5 Steps to a Lower Carbon Diet

Written By: Gloria Tsang, RD

Title: Founding Registered Dietitian

Alumni: University of British Columbia

Last Updated on:

Odds are that you’ve put some thought recently into trying to reduce your carbon footprint. It’s the latest buzzword, and from transportation options, to energy consumption, to politics, everybody’s talking about it. But did you know that even your diet can impact your carbon footprint? Here’s how choosing the right foods can make a positive impact on the environment.

5 Steps to a Lowering Your Carbon Diet Footprint

1. Buy Local

Local farmers’ markets are the perfect places to purchase local foods. Local foods do not have to travel a long distance on freight, so they’re a lower carbon choice than imports. Some grocery store chains now identify the origin of the fresh produce and meat so you can choose.

Need one more reason to buy local? Nutrient loss happens during transportation, so local produce retains more nutrients than long-distance produce!

2. Go Seasonal and Choose Less Hot-House Produce

Crops and produce items thrive in specific weather conditions. Hot houses are used to simulate the natural climate of each crop to grow produce in locations, or at times of year, that they otherwise wouldn’t grow. Powering a hot-house operation takes lots of energy, which may produce more carbon emissions.

3. Be Mindful of High Carbon Foods

Not all local foods are necessarily low carbon. Meat and dairy, in particular, are considered high carbon foods. According to Katherine Kwon, MS, RD with Bon Appétit Management, livestock production contributes to 18% of the world’s greenhouse gases. Ruminants (cows, sheep, and goats) naturally emit methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

You don’t need to be a vegan to live an eco-friendly life, but you should watch your meat portion size. To find out about the carbon score of specific foods, visit the Low Carbon Diet Calculator.

4. Use Fewer Packaged Foods

Processing and packaging both require high energy power. Refrigerated and frozen packaged foods require even more energy for chilled transportation. Some food manufacturers are ahead of others in reducing their impact on global warming. To see the scorecards for national food companies, check out ClimateCounts.org.

5. Doggybag All Leftovers

Waste heading to the landfill contributes to potent methane emissions. So it makes perfect sense to save all leftovers for later use.


carbon footprint, local eating


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