A menu of food steps to cut a tonne

Did you know that up to a third of your personal carbon footprint can come from food? So, as more and more people want to know what they can do to help the planet, here is a menu of food steps to take throughout 2023 to cut an entire tonne off your carbon footprint.

Why Cut a Tonne?

The global target, agreed upon by the UN, is to halve emissions by 2030 and then hit Net Zero (where any carbon entering the atmosphere is removed by something else) by 2050.

To cut emissions by 50%, most individuals in the global North (generally the wealthier countries) need to cut a tonne from their carbon footprint every year. Globally personal carbon footprints are around five tonnes, so to halve emissions, we all need to get to 2.5 tonnes by 2030. However, individuals in wealthy countries tend to have much larger footprints, often around 8-10 tonnes in Europe and up to 15 tonnes in the USA, Canada, and Australia.

And there is real urgency. The 2022 UN Emissions Gap report, which details how the world is doing against the 50% target, highlighted that progress has been poor. We’re currently on track for dangerous 2.5C temperature rises (climate change starts to get out of hand after 1.5), and we need “urgent system-wide transformation” starting today.

This means that the time for small steps is over. We need bigger shifts, and, as an individual, that means cutting a tonne.

A menu of food steps

We put together a menu of steps to cut a bite out of your food carbon footprint, equal to approximately a tonne of carbon. You can change what you eat, how you cook, and what you throw out.

What you eat

Red meat has a much higher carbon footprint than chicken, pork, and fish which, in turn, have higher carbon footprints than fruit, vegetables, and grains. Cutting back on red meat or eating animal products once a day gives good carbon savings. For your fruit and vegetables, eat with the seasons, which helps even more as seasonal produce is more likely to be grown using nature’s support and is likely to come from closer to home.

As you cut back on meat, try some new plant-based products and test an eco-meal to save money. If buying meat and fish, go sustainable by looking for responsibly sourced fish.

How you cook

It’s not just what you eat that matters. You can save energy in the kitchen by putting a lid on saucepans, using the microwave more, and always using the dishwasher eco settings.

What you throw away

The average person throws out their body weight in food every year. Cut right back on food waste to save carbon and for the leftovers (like peelings and other bits you cannot eat), make sure you compost or use local food recycling as this avoids food going to landfills where it releases methane.

Taking these steps throughout 2023 is a really good way to do our share of helping the world reduce emissions in line with global requirements.

If you want to cut a tonne off your food footprint with just one step, you could go big by swapping to a plant based diet. Eating less or no animal products is on the increase, particularly among younger generations, and although this is a really big step, it is becoming easier as it becomes more widespread.

If you want to find out more, check out Giki Zero for lots more ideas to help the planet.