Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

How bad are those bananas, anyway?

A look at the carbon you're eating, and more



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If you ate only carrots and other root vegetables like them in terms of carbon per calorie, you would have a very small food carbon footprint — about 1 kg of carbon dioxide equivalents a day.

To explain, carbon dioxide is only one of the greenhouse gases that impact our climate negatively, but it's the biggest one at about 85 per cent. So the term "carbon dioxide equivalent" or CO2e for short was coined to express the total climate change impact of all the greenhouse gases caused by activity or an item.

Mike also notes your carbon impact if you boil those carrots for 10 minutes (add a few more grams of CO2e per half kilo). And, if you prefer real baby carrots, your carbon impact will also increase a bit because the yield per acre of smaller carrots is less than that of classic bigger ones, producing more emissions per pound.

If you feel like you're going nuts trying to memorize all this, don't. Don't memorize it or go nuts.

Mike's point isn't to drive us crazy with detail, it's to give us information so we can "pick our battles" — that is, to get a better feeling for carbon impacts as a whole in our lives, and where and when to pick things that can really make a difference.

Plus you can't help but get a kick out of his comparatives and admire the depth of his research — must be the physicist's touch with that northern brew.

A pint of locally brewed cask ale at the pub, for instance, has almost half the carbon footprint of a local bottled beer from the store or a pint of import beer in a pub. It has about one-third the CO2e of a bottled beer from the store extensively transported — so drink accordingly!

A bowl of traditional oat porridge, made only with oats and water, has about a quarter of the impact of milky, sweet oatmeal. And a 60-gram popsicle from the store has about one-tenth the carbon footprint of a big ice cream treat the ice cream man delivers in his van blaring the tinkly music.

When you're done eating and want to relax with a newspaper, Bananas even compares the carbon footprint of newspapers, from The Globe and Mail to The Guardian. Then there's the carbon footprint of a rose, a hot shower, major surgery, and even your own cremation.

As for bananas themselves, and other non-perishable fruits and vegetables transported by ships, they aren't that bad. But give those soft, perishable fruits like blackberries and raspberries from Chile or Mexico a pass.