Living and eating sustainably can be as complex as it is daunting. The food and agriculture industry is at the heart of the climate crisis, generating around a third of man-made greenhouse emissions. And while the challenge of reducing its impact may seem beyond our grasp, it’s one that we all have the power to tackle.


So, where to start? We’re taking a look at Reewild, a carbon-tracking app that aims to make it easier to understand the carbon footprint of your food.

So how does it work?

Every ingredient, product or recipe emits a certain amount of greenhouse gasses throughout its lifecycle, from farm to fork. This includes the farming, processing, packaging, transport, retail and distribution – all the way to its disposal.

Together, these factors form the item’s carbon footprint, traditionally measured in kilos of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent).

After years of research and thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies, there is consensus that we (as a society and industry) are now at a point where we can measure the carbon footprint of any product, anywhere in the world, to a high degree of accuracy.

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The science is complex, but the takeaway is simple: the higher the CO2e, the worse it is for the planet.

To simplify things further, Reewild uses a unit called a Carbon Calorie (CC) to help people better familiarise themselves with the concept: 1 CC equates to 1g of CO2e emitted by the product.

Carbon Calories explained

We’re all familiar with nutritional information on packaging, including calories, fats, protein and so on. Carbon Calories have been devised to highlight the environmental impact of the food we eat in a similar way, with the intention being to help us make well informed, mindful choices about what we eat.

Just as there’s a healthy number of calories you can aim to eat for nutritional reasons, there’s a healthy amount of daily CO2e emissions we can aspire to. This goal is 3.12kg CO2e or 3,120 Carbon Calories per day, or less, and is calculated in accordance with the Livewell diet (an initiative by the WWF to encourage healthy, sustainable diets). Reaching this goal would deliver over half the reduction in food emissions needed by 2030, with the remaining reductions achieved through changes to food production and reductions in food loss and waste. Current emissions are on average 4.48kg CO2e per day.

We’ve put together a collection of 25 recipes for which Reewild has calculated the Carbon Calories, so you can see the different scores. Cutting down on red meat will always help your carbon footprint but you don’t have to cut it out completely, so we’ve scored the recipes to suit different diets. You can use the free Reewild app to add other foods to your personal carbon tracker.

Disclaimer: The carbon footprint scores provided for recipes use open-source data from Agribalyse and Poore and Nemecek (2018), the latter being the largest meta-analysis of food systems to date. These scores are for information purposes only. Readers should be aware of potential inaccuracies due to data limitations and variations in food systems. These carbon scores should be used cautiously, as individual factors may not be fully accounted for, and different branded products may produce differing emissions.

1. Moroccan freekeh traybake

Moroccan freekeh traybake

1,438 Carbon Calories

Tomatoes are a vegetable to keep an eye on, as a food being locally sourced isn’t always as important as how it was grown. A tomato grown in season in an open field in Spain has a lower carbon footprint than a tomato grown out of season in an industrial greenhouse in Britain, despite the added transport. You can improve the carbon score of this dish even more by making the following swaps for the tomatoes: in summer, use courgette for a 23% reduction, in autumn, use squash to make a 23% reduction and in winter use cauliflower for a 21% reduction.

2. Chicken, leek & brown rice stir-fry


1,463 Carbon Calories

Using chicken alongside an ingredient such as chorizo adds a highly flavoured punch to a meal. If you make this dish with beef, it would have a 130% higher carbon footprint (over double!). If you use tofu, the dish would have a 28% lower carbon footprint.

3. Bavette steak with tarragon & mushroom sauce & watercress salad

Bavette steak served rare in slices on a plate with chips and a creamy sauce

12,746 Carbon Calories

Nothing takes away from the fact that beef has a very large carbon footprint, but you can slightly mitigate its overall environmental impact by buying well produced beef that is grass fed. The EAT-Lancet Commission, which developed the Planetary Health Diet, does allow for eating some red meat and if you are going to eat beef, it should be the ‘least-worst’ option. Remember to go for locally raised, grass-fed beef or beef from a regenerative farm to further reduce its carbon footprint. If you come across ex-dairy beef, which can be bought from specialist butchers, you can also make a carbon saving: ex-dairy cow = 33,000 Carbon Calories per kilogram of product while beef cow = 99,000 Carbon Calories per kilogram of product. Serving the bavette with a non-dairy sauce would also help.

4. Penne with broccoli, lemon & anchovies

Creamy lemon and anchovy pasta on a plate with a knife and fork

1,411 Carbon Calories

The Carbon Calories of seafood vary dramatically, depending on the size of the animal and how it is caught. A good rule of thumb is that smaller fish, like the anchovies in this recipe, have a lower climate impact than bigger fish such as salmon and tuna. This is because smaller fish can be caught more efficiently, saving fuel, resources and energy.

5. Potato, pea & egg curry rotis

Three bowls of pea, potato and egg curry with rotis

723 Carbon Calories

This recipe is budget-friendly and low-calorie as well as having a relatively low carbon footprint. Potatoes are the staple carbohydrate with the least climate impact (0.53 kg CO2e per kg). They produce almost eight times fewer emissions than rice, which is the staple carbohydrate with the highest climate impact (4.14 kg CO2e per kg).

