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Going Bananas Over Carbon Footprint

When it comes to the emission of greenhouse gases and climate change what should we focus on? Are we belabouring over the small stuff that doesn’t make much of a difference and missing out on the big issues?

Let’s look at food for example. Food adds up to around 20% of our carbon footprint in the UK.

Food packaging which often comes in plastic or paper bags is not a significant consideration in our shopping. Surprisingly though, plastic bags actually produce less CO2 than their ‘noble’ paper rivals. No doubt plastics take longer to break down and are difficult and expensive to recycle. But paper is also not easy to recycle and if it ends up in the landfill and rot it produces methane gas which is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Plastic bags actually account for one thousandth of the foot print of the average weekly shop.  There are other more deadly things lurking on the supermarket shelves than the often berated plastic bags.

It is true that riding a bike instead of driving would lower our carbon footprints. But this noble act is totally negated when we ride the bike to a restaurant for a meal  made from rich and specialty food transported by air from faraway lands.

Food waste, whether it lands in the compost bin or the landfill, adds to carbon footprint. We are a wasteful society and about a quarter of our food go to waste. Food is left on our plates, allowed to pass their expiry date in our fridges, isn’t scrapped off the cooking pan or picked off the carcass

Some helpful low-carbon food tips include, eat all that you buy – eat the skins of root vegetables,  save leftovers for another meal or make soups/casseroles  with them; reduce your meat and dairy intake; buy seasonal and local food; and avoid buying food with excessive packaging.

We need to do some serious thinking. Think about where our food comes from and where it ends up after we are finished with it. Think about what we can do without and with what we can’t, how we can adjust or compromise.  We need to think about how, all that we do is connected and part of a bigger picture.

By the way, bananas have a low carbon footprint. They come in light packages and are shipped and not flown here - a very carbon friendly source of energy.


This blog has been inspired by the book: ‘How Bad Are Bananas’ The Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee


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