You shop at the local farmers' market and bear the season in mind when you plan dinner, but how exactly can you assess the environmental friendliness of your meal?
A new carbon calculator aims to solve that problem by actually computing the carbon output created by the individual components of your meal.
Helene York, director of Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation, the nonprofit group associated with the catering company of the same name, which created the calculator, says it's about looking at the life cycle of foods. "If you really want to think about the global warming potential of your food, you have to think about it from cradle to grave or in food language, feed to fill."
To determine carbon emissions, the calculator considers production and transportation methods it assumes the food is domestic, except for items such as tropical fruit and the specific cooking methods for a given food. However, York warns that the carbon emissions associated with your food are probably 20% higher than the number returned online because the device stops at where you acquire the food.
If you live in a suburb and drive a Hummer to the grocery store, for example, your numbers are in reality even higher.
In addition, waste is not factored in, which is something in the consumer's control. York says, "It is believed that Americans waste approximately a quarter of the food that they buy, by weight." She says it's thanks to our huge refrigerators hiding items that have expiration dates we dont see until it's too late. We buy more than we need, and were not very good at portion control.
Why should a consumer use the calculator? York says it's a fun tool to learn about the global warming contributions of different popular food items.
Hopefully, consumers will consider composting too. York says: The food system contributes a third of the worlds greenhouse gases. When food is sent to the landfill instead of being composted, it is a cause of methane gas emissions. Methane is 23 times more potent a gas than carbon dioxide. Food in a composter creates a little bit of CO2, but its much less potent."
Bon Appétit has also created a series of low-carbon recipes so you can start reducing your food's carbon impact.
You can calculate the carbon impact of your meal now.
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