Eating out used to be a treat but as more people prefer to grab meals outdoors or order a takeaway regularly, consumers are becoming conscious of, not only what they are ingesting, but also expelling into the atmosphere.
This is however not a mandated by rule yet, but some researchers and activists argue that controlling the carbon footprint of our food could contribute in reaching the sustainable development goals faster.
Food related information has so far been limited to labelling calories that the edibles can load on you. Since April, all restaurants, cafes and takeaway stores that have more than 250 employees in the United Kingdom have been mandated to print calorie information of dishes, snacks, beverages on their menu cards to tackle an obesity epidemic.
Others say printing nutritional facts rather than just the calorie count present a full picture of the food we are consuming.
While the case for printing nutritional information seems obvious, printing how much carbon our food emitted while being produced, processed and transported may not only have environmental benefits if people are persuaded to change their food habits but may also benefit local farmers and industries.
A Mexican food chain in UK has started giving its patrons information about the foodprint each of their meals is leaving. It has partnered with Swedish start-up called Klimato to calculate the carbon impact of each dish they are serving. It is detailed down to the production and distribution of every ingredient including farming, processing and transportation, according to a report by the EuroNews.
Simply reconfiguring menus can also have an impact other studies have shown. Authors of the research paper noted that in some online studies also replicated in cafeteria settings, participants chose vegetarian meals more often when they appeared at the top of the menu card rather than in a separate section.
For consumers who like eating exotic foods, it may be wise to cultivate a taste for homegrown ingredients if you want to protect the environment. Many health experts also argue that eating what is available locally and seasonally is the best for our bodies. Imported foods are flown long distances, they often also have added chemicals to prevent ripening, adding to their carbon footprint.
As most Indians consume fresh foods produced locally, researchers have estimated that 87 per cent emission comes from food production followed by preparation (10 per cent), processing (2 per cent) and transportation (1 per cent).
The researchers found that a balanced diet (vegetarian) of an adult Indian man eating 1165 g food caused 723.7g CO2 eq (carbon dioxide equivalent) of emissions. The study further said that “a non-vegetarian meal with mutton emitted GHG 1.8 times of a vegetarian meal, 1.5 times of a non-vegetarian meal with chicken and an ovo-vegetarian meal and 1.4 times a lacto-vegetarian meal.”