True Cost Accounting | The Lexicon of Sustainability | PBS Food

True Cost Accounting: The Real Cost of Cheap Food


By considering all the external costs factored out of the cost of food, an economic principle called true cost accounting helps consumers understand the real cost of the food they buy.

Food Terms

True cost accounting
A practice that accounts for all external costs—including environmental, social and economic-generated by the creation of a product.
– Douglas Gayeton, LOCAL: The New Faces of Food and Farming in America

External costs
A cost or benefit that results from an activity or transaction and that affects an otherwise uninvolved party who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit.

The tragedy of the commons
When a community shares a common resource like a pasture owned by one and all, and if each farmer, motivated by enlightened self-interest, grazes his animals as much as possible to get the maximum benefit from this shared resource, other farmers will do the same. They will overgraze the commons until no grass is left.
– Douglas Gayeton, LOCAL: The New Faces of Food and Farming in America

Lifecycle analysis
Compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs and the potential environmental impacts of a product system throughout its life cycle.
– The International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

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Featured in the Film

Laura Howard-Gayeton
The Lexicon of Sustainability
The co-founder of “The Lexicon of Sustainability,” Laura produces films, education materials, and “information artwork” pop up shows for the project, cultivating a network of thought leaders in food, farming, and sustainability.

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