Reducing your carbon footprint without going vegetarian

As much as half of our carbon footprint comes from what we eat. There is a carbon price on virtually everything, there are very few foods, unless we grow them ourselves in our garden, which take in more carbon then it takes to grow and get them to us.

It is it a particular problem that in the West we eat a large amount of meat as this is far more carbon intense then eating vegetables. However not all meats are the same, and it is actually possible to cut your food carbon footprint significantly without removing all meat from it.

It should be it noted, numbers I have had to state are approximate. There are instances where some of the meat would have far higher carbon footprints than are stated. A particularly poor situation is in South America where large parts of the Amazon are being cut down to give grazing ground for cattle. The fact that the rainforest is being cut down would suggest that this beef has a extremely high carbon footprint, and far higher than these stated numbers.

Lamb come out the highest, with the equivalent of 91 miles driven for each portion eaten. Beef in general came second on about 63 miles per serving, but this can be higher depending on where and how the cattle was raised. It should be noted that in a time of not enough water in many parts of the world beef grazing is also a very poor efficiency use of water.

Cheese has the next highest footprint at about 31 miles per serving (assuming that servings are roughly similar size). At 28 and 25 pork and then turkey has a dramatically lower carbon footprint than lamb or beef which would suggest that while going vegetarian will cut your food carbon footprint in half you get half of this benefit simply by switching beef for pork or turkey. Chicken has an even lower carbon footprint, only 16 miles driven per serving, so halving your carbon footprint again. Eggs have a carbon footprint of 11, and potatoes have a carbon footprint of 7 so you cannot go carbon free on your food.

Unfortunately in the West, as with most other carbon emissions, we find that the way we live is the worst way in terms of reducing CO2. Other countries like India and China have rapidly rising CO2 levels and have or will soon overtake America and Western Europe. In terms of carbon per head India and China are still vastly lower then we have in the West and it is our responsibility to demonstrate a way of living without emitting so much carbon that the planet roasts.

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