27 August 2008

How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

A diet with meat is responsible for producing in a year the same amount of greenhouse gases as driving a mid-sized car 4,758 kilometres (2,956 miles).

But the food a vegetarian consumes in 12 months is responsible for generating the same emissions as driving 2,427 kilometres.

The calculations are based on emissions of greenhouse gases, including methane produced by the animals themselves, as well as emissions from food production including manufacturing feed and fertiliser and the use of farmland.

Going vegan -- giving up meat and dairy products -- would cut the emissions released in making what you eat more than seven-fold, to the equivalent of driving 629 kilometres.

And if it is all organic, your food footprint is almost a 17th of that of a meat-eater -- the equivalent of driving 281 kilometres.

Switching to organic farming can cut emissions dramatically, "but what counts is the way we feed ourselves ... production and consumption first and foremost of beef and milk must be cut drastically," the study said.

For the picture, go here

Hat tip to Berman!


  1. I agree! Makes sense!

    Check out this book:

    The Global Warming Diet.



  2. All of this makes perfect sense, HOWEVER, watch out for one gotcha -- if your organic food is from Venezuela that's a LOT worse than conventional food from Virginia (for us DCers).

    So to truly calculate carbon footprint, you need to also look at where the food was produced. Best is organic food produced locally.

  3. bobby,

    agreed 100%. gonna give up bananas, pineapples and mangoes? :-D

  4. This is a good reading...

    U.K. Government urged to introduce 'omni-standards' for food

    Expert calls for a comprehensive labelling system integrating all available information of the environmental, health and social impact of food

    * James Randerson
    * guardian.co.uk,
    * Tuesday September 09 2008

    The UK government should develop a comprehensive set of standards covering all aspects of the impact our food has on the environment and society, according to an influential food policy adviser.

    Prof Tim Lang, who coined the term "food miles" and is an adviser to the cabinet office, said that consumers are baffled by conflicting advice about food. He said the government should set up an independent body of experts to integrate information on all aspects of food's impact, including how healthy it is, its environmental effects and the social consequences of the way it is produced.

    This could be translated into easily accessible information on food labels for consumers such as "food flowers" in which each petal indicates a food's impact in a different area.

    He acknowledged that this would be an extremely complex task, but said that consumers wanted reliable information. "The classical approach to this is to let prices and the consumer decide. But health and environment, justice and equity are all surely reasonable and decent aspirations," Lang told the British Association Festival of Science in Liverpool, "We need a food system to improve standards across a variety of equally important fronts."

    He hoped that his proposed "omni-standards" would help consumers to navigate contradictory information. For example, the nutritional evidence for eating fish is very strong and the government advocates eating two portions of fish a week. However fish stocks are in crisis and overfishing is having a significant ecological impact. "Which evidence do I listen to and shape my behaviour by?" he said.

    Similarly, green beans from Kenya are good for you and if they are Fair Trade they may help the local economy where they are grown. However, he said each green bean stem has 4 litres of embedded water and they must be transported thousands of miles.

    Lang said that at present, scientists and NGOs often focussed on only one part of the problem. "Actually we are part of the problem. We've got to come together and start piecing information together," he said.

    Communicating the information to consumers will not be easy, but he said packaging could have basic data in the form of a graphical representation of a food's social, health and environmental footprint. More information could be made available via interactive screens in the supermarket or online.

    Lang acknowledged that the practicalities of putting together a panel of experts to formulate the standards would be fraught with difficulty. One issue would be whether NGOs should be included directly.

    "If I was off the record and there weren't microphones here I would say something more interesting," he said.

    "I think there are very interesting tensions within government I will say very tightly – very interesting nuances between the various departmental chief scientists of their various positions."

    Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/sep/09/food.ethicalliving

    I would like to see U.S. adopt a similar policy for American consumers. At least, we got a good start with Fair Trade labels. :)