Picking your pumpkin should be fun – Denis the Dustcart Blog
In his regular feature, Denis the Dustcart talks about different kinds of pumpkins available – organic and bought locally, mass-produced and bought at a supermarket.
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There is much debate about the relative environmental and ecological impacts of the different kinds of pumpkins available – organic and bought locally, mass-produced and bought at a supermarket, etc..
In previous years I’ve written about the carbon footprint of a special trip by car to purchase that special pumpkin. I went into detail about how the environmental impact of our chosen pumpkin is influenced by more than how it was grown and how far it travelled to reach the shop. Where we buy it, how far we travel to buy it, whether we go there especially to buy it, and whether we will actually eat it have by far the greater impact, I said.
It may be technically accurate that the distance we travel to buy our pumpkin, and whether that trip is in addition to the one we make for our general shop, will account for as much as 89% of the carbon footprint of our pumpkin.
But… *Looks pained in a balancing-it-out-in-his-mind kind of way*.
How many of us drive into the countryside at the weekend for a stomp? Loads of us.
Would visiting a pick-your-own pumpkin farm be in addition to that stomp, or would it BE that stomp? In other words, can we really count the trip to the pumpkin patch within the carbon footprint of our chosen pumpkin if we would have driven somewhere else by car for a walk anyway?
I don’t think we can. In fact, I think the only time it would be fair to say a locally-grown pumpkin has a greater environmental impact than a supermarket one purely because we had to take a special trip to get it would be if we never took our car into the countryside – if this was the one time a year we went out.
Visiting a pumpkin field is a joyful experience in most weathers. Just looking about you at rows upon rows of these little engines of joy – each of which fired into life from a seed and grew into their individually unique forms over the course of months – is enough to bring lightness into your heart. There are tiny ones, knobbly ones, white ones, orange ones, green and yellow ones, HUGE ones.
A pumpkin should bring fun into your household, and that should begin at the beginning – in the field, if you’re able.
So while technically – technically – an organic pumpkin shipped over from Argentina with tonnes of other pumpkins and delivered to your supermarket of choice, to be bought by you along with all the other things you buy on that trip, may have a smaller carbon footprint than a pumpkin purchased on a special pumpkin-picking expedition, I’m inclined to disregard the travel in my eco-calculations.
In any case, eating our pumpkin us the only really meaningful way to reduce the impact of buying a pumpkin is to eat it.
Chucking away the flesh and leaving your jack-o’-lantern outside to rot on the doorstep, leaking methane into the atmosphere and wasting all the energy and resources it took to grow it and transport it, will more than undo any of the good work you intended by investigating the various impacts of how and where it was grown and where you bought it.
Make sure you can eat what you remove from your pumpkin when carving it. Then, once your creation has suitably impressed/terrified/amused the local trick-or-treaters on Halloween, compost it or leave it where the birds can get it – but not on the ground, since they make hedgehogs sick.
Bear in mind that most supermarket pumpkins are grown only to be carved. They don’t cook well and taste awful. One bought from a local farm will likely be tastier (the types that are edible, anyway).
If picking the perfect pumpkin on a muddy stomp is part of your family’s Halloween tradition, don’t be put off supporting local growers; just make it your day out.