Food is a large source of the carbon we create through our consumption – our Carbon footprint. It is around 20% of the total in Shropshire. Part of the problem comes from the methods of farming used to manage the food (for example with cows for those that eat beef). Part of the problem also comes from the fact that we import much of our food, and the planes, ships and lorries emit carbon in the transport of the food. Part also of the problem comes from the fact that vast areas of forests globally have been removed to provide farming area for beef cattle.
There is a great book by Mike Berners-Lee called “How bad are bananas?.” This sets out the carbon footprint of almost everything you might eat.
A research study (by P Scarborough et al. in 2014) compared the amount of Carbon Dioxide emitted due to the diets of different types of “eaters”. Thus it broadly compared meat-eaters with vegans. A simple graphic illustrates the difference.
Thus by switching to being vegan, then you will be more than halving your emission of consumption from (some of your) food.
In schools, Local Authorities can change the diet served to make sure it is nutritious but better for carbon dioxide emissions. For instance, since 2009, Bristol City Council has moved to a situation where 45 % of the food is made from locally sourced food, and 30 % prepared with organic produce.
Some simple actions you can take
1. Meat and dairy products
The consumption of beef causes problems with the atmosphere as “ruminants” belch methane, which environmentally is a very toxic greenhouse gas. Farms which are exclusively managed for the production of beef are worse than those which are also geared to produce dairy products, as dairy is proportionately less of a problem for the generation of Greenhouse Gases.
Beef which is produced in places like Brazil, Argentina, and other countries also causes – across the supply chain – further carbon emissions as they are transported to their markets. There is a lot of work going on trying to find beef free alternatives to eating “meat”. But until those happen, then start to reduce your consumption of meat. Check the label, and select UK [produced meat. Instead of beef, eat lamb or chicken. Ideally you would become vegan to completely get rid of meat as a source of carbon emissions.
2. Shop locally and seasonally
Buying lettuces and strawberries grown in Spain will cause carbon emissions as they are transported by trucks across Europe to your local supermarket. So if you shop for fruit and vegetables when they are grown in season in the UK, then you will be supporting UK agriculture, and helping to reduce carbon emissions. So when you are shopping, check the labels for the source of the product, and if its asparagus grown in the UK, and you want asparagus, then buy it. But if its Asparagus grown in Peru, put it back on the shelf.
You can also help our local farmers and markets by buying in
- Farmers markets
- Farm Shops
- Shops that sell local food, fruit and vegetables
- Food festivals (for instance Ludlow (September 2022) and Shrewsbury (June 2022))
3. Grow your own
You may have enough space to grow some fruit and vegetables in your garden. If not, then ther might be an allotment which you can find near you, where you can grow your own. It takes some time and effort to grow onions, lettuces, carrots and so on. But you could find it very satisfying eating your own fruit and vegetables, while helping the reduction of carbon dioxide.
You can find about local allotment associations from this website:
There are lots of excellent resources online to help you grow your own food. You’ll find guides and how-to videos on preparing your soil, pest control and growing specific fruit and vegetables. For instance go to the Royal Horticultural Society Website. It tells you what to do, when to do it, and how to grow your own: