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This Single Food Swap Could Cut Your Carbon Footprint by 48%

A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Tulane found that one single food swap would cut your carbon emissions by a substantial 48%.

For their study, the researchers used real-world data of what 16,000 Americans eat in an average day. Using this, they calculated how much of a difference individuals could make if they swapped one ‘high-impact’ food item, such as beef, for a more sustainable option. They examined how the change would affect two metrics, their daily diets greenhouse emissions and their water water scarcity footprint.  

The results showed that swapping one serving of a high-impact food item, such as beef, for an item such as ground turkey, would reduce their diets greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 48%. Water-use impact also declined, dropping by 30%.

The study also highlighted that if 20% of Americans who ate beef switched for something else for one meal everyday, the overall carbon footprint of all US diets would be reduced by 9.6%. Other food swaps highlighted include:

- Swapping a portion of shrimp with cod gave a 34% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

- Swapping dairy milk with soymilk - 8% decrease.

- Swapping asparagus with peas - 48% decrease.

- Swapping peanuts with almonds decreased the water scarcity footprint by 30%.

Image of a turkey sandwich.

Diego Rose, a professor of nutrition and food security at Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine said “people can make a significant difference in their carbon footprint with very simple changes - and the easiest one would be to substitute poultry for beef.”

Rose also highlighted the importance of how small, individual steps like this needed to be taken by everyone, across all sectors and communities in order to make an impact. However it's achievable if everyone joins forces towards greater change.  

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