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Feature Articles
Editor’s Note
Audubon in Action
Earth Almanac
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Field Notes
News Articles
Energy: Power Struggle
Food: Global Taco
Forests: Tree Army
Interview: Galloping Ahead

Hummingbird tongue twist; Survivor (the bird version); healthy poison; more.


Global Taco

You wouldn’t drive tens of thousands of miles for a taco, but the combined ingredients in a single tasty tortilla might easily travel that far to reach you. “Globalization and cheap oil allow us to have ingredients in a taco from all over the world,” says landscape architect David Fletcher. To drive home the point, Fletcher led a group of architecture students at the California College of the Arts in pinpointing the origins of everything—from the lettuce to the wrapper—that goes into tacos sold out of a particular San Francisco truck. With support from REBAR design, a studio merging art, design, and activism, the project calculated that the combined mileage for all the truck’s ingredients equaled 78,331 miles, or the equivalent of 2.6 times around the earth. Some of the goods were sourced locally. Salt, for instance, traveled just 31 miles from the south end of San Francisco Bay. The aluminum foil wrapping, however, came 17,439 miles from an Australian mine. “The taco we researched isn’t every taco, but it’s the economically efficient one,” says Annie Aldrich, one of the students. “[The taco truck owner] buys the cheapest products, which was a big factor in where materials were sourced from.” Sometimes it’s just a choice between inexpensive or local, she says. Transportation emissions add up, however, so what’s cheapest for you might be what’s costliest for the planet.—Michael Lowe

3,004 miles
Tortilla shell: Corn from Sinoloa & Tepotzalan, Mexico; flour from Hamilton City, CA; put together in San Leandro, CA

63 miles
Cheese: Tracy, CA

1,304 miles
Onion: Casco, Mexico

453 miles
Cilantro: Oxnard Plain, CA

194 miles
Tomato: Newman, CA

6,337 miles
Avocado: Central Valley, Chile

3,619 miles
Chicken: Lumber Bridge, NC

7,726 miles
Rice: Northeastern Thailand

270 miles
Lettuce: Guadelupe, CA

2,894 miles
Lime: Martinez de la Torre, Mexico  

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