There are always small changes that you can make to your diet to decrease your carbon footprint, and below you’ll find some tips to think about while you plan what to eat. We have put together three guides on this nuanced and vital subject. The guide to carbon calories explains how to think about the carbon footprint of a meal in an easy way. It has a collection of 20 plus recipes each of which show you how big a carbon footprint it has. Our myth busting feature takes a look at common misconceptions about subjects from plastic packaging to food miles. We’ve used Reewild to help us and you can download their free app to check the carbon footprint of other products and ingredients.


1. Eat tofu

Ponzu tofu poke bowl

Tofu has a carbon footprint roughly a third of that of chicken. Demand for soy is driving deforestation, but that’s because around 70 percent of global soy production is fed to livestock, while only seven percent is made for human consumption. Feed is one of the biggest contributors to meat’s high carbon footprint because of the huge land-use change for cattle—grazing and the growing of soy for feed.

2. Drink black coffee

Mug with black coffee being poured inside

A latte with 100ml cow’s milk can have over double the carbon footprint value of a standard black coffee. For information about the impact of different plant milks look here, in short, they all have a lower impact than dairy milk.

3. Save steak for special occasions

Steak,beetroot & lentil salad

A typical 250g steak produces about 9,500 carbon calories, roughly three times a person’s daily carbon calorie budget. Try using one steak between two (or more) in a recipe, such as our steak, beetroot & lentil salad.

4. Eat more potatoes

Tray of hasselback potatoes with garlic and rosemary

Potatoes are the staple carbohydrate with the least climate impact (530 carbon calories per kg). They produce almost eight times’ fewer emissions than rice, the grain with the highest climate impact (4,000 carbon calories per kg). Our potato recipe collection has plenty of inspiration.

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5. Switch to honey

Homemade crumpets with burnt honey butter

Maple syrup is vegan, but its carbon calorie count is high, at 8,700 per kg. Honey has a very low climate impact, with a carbon footprint value that’s almost eight times lower (1,100 per kg).

6. Vary your sandwich fillings

Open falafel wrap on a blue board

Eating a BLT sandwich daily for a week equals the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as charging almost 600 smartphones. Switch up your lunches to save more. Eating a falafel and hummus wrap has just half the impact of a BLT.

7. Change up your accompaniments

Hand holding a spoon of yogurt

Soured cream (about 6,850 carbon calories per kg) has a carbon footprint almost three times higher than yogurt (about 2,320 carbon calories per kg). This is because it’s a combination of both cream and milk (which also gives it a higher percentage of fat), therefore more milk is needed for the same amount of end product, similar to Greek yogurt. Opt for natural yogurt instead, which is a good source of probiotics.

8. Eat pistachios and almonds

Pistachio tiramisu

Both have a negative carbon footprint, as orchard farms for these nuts capture and store a significant amount of carbon both above and below the surface over their 25-year lifecycle.

9. Try new alternatives

Rice protein

Whey protein powder has a high carbon footprint, with one 25g scoop equivalent to over a third of your daily carbon budget (975 carbon calories). Dairy-free rice protein powder has a carbon footprint value of less than half that of whey protein (400 carbon calories per 25g scoop).

10. Buy the best cheese

Selection of cheese

A kilogram of cheese has roughly 17,200 carbon calories per kg, compared to 1kg of chicken at 9,290 carbon calories per kg and 1kg of pork, which has roughly 10,620 carbon calories per kg. Buy good cheese and enjoy it in moderation.

11. Make mussels a regular meal

Mussels with chorizo, beans & cavolo nero

Mussels are a very sustainable source of seafood. They only have 3,800 carbon calories, almost six times less than the footprint of prawns – one of the least sustainable seafood sources.

You can check the carbon calories of other foods and products using the free Reewild app.

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.

More on planet-friendlier cooking

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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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