Dietary Choices–The Problems

  • Beef can cost the planet more than 27 kilograms of CO2 emissions per kg of meat.
  • It takes 35 times more energy to produce beef than the beef provides us in usable food energy, but only 8 times more energy to grow corn than the corn provides us in food energy.
  • Shrimp farming has destroyed millions of acres of one of the world’s most powerful carbon-sequestering ecosystems: mangrove forests. Mangroves, on average, store more than 2X the CO2 per acre as tropical rain forests.
  • The newer hyper-processed meat replacements have about ½ the carbon footprint of chicken, but are still ~5X times more emissions-intense than a simple bean patty.

Full Lifecycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Common Proteins and Vegetables

  • Each food item in a typical U.S. meal has traveled an average of 1,500 miles. In addition to direct transport, other fuel-thirsty steps include processing (drying, milling, cutting, sorting, baking), packaging, warehousing, and refrigeration. Energy calories consumed by production, packaging, and shipping far outweigh the energy calories we receive from the food.
  • It requires 87 times more energy in fuel to transport perishable fresh fruit from California to New York than the fruit provides us in food energy.

The Impact of Change: Consuming a plant-rich diet is the number 3 solution to reducing global carbon emissions. If everyone in the U.S. ate no meat or cheese just one day a week, it would be like not driving 91 billion miles – or taking 7.6 million cars off the road. Eating locally would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week, if every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce.

At IMGC2023, we are:

  • Selecting our menu with the carbon footprint of each item in mind.
  • Offering vegetarian/vegan options at all meals.
  • Sourcing local foods where possible.

What you can do:

  • At IMGC:

    • Take advantage of the vegetarian and vegan offerings.
    • When dining out for “on-your-own” evening meals, select fewer meats and more plant-based items. Eat in-season, fresh, local, minimally-processed foods.
  • At home:

    • Switch to a plant-based diet to shave at least a ton of CO2 off your carbon footprint each year.
    • If you don’t want to cut out all meat, add a few vegetarian meals to your diet. Try Meatless Mondays.
    • If you eat meat, choose chicken. Chicken ranks as the most emissions-efficient widely produced terrestrial animal protein.
    • Avoid flying food. Overall, air-freighting food is 50X more carbon costly than the least carbon intensive, transporting by ship.
    • Buy your food naked. Overall, packaging accounts for about 5% of food’s carbon footprint.
    • If you eat one less burger a week, it’s like taking your car off the road for 320 miles or line-drying your clothes half the time.
    • Eat locally and seasonally. Shop at farmers’ markets and join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).
    • Grow some of your own food. Even if you don’t have space for a garden, you can grow a tomato plant in a pot on your patio or you can add kale, chard, or lettuces as fillers in your flower pots.


Greenberg, P. The Climate Diet.

Environmental Working Group, Meat Eater’s Guide: Report.  Climate and Environmental Impacts and Reducing Your Carbon Footprint.

Taillardat, P, et al, Biology Letters 14, no. 10 (2018), p. 251.

CNBC, 9/2/2019.

Poore J. & Nemecek T., Science, 2018.

Kingsolver B, et al., Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Harper Collins, 2007.