What's the carbon intensity of my diet?
May 2, 2008 8:50 PM   Subscribe

Trying to conduct a carbon audit of the food going through a small sized cafeteria. Most of the information I have found is very general, sometimes vague, and the various footprint calculators I've seen are bad for providing sources.

We have managed to compile invoices for a year for the operation, and identified suppliers. Although the general principles are clear (processed foods and imported out of season fruit are more carbon intensive), finding rigorously done analyses is proving frustrating. I have access to academic journals, so those kinds of sources could really useful. I also feel that there must be think-tank or non-profit research groups that have worked on this problem (eg. an outfit like Lester Brown's Worldwatch Institute). This is really out of my field, and I am not making much progress.
posted by bumpkin to Science & Nature (4 answers total)
Sorry to say that I can't help you with your problem, but am interested in your progress. I have noticed that no one has responded as of yet. What is this project for? I am teaching the value of indoor microgreen gardening as well as sprouting locally in my community, and need to find some more hard evidence as to the value of doing this. I will be glad to share my info with you if you would like.
posted by aisleofview at 3:58 AM on May 3, 2008

This is going to be tricky.

This article from the Economist illustrates the difficulty of this task.

In order to get the carbon footprint, you'd need to know the amount of carbon emitted during every stage of getting to your cafeteria. Growing, packaging, transport, cooking, disposal. You know... from soup to nuts. ;)

An accurate measurement is going to be next to impossible. You might just have to settle for vague.
posted by cr_joe at 7:38 AM on May 3, 2008

Response by poster: I know its a difficult task! But given the explosion of carbon footprint and ecological footprint calculators out there, someone somewhere has at least taken a stab at an estimate. The sources behind the calculators are proving hard to pin down. Not that I would be surprised if these footprint calculators are somewhat short of high rigour.

This is for a project that a few students are doing as a final assignment for an earth systems science class. I tend to give difficult and open ended projects, which works for some students. Generally, I know where to steer people to, since for the most part I have expertise or exposure to what they're digging at.

I'll be happy to post up whatever we find. Maybe a FPP.
posted by bumpkin at 9:53 PM on May 3, 2008

You may also find this more in-depth article from the New Yorker insightful in your carbon label quest (or FPP).
posted by blindcarboncopy at 5:27 AM on May 4, 2008

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