The Carbon Footprint of Food

From my Down to Earth Blog

What's the carbon footprint of the food that you eat?

The BBC aired a programme recently: Horizon – Feast to save the planet. They got 5 celebs to choose from a menu and totted up the carbon footprint of everything they ate. It was really interesting to see the marked differences in the foods they chose.

Generally, plant-based foods grown locally were the stars in terms of a very low carbon footprint and a beef steak topped the leader board by a long way.

Brits on average produce a carbon footprint is 5.17kg CO2e every day as a result of the food that we eat – and this needs to shrink to 4.09kg CO2e by 2030.

On the programme they showed how a 10 oz steak (locally sourced i.e. not imported) has a value of 8.5kg of CO2e. That’s your daily allowance blown!

But there are some simple (not too painful) things we can all do to reduce our carbon footprint:

  1. Don’t overfill your kettle – this costs UK households £68 million a year in energy bills.
  2. Avoid plastic packaging which not only pollute the planet but create carbon emissions when they are produced. Try taking your own containers out when you are shopping and finding alternatives to clingfilm.
  3. Cut down on red meat – just swapping one red meat meal for a vegetarian dinner every week would have a significant impact on the UK’s carbon footprint.
  4. Buy ugly fruit and veg – now sold in supermarkets, and we will avoid millions of tonnes of veg going to waste despite the carbon footprint they make.
  5. Shop local – when in season – asparagus grown in the UK is in our shops in early Summer and this asparagus has a very low footprint – but when flown in from Peru is has a much higher footprint.
  6. Don’t throw away food – we throw away 7.1 million tonnes of food every year, and almost 70% of that waste (5 million tonnes) is perfectly good food that could’ve been eaten! This food waste is associated with 19 million tonnes of CO2, so eating your leftovers can cut carbon and your food costs.
  7. Eat organic – organic produce contains more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – which are linked to various health benefits – than non-organic fruit and veg, but their carbon footprint is also much smaller.

Not too painful? And if we all do it it really will make a difference. Reducing our greenhouse emissions means that the pace of global warming will slow and make the planet a better place.

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