Mitigating the greenhouse gas emissions embodied in food through realistic consumer choices

C. Hoolohan, M. Berners-Lee, J. McKinstry-West, C. N. Hewitt

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    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 8.8kgCO2eperson-1day-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 71MtCO2eyear-1 in 2009). © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1065-1074
    Number of pages9
    JournalEnergy Policy
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


    • Climate change
    • Food
    • Greenhouse gas emissions


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