6. Lamb koftas

Lamb koftas on skewers served on a plate with a creamy dip

2,880 Carbon Calories

Lamb has a high carbon footprint. Using chicken mince instead in this recipe would give a reduction of 58%, or you can choose to eat fewer lamb recipes per week.

7. Teriyaki pork meatballs

Teriyaki pork meatballs served on a bed of noodles with pak choi

1,388 Carbon Calories

Pork and chicken have similar impacts but if you swapped in chicken mince in this recipe, you’d have a significant 24% decrease in Carbon Calories.

8. Slow-cooker chickpea stew

Slow-cooker chickpea stew with couscous in a bowl

1,076 Carbon Calories

Legumes such as chickpeas are low impact and affordable. To lower the carbon footprint of this stew, leave out the tomatoes and make the base green by stirring in some spinach. This would give you a reduction of up to 28%.

9. Mushroom tacos

mushroom tacos

855 Carbon Calories

The tacos in this recipe are made with chickpea or besan flour. Chickpea flour has the lowest impact rating of A (E is the highest climate impact).

10. Goan-style vegetable curry with kitchari

Goan-style vegetable curry with kitchari

1,228 Carbon Calories

This recipe contains all of your five-a-day. Keep it dairy-free for a better Carbon Calories outcome – coconut yogurt has, on average, a lower carbon footprint than dairy yogurt.

11. Vegan paella


645 Carbon Calories

Broad beans are a good source of vegetable protein and have a low amount of Carbon Calories per serving.

12. Veggie tahini lentils

Noodles in a wok with veggies and lentils

491 Carbon Calories

Choose this recipe when courgettes and peppers are in season (from June to September). What you eat and when you eat it is generally more significant to an ingredient’s carbon footprint than where it was grown, provided it wasn’t transported by air.

13. Asparagus & lemon spaghetti with peas

Asparagus & lemon spaghetti with peas

504 Carbon Calories

Eat this when asparagus is in season from April to June. Out of season, asparagus is likely to have been air-freighted, which adds considerably to the carbon footprint.

14. Sweet potato & cauliflower lentil bowl

sweet potato & cauliflower lentil bowl
522 Carbon Calories

Stick to seasonality with this recipe and you can lower the carbon footprint even more. You'll see up to a 29% reduction if you swap the cauliflower for cabbage or up to a 34% reduction if you use mushrooms instead of cauliflower.

15. Baked vegan korma

Oven dish filled with cauliflower, green beans and chickpeas covered in spices

825 Carbon Calories

This recipe has a clear list of ingredients and a step-by-step method designed for cooking with kids, so it makes a good focal point for thinking about your Carbon Calories.

16. Jackfruit bolognese with vegan parmesan

Plate of spaghetti with jackfruit bolognese topped with vegan parmesan

708 Carbon Calories

Data shows that if all UK households swapped a red meat meal for a plant-based one just once a week, it would cut the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by a staggering 50 million tonnes. That's the equivalent of taking 16 million cars off the road or a reduction of up to 8.4% in the UK's total greenhouse gas emissions.

17. Noodles with crispy tofu

Two bowls of noodles with crispy tofu with peas

604 Carbon Calories

Tofu has a carbon footprint that’s roughly a third that of chicken and it makes an excellent source of protein.

18. Bean & halloumi stew

Bean & halloumi stew

2,508 Carbon Calories

Halloumi, like many cheeses, has a high carbon footprint. You can make a 14% reduction in the carbon footprint if you swap the halloumi for soft cheese.

19. Halloumi with lemony lentils, chickpeas & beets

Platter of lentils, chickpeas and beetroot topped with halloumi slices

1,876 Carbon Calories

The halloumi contributes the most carbon to this recipe but because there isn’t a large amount of it per head, the overall Carbon Calories aren’t too high.

20. Baked eggs with spinach, tomatoes, ricotta & basil

Baked eggs in a casserole dish with spinach, tomatoes, ricotta & basil

1,825 Carbon Calories

Both cheeses in this recipe have a similar carbon footprint despite their differing weights. Skipping the parmesan would lower the Carbon Calories.

21. Saag paneer kedgeree

Saag paneer rice in bowls with boiled eggs on top

1,999 Carbon Calories

Eggs are a good choice of protein while driving down carbon calories. If you want to reduce your impact even more, swap the eggs for tofu. Tofu has 25% fewer carbon calories.

22. Quinoa salad with shredded greens & raisins

Quinoa with shredded greens, avocado, feta & raisins

694 Carbon Calories

This recipe has a small amount of feta to sprinkle over it – leave this out and you’ll improve the score even more.

23. Sweet potato gnocchi with tomato sauce

Sweet potato gnocchi with tomato sauce on a pink plate

1,145 Carbon Calories

If you’re balancing Carbon Calories across the week, this dish makes a good choice for a midweek meal.

24. Chorizo & red cabbage tacos

Chorizo tacos topped with red cabbage slaw, next to a bowl of the red cabbage slaw

1,340 Carbon Calories

Cutting the amount of meat in a recipe without removing it completely can make a huge difference across a week of counting Carbon Calories. The amount of beans and vegetables in this dish makes it a satisfying meal.

More on planet-friendlier cooking

Top 10 sustainable foods

What does a 'green' diet look like?

What is a flexitarian diet?

5 recipes that are planet-friendlier


15 ways to cut your food carbon footprint

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