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Food's Carbon Footprint and How to Reduce It

We each have an unsaid responsibility to help reduce our individual carbon footprints. Fortunatley for all of us, there are tons of simple ways to do so! From the appliances you buy to the foods you eat, we all have the power to contribute towards healing the earth. We hope this article encourages you to rethink your lifestyle and reinvent the way you contribute to reducing your carbon footprint.  

 What is a carbon footprint anyways?

It translates to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activities, such as using electricity in our homes, driving our cars around town, traveling on a plane, producing oil and gas, etc. Food production alone equates to roughly 1/4 of our greenhouse gas emissions, which is huge. This includes the processes involved in food consumption, including (but not limited to): growing, farming, transporting, cooking and disposing it. Every person has their own carbon footprint and their diet contributes to it. Meat, cheese and eggs have the highest carbon footprint. Foods with a low carbon footprint include fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts… which means that the vegan diet has the lowest carbon footprint, followed by the vegetarian diet.

As a meal prep delivery service, we take this issue very seriously. That is why we only purchase organic and sustainably grown food. 

Traditionally, a contract packager (or co-packer for short) buys ingredients from a farmer, processes it, packages it and sells it to a distributor. The distributor then sells it to a retail store where the end consumer buys it.

With Trifecta, we buy direct from the farmers, ranchers and fisherman whenever we can, prepare and package it ourselves, and then ship it on to the end consumer. You’ll see we two cut out two steps (we are the retailer, co-packer and distributor) of the supply chain! Furthermore, since the food comes right to your door, you don’t need to drive to a retail store. So, this model further cuts back on “food miles.”As for packaging, it’s comparable to what you would get when ingredients are bought at a retail store, plus it’s recyclable. Our plan is to allow more people to be able to experience the power of consistently eating well, while treading as lightly on the environment as possible.

Why does meat have a high carbon footprint?

Why does meat have a high carbon footprint?

Meat produces a lot of greenhouse gas emissions through livestock farming. Shrink That Footprint’s chart [1] shows that meat-lovers produce 3.3 tons CO2e (Carbon Dioxide Equivalent) of greenhouse gas emissions, while vegans only produce 1.5 tons CO2e. Another reason why livestock produces a significant amount of greenhouse gases is because of methane production. You can blame the burping, farting and pooping livestock... I'm not joking. Almost half of all global methane emissions come from belching livestock and their manure, making livestock farming a significant contributor to climate change [3]. This factor is basically out of our hands, unless we decide not to purchase meat. We listed several steps you can take if you aren't ready to cut meat out of your diet (I know I'm not).

How to reduce your carbon footprint:

Grocery shop at local businesses and support local farmers

Grocery shop at local businesses and support local farmers. Purchasing local food has many benefits— including supporting local farmers and reducing emissions. Storage and transportation both produce CO2, but luckily those can be cut down with local purchases, since everything is sourced nearby. On top of cutting down on transportation emissions, food looks and tastes better because it is picked at its peak, since it takes hardly any time to transport. It is also more nutrient dense because less transportation is needed-- which often causes nutrient break down over time . If these factors don't convince you, then consider the impact you will have on your community directly. When you buy local, you form a strong connection between eater and grower, instead of supporting enormous companies that already make millions.


Go Green!  Buy Organic and Sustainable

Go Green!  Buy Organic and sustainable foods. Buying sustainable food means that they are producing it while keeping the Earth’s resources in mind, which is a huge positive. They specifically produce food that doesn't harm the environment, from start to finish. Along with the environmental factors, sustainable farming focuses on the most humane treatment of animals-- assuring they aren't kept in uncomfortable living situations, fed unhealthy feed and much more. Buying organic is also important, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [2] claims that by switching to organic agriculture farmers can reduce up to 66% of CO2 emissions. Toxins from non-organic food (pesticides, chemicals, additives, preservatives, etc.) have been shown to be harmful to our health, potentially linking to several varieties of cancers and birth defects [4].


Eat fresh and cook smart as much as possible

Eat fresh and cook "smart" as much as possible. Turning on appliances and cooking (especially for long periods of time) produces greenhouse gases with electricity and gas being used. Obviously, eliminating cooking as a whole is probably out of the picture for most people. Striving to eat fresh foods as much as possible (salads, raw fruit/veggies) and cooking efficiently can reduce greenhouse gases. When cooking is necessary, the stovetop and microwave are your best options. Try to avoid the oven as much as possible, because it is an energy hog, plus it heats the house up-- which may call for your air conditioner (another energy sucker) to work harder to keep the temperature balanced.


