Skip to navigation | Skip to main content | Skip to footer
Search

Festive food footprint 'same as 6,000 car trips around world'

11 Dec 2007

* Each UK Christmas dinner equivalent to 20 kg of carbon dioxide emissions - 60 per cent related to life cycle of turkey * Total equivalent emissions for UK Christmas dinners is 51,000 tonnes - or 148 million miles travelled in a car * Cranberry sauce worst offender for transport-related carbon emissions


The carbon footprint of the turkey and trimmings tucked into by UK revellers this Christmas will be the equivalent of 6,000 car trips around the world - 148 million miles or 300 return car journeys to The Moon - according to researchers at The University of Manchester.

Academics in the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science estimate a typical Christmas meal generates the equivalent of 20 kg of carbon dioxide emissions.

This figure is based on a Christmas meal cooked for eight people, typically prepared and consumed in the UK.

The assumed ingredients of the meal examined in the study are roast turkey and stuffing, roast potatoes and vegetables, bread sauce, cranberry sauce and other accompaniments. Drinks are not included.

Researchers have assumed one third of the UK population eat the 'typical' Christmas meal - meaning the nation generates the equivalent of 51,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Project leader Professor Adisa Azapagic said: "Food production and processing are responsible for three quarters of the total carbon footprint, with the largest proportion - 60 per cent - being related to the life cycle of the turkey.

"This includes the emissions of carbon dioxide due to energy consumption along the turkey supply chain and the emissions of methane and nitrous oxide generated due to the agricultural activities to raise the turkey.

"Vegetables contribute 10 per cent to the carbon footprint, preparation of the meal at home seven per cent, and the total transport accounts 4.5 per cent.

"All stages in the supply chain have been considered, including raising the turkey, growing the vegetables, food storage, consumer shopping, cooking the meal at home and waste management."

Transportation has also been considered, including long-distance transport for imported food and short distances related to food shopping.

Researcher Dr Heinz Stichnothe says the contribution of transport is relatively small as the major ingredients are sourced from the UK rather than imported.

But the cranberry sauce alone, normally imported from North America, contributes half the carbon footprint related to transport.

The calculations have been made using the ISO 14040 methodology for life cycle assessment.

In addition to carbon emissions, significant amounts of materials are used in the supply chain. For example, to feed the turkeys alone requires 12,000 tonnes of wheat, 3,000 tonnes of barley, 4,000 tonnes of rape seeds and 800 tonnes of fish meal.

The research into the carbon footprint of a typical UK Christmas dinner has been done as part of the Carbon Calculations over the Life Cycle of Industrial Activities (CCaLC) project at The University of Manchester, which was recently awarded a 1 million research grant to develop a comprehensive methodology and software tools for estimating the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from different industrial sectors in the UK.

The sectors to be considered include food and drink; chemicals and related products; biofuels; and bio-feedstocks, such as cereals and sugar, used to produce chemicals.

The project is part of the 14 million Carbon Vision partnership between the Carbon Trust and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, with additional support provided by the Economic and Social and Natural Environment Research Councils.

Carbon Vision comprises a coordinated package of university-based research studies to explore how we are going to make the transition to a low carbon economy.

Notes for editors

Professor Azapagic is available for comment.

For further information please contact Alex Waddington, Media Relations Officer, The University of Manchester, 0161 275 8387 / 07717 881569 or alex.waddington@manchester.ac.uk .

The School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science (CEAS) is part of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPS). See www.manchester.ac.uke/eps for more information.

The Carbon Trust (www.carbontrust.co.uk) The Carbon Trust is a private company set up by government in response to the threat of climate change, to accelerate the move to a low carbon economy by developing commercial low carbon technologies and helping organisations reduce their carbon emissions. The Carbon Trust works with UK business and the public sector through its work in five complementary areas: insights, solutions, innovations, enterprises and investments. Together these help to explain, deliver, develop, create and finance low carbon enterprise. The Carbon Trust is funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), the Scottish Government, the Welsh Assembly Government and Invest Northern Ireland.

Carbon Vision partnership: http://www.carbontrust.co.uk/technology/carbonvision