What does your shopping experience influence the world? Consider the following scenario: eating one egg releases 260-330g of CO2 into the atmosphere. Before that egg reaches your plate, the animal feed must be prepared and distributed to the hen who laid the egg. The hen is then heated to be pumped into the shed it shares with other hens on the farm. Then, their eggs must be taken usually by van to the place you buy the eggs from. They’re then kept in refrigerators. The packaging is required to be designed to house eggs as well as the method of cooking them.
All of this consumes energy, and most of the time, it is produced using fossil fuels. It is possible to assess the impact of carbon emissions on a specific food item by calculating the amount of greenhouse gas created when making raw materials such as industrial processing, transportation, cooking, storage, consumption, and garbage. This is known as”cradle-to-grave” or the “cradle-to-grave” approach.
It will help people be aware of how the items we do every day impact the environment around us. With this in mind, there are four simple guidelines to help reduce emissions from your grocery items when you shop next time.
Diversify your protein sources.
Of all livestock species, cows require the highest amount of pasture land and the most food from land-intensive crops. The burps of cows also produce massive amounts of methane that contribute to warming the planet, and their carbon footprint, at a minimum, is four times larger than poultry and pork. Lamb has a large carbon footprint, and the amount consumed must be cut down.
Protein doesn’t need to come from animal products. Beans and pulses can be better for your health and the planet. Good luck with images/Shutterstock
Grains, legumes, beans, tofu, soya, seeds and nuts, mushrooms, and seaweeds all have significant amounts of protein and require fewer amounts of inputs than animals in order to grow and produce a small carbon footprint. Recent research revealed that it’s possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 percent by reducing meat consumption by 70 percent and dairy intake by 65 percent.
Organic doesn’t necessarily mean low carbon.
Without carbon footprints for foods on labeling, consumers often rely on other information on the labels to calculate how much impact on the environment. However, they can be misleading. Some consumers may associate “organic” or “free range” with better environmental standards (low concentration of pesticides in addition to more organic animal rearing) as well as think that they are carbon-free products. However, although some organic items, such as milk and olive oil, tend to have lower carbon footprints than conventional alternatives, the reverse applies to soy milk and organic and free-range eggs, compared to barn eggs. For pasta, there’s usually no distinction between organic and non-organic versions.
Read more: Going entirely organic could mean food emissions up 70% in England and Wales.
Of course, caring for animal welfare and supporting the limited use of chemical fertilizer are critical considerations too. But avoid using these keywords to estimate the carbon burden of foods.
Organic food is usually more beneficial for animal and wildlife well-being, but it’s not always the best environmental choice. Ana Lacob Photography/Shutterstock
Local isn’t always the best
The purchase of local produce does not guarantee a lower carbon footprint. Transport is a significant element in the carbon price of food items, but it’s not the only cost of carbon. The carbon footprint of transportation is much higher in low-carbon versus high-carbon food items. This is why the “food miles” or “food miles” concept is unsuitable for determining the carbon footprint since it only considers the transportation component of the carbon footprint.
Transport, for instance, doesn’t increase the footprint of high-carbon goods like meat, for example, by a significant amount; however, it could be that lambs that come from New Zealand in the season of slaughter are less carbon-intensive than British lamb outside of the season in part due to the smaller carbon footprint during rearing because of the more favorable weather conditions that allow animals to consume more grass and consume less livestock feed. In contrast, green beans origin from Kenya and asparagus from Peru are likely to have a small carbon footprint when harvested; however, their carbon footprint will be larger due to the transportation which transports them to the food stores across the UK.
Local food is beneficial for vegetables and fruits in season. However, the carbon emissions emitted from their cultivation in greenhouses during winter means that imports from a nation where the fruits and vegetables are in season are typically more eco-friendly. Of course, the most sustainable option is to eat according to the seasons in which you reside.
Read more: What does a healthy diet look like for me and the planet? It depends on where you live.
The carbon footprint of transport can be lower for processed products too. Shipping ground coffee instead of coffee beans or concentrated orange juice rather than oranges implies only transporting the final product, without the waste or the extra water, and using less refrigeration and packaging. As a result, concentrated orange juice emits less CO₂ than fresh orange juice, and grinding coffee where beans are grown may be more sustainable than importing the beans to be ground elsewhere.
There is a good chance that lambs raised within New Zealand could sometimes be an option in the eyes of UK buyers than local food. Martin Bisof/Unsplash, CC BY-SA
Things to consider when packaging
Packaging made of plastic is sometimes better than it’s portrayed to be. Specific packaging options, like glass and tin, are cumbersome and can only be carried in smaller amounts. That means their transportation consumes more energy per pound of food. In turn, switching from these types of material to much lighter plastics will cut carbon emissions. This is especially true when the plastic is recyclable.