Switching to a plant based diet is quite possibly the most effective change an individual can make to help reverse global warming. We're talking about small adjustments that each person can make in their diet, that will collectively have a tremendous impact on the climate. According to a University of Oxford study, “food production is responsible for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming.” The good news is there are a wide variety of foods that have a small carbon footprint and knowing where each of the food categories lands on the impact scale can help you make the dietary decisions that are right for you.
Sure, it’s all well and good to say that we should have a diet that's better for the environment and has a smaller carbon footprint. But let’s be honest, how many of us actually know if a tofu stir-fry has a lower or higher carbon footprint than a turkey and cheese sandwich? Sure, there are so many variations to these meals (where is your cheese or tofu from, what ingredients are in the bread, etc.), but it’s important to start familiarizing ourselves with the carbon footprint ranking of food categories and identifying general changes in our eating habits that will take a smaller toll on the environment.
Thankfully, there are organizations doing just that! There are several food carbon footprint calculators that help you understand the embedded carbon footprint of your foods and their climate change impact. Here are a couple of calculators that stood out to us for their ease of use and awesome graphics.
The Eat Low Carbon food calculator is very simple and straightforward. Our favorite setting was when the calculator ranked the foods from the highest to lowest carbon dioxide equivalent score. It was interesting how the dishes with beef were all at the top of the graph, the fish and eggs in the middle and the fruits, vegetables and grains at the bottom.
The BBC climate change food calculator is similar but adds in some extra information. Not only does it tell you how many kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions this food produces over the course of a year, but it also gives you some interesting comparisons concerning water and energy use.
As always have a connection with your food sources and try to buy local and in season whenever possible. Use these food calculators as general guidelines and references to help you make wise food decisions and become more informed about the carbon footprint of the foods you consume on a regular basis.