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Before you pat yourself on the back for choosing that bottle of locally produced wine at the liquor store, you might want to ask yourself how it got there.

When researcher Emma Point analyzed the environmental footprint of a single bottle of Nova Scotia-produced wine, the Dalhousie University master student-turned-freelance environmental consultant found some surprising results. First, she discovered that switching from conventional to organic wine production likely produces only modest environmental benefits. Second, delivering the wine within the province by small delivery truck is less energy efficient - in part because it carries far fewer bottles of wine - and therefore, actually produces a larger footprint, than hauling the liquor to Australia by transport truck and freight ship. And third, a consumer's five-kilometre drive to purchase it at a liquor store accounts for a whopping 30 per cent of the overall global warming emissions of its entire lifecycle. Shipping the wine to Toronto results in a marginally lighter footprint than in Nova Scotia. And even shipping the wine right across the country to Vancouver means only a slightly larger amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

"When we talk about local foods, there are benefits that we know that exist - and those are a potential connection to your farmer, or you're supporting the local economy," says Ms. Point, who based her analysis on model scenarios for her 2008 master's thesis. "But, if you're talking about certain emissions ... it's not diligent just to make sweeping statements to say that local is better, in terms of global warming emissions, because the mode of transportation equally matters."

When researcher Emma Point analyzed the environmental footprint of a single bottle of Nova Scotia-produced wine, the Dalhousie University master student-turned-freelance environmental consultant found some surprising results. First, she discovered that switching from conventional to organic wine production likely produces only modest environmental benefits. Second, delivering the wine within the province by small delivery truck is less energy efficient - in part because it carries far fewer bottles of wine - and therefore, actually produces a larger footprint, than hauling the liquor to Australia by transport truck and freight ship. And third, a consumer's five-kilometre drive to purchase it at a liquor store accounts for a whopping 30 per cent of the overall global warming emissions of its entire lifecycle. Shipping the wine to Toronto results in a marginally lighter footprint than in Nova Scotia. And even shipping the wine right across the country to Vancouver means only a slightly larger amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

"When we talk about local foods, there are benefits that we know that exist - and those are a potential connection to your farmer, or you're supporting the local economy," says Ms. Point, who based her analysis on model scenarios for her 2008 master's thesis. "But, if you're talking about certain emissions ... it's not diligent just to make sweeping statements to say that local is better, in terms of global warming emissions, because the mode of transportation equally matters."

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