Odds & Ends


A recent discussion with some colleagues about the environmental impact of dining in versus eating out led to my discovery of “The American Carbon Foodprint”, a fascinating white paper by Matthew Kling and Ian Hough of www.brighterplanet.com . I found the following information on page 12:

 Producing and transporting ingredients accounts for the majority of food-related emissions, but the energy to transform those ingredients into a steaming meal is an important contributor as well. Taking into account storage, cooking, and cleanup, kitchen energy use amounts to 15% of the average American’s total food-related emissions. Home kitchens account for 1,850 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2e) per person annually, or 15% of the average food footprint, while food service (including restaurants and cafeterias) accounts for another 14%, or 1,740 pounds. In all, the energy to cook and serve a meal accounts for nearly a third of its entire life cycle emissions.

The average American eats out at a fast food or full service restaurant about 4.5 times a week, or roughly one in five meals.7 And yet food service operations consume roughly the same amount of energy as home kitchens – and that’s before you consider the carbon impact of traveling to the restaurant. A simple way to reduce your carbon foodprint is to cook more and eat out less.


Using their stats, I calculated the carbon emissions per person-meal for home versus restaurant-cooked food. Home cooking of 858 meals per person per year generates 1850 pounds of CO2 emissions, or 2.1 pounds CO2e per meal. Restaurant cooking of 234 meals per person per year generates 1740 pounds of CO2e or 7.4 pounds CO2e per person-meal. One more reason to cook at home!

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