How Big is Your Food's Footprint?

The average person in the UK has a carbon footprint of 12.7 tonnes of CO2e, but what makes up for one-quarter of the world’s carbon emissions? Food production.

The average person in the UK has a carbon footprint of 12.7 tonnes of CO2e. That rather large and impactful footprint combines everything from travel to household energy consumption, to your work and certain purchases. But what makes up for one-quarter of the world’s carbon emissions? Food production.

From farm to table our food emits greenhouse gases. We see deforestation happen for the creation of agricultural land and intensive harvesting of crops drains the soil of important nutrients. Tractors and other farming machinery are responsible for the release of harmful emissions and the production of animal feed pumps greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. 

From before the seed is planted or the calf is born through to the moment your packaging arrives at the landfill, your daily meal impacts your carbon footprint.

Carbon emissions from farm to table
From farm to table, your meal has its very own carbon footprint

How does our food compare?

Beef has a huge carbon footprint with most of the emissions coming from methane produced by the cow, the energy used to produce their food as well as the conversion of land. The energy used to produce a quarter-pound beef burger could power an iPhone for six months.  

While on average a bar of milk chocolate (40g) has a footprint of about 200g (5kg per kg of chocolate), dark chocolate has a footprint of 300g of carbon emissions. This is due to the cocoa bean requiring a massive overhaul of land before it’s planted and tea utilities a lot of packaging before it’s placed on the shelves at a store. 

Fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans all have a much lower carbon footprint. So a meat-lover has a much higher carbon footprint than someone who follows a vegan diet. A vegetarian sits, on average, halfway between both.

How do we reduce our food footprints?

You may have heard a bit about Veganuary, an annual challenge that focuses on looking at what we eat, where it comes from and the impact it has on the environment. Whilst veganism is beneficial for the care and protection of animals, a vegan diet also has a great impact on our environment and reduction of carbon emissions.

Not everyone wants to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet and that’s their choice. However, reducing the amount of meat we eat, especially red meat, could substantially help the environment. If everyone decided to take on the Meat-free Monday lifestyle for a year, they’d save the equivalent emissions of driving 348 miles in a car. That’s the same as driving from London to Birmingham three times. 

Taking responsibility for the packaging we come home with is another way to help reduce your food’s footprint. Purchase food that doesn’t come wrapped in plastic, use reusable Tupperware when shopping and storing your food so that you’re not adding more packaging to landfills. 

Another simple way you can reduce your carbon footprint is to eat wonky produce. 50 million tonnes of misshapen fruit and vegetables are thrown away each year across Europe. The impact of that waste is dramatic, almost equivalent to emissions from 40,000 cars. Most supermarkets now sell ‘wonky’ or ‘ugly’ produce. There’s no change to taste to health benefits, so buy wonky and make a difference.  

As a community, Greenspark is passionate about sustainability and the protection of our environment. Sadly, plastic packaging and bottles especially are having disastrous impacts on our marine environment. The United Nations estimates that every year, 8 million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in our waterways. If we continue like this, by 2050, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish. This is why we are working alongside The United Nations Plastic Bank project to remove plastic pollution from our water. 

You can help too by thinking about the food you’re buying and what it’s wrapped in. You can also join the Greenspark community and grow your #earthpostive impact with us.

Understanding where your food comes from in terms of both a sustainable and ethical viewpoint is what Veganuary is all about. Next time you’re in the queue at the supermarket, take a look at your basket and think about how your chosen ingredients have impacted your carbon footprint. 

Is it more than your first thought?

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