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Mitigating the greenhouse gas emissions of food through realistic consumer choices

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date12/2013
JournalEnergy Policy
Volume63
Number of pages10
Pages1065-1074
Early online date1/10/13
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions embodied in 66 different food categories together with self-reported dietary information are used to show how consumer choices surrounding food might lead to reductions in food-related GHG emissions. The current UK-average diet is found to embody 8.8 kg CO2e person−1 day−1. This figure includes both food eaten and food wasted (post-purchase). By far the largest potential reduction in GHG emissions is achieved by eliminating meat from the diet (35% reduction), followed by changing from carbon-intensive lamb and beef to less carbon-intensive pork and chicken (18% reduction). Cutting out all avoidable waste delivers an emissions saving of 12%. Not eating foods grown in hot-houses or air-freighted to the UK offers a 5% reduction in emissions. We show how combinations of consumer actions can easily lead to reductions of 25% in food related GHG emissions. If such changes were adopted by the entire UK population this would be equivalent to a 71% reduction in the exhaust pipe emissions of CO2 from the entire UK passenger car fleet (which totalled 71 Mt CO2e year−1 in 2009).