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Low Carbon Food Tips

Food and drink are the single largest source of carbon emissions from consumption by UK households, taking into account where it comes from, how it is grown, processed and transported, and the waste created. At the same time it is an area of our lives where we can all make a difference.

Five steps to cut the carbon cost of your food

  1. Use What You Buy
    Plan ahead and shop regularly to avoid wasting the food you don’t eat. Avoid buy-one-get-one-free offers and remember to use up left overs – don't just throw them away.

  2. Buy Local
    Minimise transport miles and help to maintain local economies. Buying regional produce from local shops helps to cut the carbon cost of food transport and support local enterprise.

  3. Eat Less Meat
    Meat production creates more carbon emissions than all forms of transport combined.

    Livestock produce methane in large quantities, a greenhouse gas that is over eighty times more potent than carbon dioxide in the first two decades after its release. Red meat in particular is very costly in carbon terms.

    Reduce portion size and introduce several meat free days a week.

  4. Buy Less Processed Food
    Processed, or as its commonly known convenience food consumes large amounts of energy in its production. The cleaning, cooking and packaging processes take up considerable energy. These products also rely heavily on substantial amounts of packaging, which ultimately contribute to our waste.

  5. Avoid Packaging
    Helps reduce waste and energy used in manufacture. Recycle it where unavoidable. Look for products with the least packaging, fresh produce is the best option.

Did you know?
The amount of carbon emissions caused by the production of food differs from one food type to the other. We can compare the different types using carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e).


For example here are the carbon values associated with the production of one kilogram of some common food types. The higher the value the bigger the impact.


Fresh Fruit 1.1kg CO2e/kg

Eggs 4.8kg CO2e/kg

Chicken 6.9kg CO2e/kg

Beef 27.0kg CO2e/kg

So, to help keep carbon emissions low we need to consider our diet and be aware of the carbon cost of the different food types.

A low carbon recipe
Here is an example of a recipe that uses low carbon ingredients, taken from 'The Bean Book (Essential Vegetarian Collection Series)’ by Rose Elliot.

TEONI E LAMPO (Thunder and Lightning)

(serves 4, ready in 15 mins)


225g (8oz) macaroni

4tbsp olive oil

2 x 400g tins cooked chickpeas

1 large garlic clove, crushed

freshly ground black pepper

grated parmesan or other hard cheese


Cook the macaroni in boiling water until it is just tender, then drain it.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan.

Add the garlic and chickpeas and heat through briefly.

Add the macaroni.

Season with plenty of ground black pepper (and salt to taste).

Toss together.

Serve with a sprinkling of grated cheese.

Serve immediately!

(Carbon cost of main ingredients; chickpeas 0.5kg CO2e/kg; egg macaroni 1.8kg CO2e/kg; cheese 8.8kg CO2e/kg)

You can find out more about food's carbon footprint and some further examples of low carbon recipes on these websites;

Green Eats

Love Food Hate Waste

​​Eat Low Carbon

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