Monday, August 30, 2010

The big carbon footprint in food

Household carbon emissions per activity shows food is the largest contributor
Everything has a carbon footprint. But when most of us think of our carbon footprint we think in terms of the carbon emissions from energy, such as electricity or transport. Few people would consider the large contribution to the household carbon footprint of food. However, a recent study by Taverner Research (commissioned by Willoughby Council on Willoughby residents), looked at the holistic carbon footprint per household and found that almost half the emissions, 47% on average, are a result of the food we buy.

The study shows that a household of three people is responsible for 38.7 tonnes of carbon emissions per annum on average, with food being the largest contributor (47%), then travel (27%), Household Energy - including electricity, gas, heating and cooling (24%) and Waste (2%). Table 1 shows the household carbon emissions per activity in tonnes of CO2e.

Table 1: Carbon Emissions per household activity
Household tonnes of carbon emissions by activity
Interestingly, but not unexpected, the research showed that carbon emissions per occupant decreases as the number of people living in the household increases. Because occupants share some energy consumption and therefore each occupant is responsible for fewer carbon emissions. The study found that an individual on their own is responsible for 14.9 tonnes of carbon emissions on average, which is much higher than the average carbon emissions per individual across all research participants of 11.97 tonnes.

Carbon emissions are almost one-third lower per occupant in a household of five people compared to a household with a sole occupant.

Carbon Footprint per household occupant decreases as the number of occupants increases
This research clearly shows we need to consider more than just the energy we use when considering our impact on the environment. While there is merit in cohabitation in order to reduce the carbon emissions per occupant, the real opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint appear to be found in what we eat. A big part of an individual’s carbon footprint comes from food. Our next article looks at ways to reduce your carbon footprint from food.