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Food, Glorious Food — Understanding the carbon footprint of what we eat

January 19, 2022

Food, glorious food! It plays a massive role in our lives — not only is it fuel to live, but it is a huge part of how people interact. Food can be cultural; it can be about family; it can be about socialising and celebrating. There is no denying that food has a very high social value attached to it & it plays such an important role in everyday living. So the question is, is our attitude towards food contributing to our ever-growing carbon footprint?

Perhaps, you’re wondering where the carbon footprint of our food comes from and what it consists of. It comprises a couple of major greenhouse gas emissions (GHG); the most obvious one is Carbon Dioxide (CO2). This is a gas that contributes to most people’s carbon footprint. In regards to food, CO2 is released when fossil fuels are burnt during activities like the transportation of food. Secondly, we have Methane, external to natural sources of this gas; livestock produces their own Methane, which accounts for around 40% of emissions. If we include things like wetland rice production, that’s an additional 20% of methane emissions. Thirdly, when we look at things like manure, fertiliser & nitrogen-fixing crops production, they all contribute to the GHG known as Nitrous oxide. The feed of livestock plays a massive part in this, conventional farming for vegetables and fruits also plays a small role. Finally, there is a GHG called Chlorofluorocarbons; this is a gas that comes from the use of mechanical refrigeration.

As you can see, the carbon footprint of food is made up of different components, from the upkeep of livestock to how it is transported; all of this contributes to that final number. Meat has quite a large carbon footprint attached to it as it takes quite a lot of resources to produce it — it contributes around 18% of GHG, which is a large portion. There is so much that contributes to its large carbon footprint — from the food for the livestock that requires fertilisation, processing and transporting to the refrigeration of the livestock.

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There is no better saying than ‘knowledge is power’, because when you know better, you have the opportunity to do better. We are not preaching anything but balance, mindfulness and consciousness; these three things will guide you in finding your rhythm so that you can both lower the carbon footprint of your meals and support having a more planet proud diet. The good news is, you can still access food that has all the flavour and texture of foods that perhaps aren’t so great for the planet. Brands like THIS, Dopsu, Plant Pioneers & Good Food have incredible alternatives, meaning you can lower your carbon footprint without compromising on the types of food you love.

Here are some examples of food swaps you can make to help lower that footprint:

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We hope you’re inspired to review your eating habits and open up to learn more about other foods that can help you lower your footprint. Remember, the Yayzy app provides you with a carbon footprint of your purchasing and is often a great place to start. You review the kinds of food you buy and reduce based on the facts.

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