per meal) and finally estimated wastage. Summarize your results (product emissions, transport emissions, and waste emissions), per meal, in a table and keep these data as you will need them to answer the questions in Part C.
Now lets look at your water footprint. Did you know that about 2,500 gallons of water are required to make one cup of coffee? The amount of water used from start to finish to produce food products is difficult to determine and is often less well known than the carbon footprint.
Using the website: you can calculate your water footprint per year. Complete the basic calculator first, and then at the bottom of that page click on the ‘extended calculator’ and use this to get a more detailed estimate. Be as accurate as possible, but realize that you are estimating your usage. Summarize your result in a table (Total water footprint, components of total water footprint, and contribution of individual food category towards total water footprint) and keep these data, as you will need them in Part C.

Part C – Student Essay submission:

Read Ch. 4 The Biosphere and Ch. 14 Resources
Additional reading:,
In a well-written and concise manner (Max 400 words for everything you enter into the gradient text box) answer the questions below. Clearly differentiate between opinion and facts. Reference websites, articles, or the textbook if you are using statistics or results from other studies.

Question 1: Briefly summarize your CO2 and water footprints (based on what you calculated in Part B). Were the results in Part B what you expected? Elaborate. Which food items/ingredients traveled the furthest and why might that be the case?

Question 2: Give one specific example of how you could reduce your food carbon footprint and what specific challenges you might face trying to do so? Give one specific example of how you could reduce your water footprint and what specific challenges you might face trying to do so?

Note – when you get to the calibration and peer review part of Gradient, you will be asked to assess whether an answer is “competent” (it meets all of the expected requirements of the assignment), “not yet competent” (it is poorly done or is missing some of the things listed in the requirements), or “advanced” (it meets all of the expected requirements of the assignment at a high level and explains things with a high level of insight and knowledge). You will also be asked to give each answer a score out of 10 (where 10 is the best). Please use the following numbers: Advanced = 10 or 9. Competent = 8 or 7. Not yet Competent = 6 or 5. Do not use lower numbers than this, and do not give numbers that don’t match how you evaluated the work (or you will get an automatic Not yet Competent for the assignment!).
When you are reviewing someone else’s work, they will really appreciate it if you give them helpful feedback. So you need to write something in the explanation box when you give someone less than full credit. Tell the person what was missing or what needed to be done better, so that they can make their work better next time!

Assignment Description:
It may surprise you just how far the slice of bread on your plate traveled to end up at the dinner table. In this assignment you will explore the connections between the food system and how our food choices affect our carbon and water footprint.

Learning Objectives:
Measure distances and create place marks in Google Earth
Calculate carbon and water footprints
Consider how you could reduce your carbon and water footprint
Examine challenges associated with reducing your carbon and water footprints


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Google Earth: Food Mapping

Google Earth: Food Mapping

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