Food miles is another way of thinking about carbon footprint, i.e. the distance food travels from where it is grown to where it is ultimately purchased or consumed by the end user. The more food miles that attach to a given food, the less sustainable and the less environmentally desirable that food is.

Basically, this concept comes from the fact that 25% of all man-made carbon dioxide comes from road transport and most of that from passenger cars.  And of this road transport, 30% relates to food; the cost of food miles is around £9 billion each year for the UK economy, half of which is down to road congestion.

What Steenbergs is doing?

Unfortunately, the only way we can get our organic spices, herbs and tea to our factory in Ripon, North Yorkshire is by boat, plane and truck.  And the only way we can distribute it out to our customers is also by boat, plane and truck.  So what are we doing to minimize our negative impact on the environment.

Firstly, we do not own our own transport, so we are not physically adding to the current network - slightly lame we admit.  Furthermore, we utilize groupage services that seek to maximize their yield per vehicle by aiming to be 100% laden, and using large double length articulated lorries to transfer packages and pallets between hubs.

Secondly, we have sought to use transport businesses that have genuine environmental policies.  This has not been entirely satisfactory but we continue to believe that they will all improve.

Overall, we use Royal Mail, DPD and FedEx for delivery of packages.  These businesses are committed to addressing their environmental impact.  For example, the policies at Royal Mail include using biodiesel (50% of fleet uses 5% biodiesel), reducing fuel consumption (Royal Mail is aiming to reduce diesel usage by 14% by 2010) and aiming to use 50% renewable energy by 2010.  Likewise, DPD has a carbon-neutral policy.

For pallets, we use Palletforce.  Their "hub and spoke" operation uses approximately 100 large commercial vehicles each night, ensuring full load movements both ways. This prevents costly empty running and cuts down depot-to-depot running of smaller vehicles, resulting in annual fuel savings against depot-to-depot running and a reduction in traffic day time volume, thus less congestion.