About food and carbon emissions

The growing or rearing of food can cause significant greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions derive from a variety of sources, including the following:

  • Transport: food often travels many miles before it reaches the dinner table, which can result in large emissions from the burning of fossil fuels for transport. You can calculate how much pollution a product creates by checking its 'food miles'. A food mile is a mile over which a food item is transported during the journey from producer to consumer, and is expressed as a unit of measurement of the fuel used to transport it. It can be calculated here.
  • Manufacturing and processing: in order to create food that is appetising and ready to transport, large amounts of energy may be used. Chemicals, additives, storage processes (such as cooling and freezing) can all contribute to increased carbon emissions.

  • Packaging: the packaging of food for transport and sale uses energy for its creation, but also emissions are also created from packaging going to landfills, if they are not recycled properly.
  • Operation costs: supermarkets, warehouses, and restaurants all use huge amounts of energy to cook, light, and maintain the places where food is stored. This excessive energy usage can also contribute to climate change.
  • Consumer transportation: shoppers often have to go to multiple stores in order to find rare or out-of-season produce for their recipes. Mileage between shops can add up and the carbon emissions produced from driving shop to shop can be significant.
  • Waste: large amounts of waste are produced from the food industry. Processing food, packaging food, and throwing food away if it’s rotten all contributes to our ever-growing waste problem. Most of these things end up in landfills, which release small amounts of CO2 and more importantly methane.

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