Waste not, want not

Buzz shoots a square watermelon
Photo by Buzz Bishop

Update: I, er, should have at least noted Jeffery’s July 14 post describing these melons in their natural environment.

My fairly good friend and local media personality Buzz Bishop had an interesting post regarding Urban Fare’s square watermelons, imported from Japan.

Buzz was seriously irked by the mere idea of an exotic melon from Japan, for various reasons, and his commentators took some specific umbrage at the potential carbon footprint of these transoceanic melons.

Now, I’m not defending the idea of square melons per se (they’re a novelty, and a pricey one, for sure) but I do like recycling, so I’ve reproduced my comment on the fuel required for shipping these things below.

Big carbon footprint? If they’re ship-shipped (which appears to be standard for all but the most delicate fresh produce) the carbon footprint per watermelon may be more for the trip from the warehouse in Richmond to the store than it is from Japan to Vancouver.

The secret is volume: the biggest container ships carry 7000 containers at a time, and note that a standard (2 TEU) container is 40’x8’x8′. So one container can carry, hm, let’s pretend a melon is 1 cubic foot, because that’s close and convenient.

So roughly 2400 [the nominal capacity of the container is 2385 cubic feet, plus a bit of space for refrigeration, so it’s probably more like 2000-2300 melons; you can redo the calculations yourself -RjC] watermelons will fit in a container, which is something like 1/7000 of the container ship’s cargo capacity.

That ship would use about 350 metric tons of diesel fuel per day, and take about 15 days to make the Japan-Canada trip.

Yadda yadda, the melon on Phil’s desk consumed about 0.3 kg of diesel fuel on its trip from japan, which is about 0.35 litres of gas. How fuel-efficient is the car you drove to the grocery store, or to work for that matter?

Lessons to be learned: math is hard, but vital. Ships are more fuel-efficient than cars. Do not be deceived by your visceral sentiments.

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