With restaurants and cafés still closed for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, home cooking is still very much the order of the day at the moment. As eating out is no longer an option and you can’t just grab a quick sandwich from the shop on your lunch break, you may have spent more time than usual lately thinking about food supply chains and the ingredients you use.

This got us wondering, how environmentally friendly is Britain’s home cooking? Some food and drink manufacturers now provide carbon labels on their packaging that specify the carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) of their products. This figure is a standard unit designed to measure the carbon footprint of the things we buy. A survey commissioned by the Carbon Trust found that two-thirds of consumers support carbon labelling on products.

Inspired by the public’s appetite for this information, we’ve created carbon labels for four of the nation’s favourite dishes to show you the carbon footprint of some everyday classics. To do this, we added the CO2e typically produced by each ingredient used in the dishes (including the production and distribution), as well as the CO2e of the cooking method used. 

Crunching the numbers

The following figures are based on recipes designed to feed four people. To put these findings in context, we also calculated how far you could travel in a mid-range Family Car (with emissions of 200 g CO2/km) for the same CO2e.

Fish and chips

Perhaps the UK’s most famous fast food, fish and chips might traditionally be a takeaway dish, but plenty of us are creating homemade versions of this seaside classic. So, how do these plates perform when it comes to their carbon footprints?

CO2e:

  • Ingredients - 2,874.67 g.
  • Cooking - 740.4 g
  • Total - 3,615.07 g
  • (Equivalent of travelling 18 km by car)

To calculate the CO2e of this iconic meal, we took a traditional recipe including cod, potatoes, wheat flour, eggs, peas, olive oil and lemons.

Roast dinner

CO2e:

  • Ingredients - 27,483.18 g
  • Cooking - 531.1 g
  • Total - 28,014.28 g
  • (Equivalent of travelling 140 km by car)

This is based on the classic roast beef and Yorkshire pudding combination, with ingredients including potatoes, beef, broccoli and carrots, as well as eggs, wheat flour and milk for the Yorkshires.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Like your pasta piled high and topped with rich ragu, or prefer your spag bol mixed together? Maybe you serve yours sprinkled with parmesan, or with lashings of olive oil instead. But how much do you know about the environmental impact of this popular Italian dish?

CO2e:

  • Ingredients - 15,581.34 g
  • Cooking - 209.3 g
  • Total - 15,790.64 g
  • (Equivalent of travelling 79 km by car)

This is for a spaghetti Bolognese recipe including pasta, beef mince, cheese, tomato passata, chopped tomatoes, garlic, carrots, onion, celery and olive oil.

  Cooked breakfast

Whether it’s a regular event or an occasional treat, a full cooked breakfast is sure to set you up for the day. From protein-packed eggs and plump sausages to juicy tomatoes and crunchy toast, you can include your pick of delicious ingredients. For the purposes of our carbon label, we included a full spread of fry-up favourites.

CO2e:

  • Ingredients - 5,538.13 g
  • Cooking - 209.3 g
  • Total - 5,747.43 g
  • (Equivalent of travelling 29 km by car)

This represents a cooked breakfast including bacon, pork, mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs, beans, bread and potatoes.

Simple ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your meals

Want to reduce the carbon footprint of your meals? Try these simple tips to get started:

  • Consider substitutions. For example, if you’re planning a roast beef dinner, think about swapping the beef for chicken. The CO2e of chicken is much lower than that of red meat, particularly beef and lamb.
  • Reduce the amount of meat and dairy in your diet.
  • Where possible, buy ingredients that are in season and locally grown. If there are suppliers within easy reach of your home, you could consider walking or cycling to them rather than driving. As well as saving yet more carbon, this can also help you to increase your activity levels, which is good news for your health.
  • Carefully plan your meals to minimise food waste. According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme, an average UK family with children is throwing around £700 of food away each year.
  • When it’s time to replace your cooking appliances, choose models with a high efficiency rating.

Being aware of the carbon footprint of the meals you eat can help you to make more informed choices as a consumer. We hope our carbon labelling examples have given you a head start. Should you have any low carbon recipes that you would like to share, please tag us on our respective social channels and use #CarbonLabels.

Sources:

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11367-018-1460-x
https://www.carbonfootprint.com/energyconsumption.html
https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/deepfriedfishinbeerb_67776
https://www.parentclub.scot/recipe/healthy-fish-chips-and-peas
https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/classic-roast-chicken-gravy
https://www.kitchensanctuary.com/roast-beef-dinner/
https://www.lidl-recipes.ie/Recipes/Scrummy-Spaghetti-Bolognese
https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/stressfreefullenglis_67721

Get your free consultation on a new heating system.

Share this article

Share this article

Looking for a new heating system?

Get your free quote from a local installer

Most read articles
Latest topics

Which heating system is the best for you?