The food industry accounts for more than one quarter of all global emissions. 28% to be exact, which means that our current eating habits have a bigger impact on the climate than all global transport combined. This calls for a sustainable transformation of the food industry and our diets and the solution needs to be simple to encourage industry actors and consumers alike to take action to reduce their climate impact.
There is no need to emphasise the urgent need for humanity to take action against climate change. But the fact that our current eating habits have such a negative impact on the planet comes as a surprise to many people, so let us explain:
Every food product goes through several stages during the production process, including raw material extraction, farming, factory processing and transportation. All these stages release various amounts of emissions, commonly referred to as greenhouse gas emissions. The most common greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide and the amount of emissions released is measured in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2 equivalents, CO2e) to have one standardised unit to compare the effect of different gas emissions. This CO2e measurement is sometimes also referred to as the carbon footprint of a food product. When emissions reach high levels in the air, they get trapped in the atmosphere which eventually increases the temperature on earth - we experience a climate change.
So the relationship between climate change and what we put in our mouths is that our current diets consist of too many food products with carbon footprints too high for the planet to cope with. To reduce the climate impact from food, we need to make a shift to our eating habits and cook, serve and eat meals made with food products with lower carbon footprints.
An average lunch or dinner in Northern Europe has a carbon footprint of 1.7 kg CO2e per dish. To reach the UN’s sustainability goals for Agenda 2030, it is estimated that each individual’s food-related climate impact should not exceed 0.5 kg CO2e per lunch or dinner.
Most people are aware of the pressing situation of climate change, and a lot of people want to do something good for the planet. As all humans need to eat, there are plenty of opportunities to do the planet a good deed by making more climate-friendly shifts to their diets. But here’s the catch - most people don’t know what shifts they need to make to their current diets to make them more sustainable.
You might have heard that eating plant-based is good from a climate point of view, but forcing something (like, veganism) upon people isn’t sustainable. So how can meat-lovers know if pork or chicken is a better choice (we need the carnivores to take climate action too)?
We need to put the power in the hands of consumers and businesses to actively want to make a change to the current unsustainable situation. To do so, there needs to be simple solutions in place that make it easy to make better and more informed food choices. Because let’s face it, society won’t function with hangry people.