You may think that “buying local” is better for the environment, by helping to reduce food miles. However, as reported by the Independent, food miles are a poor indicator of a product’s total carbon footprint and could even be misleading. Professor David Reay, a climate scientist from the University of Edinburgh explains, “I went in thinking really distant food stuff like bananas coming from the Dominican Republic or tea from Assam in India would have really high carbon footprints because of the food miles”.
“Actually when you look at the life cycle, food miles are not a major part. It was how they were produced and how people used them when they got to the UK that matters. So that was a real eye-opener.”
You may be surprised to discover that Lake Deborah salt generates significantly less CO2 equivalent (CO2-eq) compared with most common table or gourmet flaked salt sold in the UK, and this includes the transport of our salt from Australia. Unlike most table salt and gourmet salts produced through heating seawater in salt pans, no power is required to pump brines nor to heat and evaporate water to produce the salt we sell. This is because Lake Deborah salt is naturally formed by the winter rains and summer sun, with no human intervention.
A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) performed in 2015-16 showed that the emissions for a 1kg pack of salt from source to the point of export from Australia is 0.22kg CO2-eq. Transport from Australia to the UK accounts for another 0.05kg CO2-eq. Hence, the carbon footprint for your 1kg pack of Lake Deborah salt as it arrives in the UK is 0.27kg CO2-eq.
Comparing apples with apples, it requires about 35kg of seawater to be evaporated to raise the salinity and produce 1kg of flaked salt. This requires roughly 23kWh of energy, which in the UK equates to over 7kg CO2-eq per 1kg of flaked salt produced (at 0.30913kg CO2-eq / kWh). Yes, that's 7kg for every 1kg of salt! There is then all the other energy costs on top of that for sorting, packing and so-on. Hence, Lake Deborah salt results in up to 25 times less CO2-eq in the atmosphere compared to locally produced salt.
As an individual, the salt you eat contributes less than about 0.1% of the produced CO2-eq, from all the food you eat. However, when considering the entire population, the UK consumes about 183 million kg of salt per year, so choosing a low carbon salt both at home and in the food we eat could help reduce up to 1 billion kg of CO2 in the atmosphere every year. That's equivalent to taking 216,000 vehicles off the road or planting 16 million trees per year (about 10 times more trees than are currently planted in the UK every year).
Despite the low carbon footprint of our salt, we continue to look for ways to reduce our environmental impact. We source energy from purpose built solar farms which reduces our CO2 emissions by 20% at Lake Deborah and 40% at our warehouse. We are continually challenging ourselves for further improvements.