Blog: The impact of food choices

BlogUpdated: 28 August 2023Environment and Climate Emergency
Cllr Jon Tankard, lead member for environmental services, climate change, and sustainability

This week I thought I would experiment with food choices to see if I could reduce my carbon footprint.

Having realised last time that my love of steak needs to be tempered, I thought I would go all out for non-meat options this week…….and I thought I was doing pretty well until Sunday when I cracked and tucked into two cheese beefburgers at a family BBQ. The result of this on my carbon footprint is pretty obvious when looking at the Sunday dinner line on the graph below. (NOTE: You may have to refresh the page to see the graph).

What did surprise me though was the spike in Friday’s lunch which, despite being a non-meat choice was clearly the wrong one in terms of its carbon footprint. On Friday I was busy and as such popped into a well known food place to buy a quick sandwich. I chose prawn and mayonnaise, one of my favourites and as a non-meat option, one I thought would be a good choice. As it turns out a prawn sandwich is roughly 10 times the carbon footprint of the salad sandwich I had on Monday and just over 6 times the carbon footprint of my egg mayo sandwich.

It turns out that prawns, whilst in themselves not particularly carbon impactful, by the time they are caught via a fishing boat, packed, kept cool and transported, my sandwich became a far bigger carbon gobbler. So, it’s back to eggs for me then.

I have also noted that my Wednesday and Thursday evening meals are some of the lowest carbon footprints meals so far. This is largely thanks to my new ‘friend’ tofu! I use the term ‘friend’ lightly as if nothing else this week I have learned that eating tofu actually makes vegetables the most exciting thing on the plate………so in terms of personal sustainability I am not sure that tofu is going to be a regular feature on my personal plate, but some of the chicken alternatives, such as Quorn, were surprisingly good - though I am sure I need to research this further as I have a slight niggle about the manufacturing and packaging impact.

Whilst the graph below demonstrates that overall, this week (week 3) I am bringing down my food related carbon footprint vs. previous weeks, I can see that the Friday prawn sandwich and very definitely the Sunday two cheese beefburgers indulgence really put a spanner in the works!