Ever find yourself squabbling over the pros and cons of drinking almond milk over dairy milk, or the environmental impact of using the dishwasher over handwashing? We have trawled The Guardian’s carbon footprint articles to pull apart some of these thorny issues for you, making reference to a ground-breaking 2018 report by Oxford University and the Swiss agricultural Institut which revealed the environmental impacts of nearly 40,000 farms and 1,600 processors, packaging types and retailers.
HEAVY FRUIT; LIGHT FOOTPRINT
Shopping seasonally is the most effective way of minimising your food miles. But when you’re tossing up between a pack of raspberries and a bunch of bananas, it’s going to be the heaviest option which has the lightest carbon footprint. Soft-skinned fruits, such as raspberries, are much more likely to have been flown across the world by plane, whereas hard-skinned fruits – even the much-maligned avocado – will have been shipped, making them the more environmentally friendly option.
The 2018 study showed that producing a glass of dairy milk results in almost three times more greenhouse gas emissions than any plant-based milk and it consumes nine times more land than any of the milk alternatives.
Oat – The winner according to the 2018 report
+ Oats are grown in cooler climates such as the northern US and Canada and are therefore not associated with deforestation in developing countries.
+ The popular Oatly brand oat milk company maintains its oats are free of glyphosate – the active ingredient in Roundup and a possible carcinogen which is often used as a pesticide on oat crops.
+ Soy is the only plant milk that comes close to offering a protein content comparable to dairy.
+ Soya in drinks, such as Alpro, comes from France or America, not the Amazon. The deforestation attributed to soya production is actually occurring so that soya-based food can be fed to cattle for the meat industry.
+ Hazelnuts depend on the wind, rather than bees for pollination.
+ They grow in moist climates, such as the Pacific north-west, where water is less of an issue.
+ Hazelnuts grow on trees which take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
- Almonds require more water than any other dairy alternative, consuming 130 pints of water to produce a single glass of almond milk.
- Nearly 70% of commercial bees in the US are drafted every spring to pollinate almonds. Last year, a record number –over one-third of them– died by season’s end as a result of these pressures and other environmental threats.
- Even if you get milk from the cow at the end of the road, the resources that are required to rear a cow still outweigh the carbon emissions associated with any other milk alternatives.
Calculate your milk’s carbon footprint here
DISHWASHER VS HANDWASHING
Scientists have concluded that putting a full dishwasher on is more efficient than hand washing the dishes – provided you aren’t rinsing your plate beforehand and are putting the load on the eco setting. Not only this, a dishwasher saves time and kills up to 400 times more bacteria than handwashing. They can be made even more efficient when used at night time when the grid is in lower demand – a time when the least efficient and dirtiest power stations won’t be running.
- 540g CO2e: by hand, using water sparingly and not too hot
- 770g CO2e: in a dishwasher at 55°C
- 990g CO2e: in a dishwasher at 65°C
- 8000g CO2e: by hand, with extravagant use of water
TO KEEP IN THE FRIDGE, OR NOT TO KEEP IN THE FRIDGE?
A new Love Food Hate Waste campaign by Which?, finally puts to bed the egg in the fridge, or in the pantry confusion which has threatened to destabilise many a friendship or flat share for decades. Sometimes it’s easy to loose sight of why we get so worked up about these trivialities, but if everyone makes simple changes according to this definitive list then we can extend a food’s shelf life and save tonnes of waste.
For the fridge:
- Most fruit and vegetables (bring up to room temperature before cooking)
- Spring onions
Not for the fridge:
- Bread (in a bread bin)
- Ketchup (out of the sun)
See the full list here.
Let us know if there are any carbon footprint quandaries you’re facing and we’ll do our best to find the answer.