Nutritious Ways To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

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Shorter Version

Est. Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Global climate change is an ongoing problem that impacts our health, ecosystems, food and water sources, and more. According to the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems, human influence has likely been the primary cause of global warming since the mid-1900s. This means that humans have the biggest impact on this matter and it is up to us to make everyday lifestyle changes in order to slow the process of climate change. But, how? By reducing our carbon footprint.

It’s measurable

Carbon Trust measures a ‘carbon footprint’ by the total greenhouse gas emissions produced by an individual, event, or product either directly or indirectly. These gases are produced by many different sources including food systems, household practices, and personal transportation.

How exactly do our food choices impact our carbon footprint?

The combination of food production, transportation of foods, and food disposal (aka food waste) contributes significantly to the greenhouse gases emitted. Research states that meat and dairy products have a larger carbon footprint than grain and vegetable products. Filling supermarkets with goods produced across the world requires more transportation than locally sourced items. Organic foods require less production energy than conventional foods, but this requires more human labor.

Trending meal delivery systems require more energy to produce, assemble, package, and transport.

Our desire for convenience and increased portion sizes have warped our food systems to meet our needs quickly without regard to how convenience affects the environment.

Shop smart to reduce your carbon footprint

Shop, cook, and eat to reduce your carbon footprint by starting with a few of these suggested practices:

  • Shop local, eat seasonal. Local and seasonal foods eliminate unnecessary food transportation. Explore your Farmer’s Market to get familiar with what your area has to offer throughout the year.
  • Dig deeper into eating locally by starting your own garden. Learning how to grow, harvest, and cook your own plants is a great hobby and contributes to your buying practices, too.
  • Eat more plant-based foods. Animal products, like meat and dairy, emit an average of 80% of all greenhouse gases from food consumption. Even switching to less carbon-intensive meats like poultry can help reduce these emissions.
  • Choose whole foods over processed foods. Whole foods require less energy, water, and packaging to produce.
  • Walk or bike in lieu of driving. Carpool or take public transportation when needed.
  • Limit food waste by shopping with a plan and purchasing only what is needed. (Read more about reducing food waste here.)
  • Reduce the amount of single-use packaging in many ways by storing leftovers in reusable glass containers, using a reusable water bottle, shopping with your own bags (this goes for any store, not just the grocery store!), and switching to reusable sandwich bags.

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Actionable Steps


Read the longer version

To learn more, read these articles reviewed by our professionals to be the best on the topic: Sustainable Eating by Eat Right or watch their quick video. How to Reduce Single-Use Plastic by McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN. Learn 25+ Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint from COTAP. Get 5 Tips for Sustainable Eating from Harvard Health or 6 Tips to Help You Eat More Sustainably from the World Wildlife Foundation.


Learn about the carbon footprint

Get to know more about the Carbon Footprint from University of Michigan’s sustainability indicators factsheet.


Calculate your carbon footprint

Calculate your own carbon footprint at The Nature Conservatory and get more tips on how to reduce your own footprint based on your results.


Make a change!

Use your results from the calculator to start applying some of these lifestyle changes. Start small with 1-2 changes a week and create habits that are sustainable (pun intended!).

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About the Author

shannon costello

Shannon Costello

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

Hi, I’m Shannon! I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Culinary Coach, and Personal Trainer. After dedicating over 8 years to the corporate wellness world, I began my own nutrition practice. Chef Shannon Nutrition focuses on plant-based nutrition and culinary coaching. My passion for culinary nutrition grew when I worked as a cooking instructor for a culinary entertainment company. After several years as an instructor and event coordinator, I moved into the role of Director of Culinary Entertainment where I developed all the recipes, menus, and instructor trainings. My dietetic’s expertise helped the company expand into allergy-friendly and health conscious menus to suit all clients.
Full Bio | LinkedIn | 1:1 Coaching

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