Greenhouse gas emissions are known as major contributors to global warming, by staying in the atmosphere for a long time and producing a warming effect by trapping heat. All collective systems and individual human activities add to these emissions, in the form of carbon footprint (CF). From our transportation systems to our individual food choices, every choice adds to our carbon footprint on Earth.

Studies have analyzed diets to calculate carbon footprint of households, families and individuals. Calculations of food carbon footprint are based on analyzing each food item’s life-cycle, including its growth, rearing, processing, transportation, storage, cooking, and ultimately, disposal. Recent studies have established red meat constitutes higher carbon footprint per calorie than white chicken, grain or vegetables (see more at the University of Michigan’s Carbon Footprint Factsheet). A new study takes food analysis a step further by showing other factors are better indicators of differences in carbon footprint among Japanese households.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield and Kyoto’s Research Institute for Humanity and Nature conducted a study to explore potential contributors to household food carbon footprint. Their research investigated the CO2 emissions of 60,000 Japanese households and found that the more a family consumes sweets, alcohol and food from restaurants, the higher their household carbon footprint. The study suggests that eating out releases 770 kg of greenhouse gases every year, whereas meat consumption annually contributes to only 280 kg per year . Households with higher CF also spend three times more on alcohol, twice more on sweets, and twice more on restaurant food, when compared with households with low CF.

Researcher Keiichiro Kanemoto notes, “if we think of carbon tax, it might be wiser to target sweets and alcohol if we want a progressive system.” The research is premised upon the diet culture of a nation with some of the world’s oldest population and relatively healthy food habits. Despite the increasing demand for cheap, US imports of meat and confectionery in Japan, traditional Japanese food preparation involves less red meat, and lower amounts of sugar in sweets. Conducting similar research in less homogeneous countries with more diverse diet cultures, therefore, may yield more complex results.

 

Managing Correspondent: Rhea Grover

Original science article: Meat Consumption Does Not Explain Differences in Household Food Carbon Footprint in Japan on One Earth

Original press article:High carbon footprint families identified by sweets and restaurant food, not higher meat consumption on phys.org

Image credits: Flickr

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