Love bacon too much? Participate in Meatless Mondays

Love bacon too much to give it up? Keep meat on the menu but try Meatless Mondays. Since not everyone is willing to drop meat out of their diets completely, a great way to make an impact is to eliminate it out of your diet once a week, along with any dairy products. Although this may not seem like a lot, it can make a large impact if you do it consistently, over a long duration. According to the Environmental Working Group, if your four-person family skips meat and cheese one day a week, it’s like taking your car off the road for five weeks – or reducing everyone’s daily showers by 3 minutes. Luckily, there are many delicious vegetarian and vegan recipes out there which may actually attract you to a plant-based diet for more than one day a week.


For a big lifestyle change: Go Vegan or Vegetarian

For the biggest carbon impact lifestyle change: Go Vegan or Vegetarian. As we discussed earlier, livestock farming is a big emission producer. Going vegan and avoiding meat and dairy is the biggest way to reduce emissions (food-wise) and going vegetarian is runner-up. Since meat/fish is such a big contributor, eliminating those out of your diet will reduce your carbon footprint by a big chunk. Along with protecting the environment, you will also be protecting the lives of animals, which is a huge plus for some. Even if you don't decide to change your diet eliminating animal products, you can do your part by researching animal welfare when purchasing animal products.



Trifecta Co-Founder, Liz Connolly, has been a vegetarian for 9 years. She shared her insight about her decision to become a vegetarian:

Why did you decide to go vegetarian? I initially became a Vegetarian because I was writing a research paper in college about the pros/cons of being a vegetarian. I didn't make a conscious decision to become a vegetarian, I just didn't eat meat after writing the paper.

Did you consider the environmental benefits? Absolutely, the average person in America consumes 141.1lbs of meat and fish per year. 9 years of not eating meat/fish adds up to 1269.9lbs to date! That's more than 3 whole cows or 317 chickens! Small tweaks like "Meatless Monday" can really add up over time.

Are you passionate about protecting animal welfare? My passion for animals is the reason we chose to provide meat/fish that is Animal Welfare Level 5 (the highest level). I've always been a huge animal lover but I always assumed being a vegetarian would be way too hard. I found it to be surprisingly easy once I found good replacements for my favorite meats and protecting animals was a huge plus along the way.


To avoid wasting food, don’t buy what you can’t eat

To avoid wasting food, don't buy what is likely going to go bad before you can eat it. As much as we love Costco, something like 38% of the produce purchased there goes to waste rotting away in peoples fridges. Do you really need 10 heads of lettuce for $5? Probably not.

You can control your food waste by eating what you purchase. Sometimes it is difficult to do so, because it spoils before we can get to it or we just aren’t hungry enough to eat everything on our plate. It can also get really expensive... because food is not cheap! Some tips to help with wasting food include: portioning out what you are going to eat (and eating it all), storing it so it wont spoil and only buying what you know you will eat. If you buy some things in bulk, freeze what you can. For example, bread, grains and meat freeze very well. Other things need to be refrigerated and eaten immediately, unless you can find another use for them after popping them in the freezer. For example, when I buy berries and can't eat them all, I put them in the freezer to use in smoothies. 


Research and buy foods that are in-season

Research and buy foods that are in season. Transportation... again. It's a huge contributor to our carbon footprints. If you buy produce that isn't in season (where you live), then guess where the grocery store buys it from? Somewhere far away where it is in season. Buying food that is in season makes local purchases more likely-- meaning less transportation and less greenhouse gases. Along with protecting the environment, you'll be eating delicious food. Food in season always tastes more flavorful and actually tends to be cheaper as well. It's a win-win for both you and the environment.


This is a topic everyone should be taking seriously, which is why we hope that this information opened your eyes to the effects of our actions. A good take-away is that you can tailor your lifestyle to conserve energy and protect the environment, with minimal effort. If you are interested in learning more about Veganism, check out our article: Veganism 101: How To Go Vegan


1. The Carbon Footprint of 5 Diets Compared
2. Organic Agriculture and Climate Change
3. 15 Sources of Greenhouse Gases!mdd2d33a0-b147-4cce-acf7-b8b4246a5713
4. Why Buy Sustainable?