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What is your food footprint?

Updated on February 13, 2018
MSantana profile image

She loves to write about science, the natural world and peoples questions about life. She has degrees in Biology, botany and Ecology.

Organic apples from Madison Farmer's Market. Color Pencil Sketch by Mirna E. Santana
Organic apples from Madison Farmer's Market. Color Pencil Sketch by Mirna E. Santana

Every day we need food in order to survive. Where does our food come from? Where does it goes? What is the cost of filling our essential needs? We normally do not think about those issues when we eat. Do you wonder about the differences between choosing locally grown produce over produce grown overseas? Although, it is best for people to enjoy food without worrying about where it came from, making conscious choices is beneficial for us and the planet.

The food carbon footprint summarizes many of the components involved in the production and delivery of our food. It thus offers us a way to evaluate our choices and be aware of our impact on the market and the planet. By calculating our food carbon footprint, we can learn for example about the role of fuel, transportation, fertilizers, and agricultural practices in food production. We could also learn about the weight of ethical considerations such as choosing local vs overseas food--or selecting organic or no-tillage instead of conventional agriculture.

The food carbon footprint is an assessment. It has a lot of uncertainties. Many factors are involved in the movement of food from fields to our tables. Thus the food carbon assessment can not be considered rocket science.

An advantage of the food carbon footprint is its rapid output. Because of this feature, several organizations use it to raise awareness about environmental issues related to food. Some of these issues include carbon emissions, animal welfare, healthy habits, and consumers choices.

By using a food carbon footprint calculators people living in cities could fill the gap that disconnected them from the food sources.

The Food Carbon Footprint Calculator is a comprehensive and detailed calculator available at But for a more straight forward assessment of your daily food intake, from breakfast to dinner visit

Eating a plant base diet is the best ways to decrease peoples carbon emissions. A plant based diet allows more production of food per area, and allows to feed more people. But people who feed themselves a diverse diet that includes low portion of proteins from animal sources, and many proteins from plants such as Polynesian diets contribute low food carbon prints. Alternatively, in areas where the land is poor in nutrients to support fruits and vegetables, local animals that do well in those areas can serve as source of proteins for humans, while still maintaining a low carbon food print.

Meat eaters can decrease their food carbon print by taking into account not only the type of animal they are eating, but the animal's impact on land (type of feed, soil degradation). Beyond that they could manage smaller and less frequent portions during the week. In addition grass-feed meat and dairy products from local farms may have less impact than those from long distances. Animal welfare is not included in all food carbon print calculations but is an ethical consideration for conscious eaters.

Local food produced under greenhouse conditions or using high input agriculture contributes more carbon footprint than food produced far away using the energy of the sun. Thus understanding the carbon food print is not always easy for consumers.

The usual diets of the U.S. citizens require more than three acres of land per person. If everybody would eat such a diet two to six planet earths would be required. But there is only one planet! We thus need to consider what the food carbon print number means for each one of us. From that point we can make informed choices about how to fulfill our bodies needs and the needs of the planet.

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© 2009 MSantana


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    • profile image


      8 years ago


    • MSantana profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Madison Wisconsin

      Thanks rhysclay- Yes indeed food miles shall be avoided if possible. Yet check your local sources for pesticide/and fertilizers some are very high and as big print as a hummer.

      No one really needs to drive a hummer, what for?

    • rhysclay profile image


      8 years ago from Sunshine Coast, Australia

      Great article, it is important to remember that your food miles can account for almost 2/3 of your entire carbon footprint. Some people say a vegan driving a bummer is better than a meat eater driving a compact car!

    • Sun-Girl profile image


      8 years ago from Nigeria

      Awesome and well shared article.

    • funride profile image

      Ricardo Nunes 

      9 years ago from Portugal

      I read somewhere that producing meat and dairy nowadays contributes for our carbon footprint more than anything... can you believe this!? I never felt the need for big quantities of meat... and now I know why :)

    • CWanamaker profile image

      Christopher Wanamaker 

      9 years ago from Arizona

      I will never think about food the same way again. Thank you for this.

    • MSantana profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Madison Wisconsin

      Thank you Teresa. I will post more on this area soon. I promise!

    • eventsyoudesign profile image


      9 years ago from Nashville, Tennessee

      I did not realize that an assessment of your food carbon footprint was available. Thanks for sharing such a useful tool. I like your article as it is easy to follow. I will read more. Teresa

    • MSantana profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Madison Wisconsin

      Thanks to you! I am glad you find useful information.

    • dlgjmg30 profile image


      9 years ago from Lytle Creek, CA

      Wow, talk about "food for thought".

      You opened my eyes to things I had never considered.

      Great Hub!

      up & useful

    • MSantana profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Madison Wisconsin

      Thanks to P.C. Lee for helpful comments.


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