Does your summer BBQ emit more greenhouse gases than your car?


Scientists from N8 Agrifood and the University of Sheffield’s Institute for Sustainable Food have calculated that a typical summer barbecue could be releasing more greenhouse gas emissions than an 80-mile car journey – as part of their research studying the environmental impact of food choices.

The team brings together N8 Agrifood academics and innovative technology solutions from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Food Network+, who presented their Take a Bite out of Climate Change exhibit, at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition at the start of July. Their exhibit took visitors on a journey from ‘farm to flush’ to explore greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) at all stages of food production, processing, supply and consumption.

“Changing diet is one of the most significant ways that people can reduce their impact on the environment.”

The group of scientists has calculated that a typical barbecue would equate to the equivalent of over 200 balloons of carbon dioxide per person, equivalent to each person driving over 20 miles, whereas a ‘lower emissions barbecue’ where beef burgers were replaced with chicken – would be approximately 130 balloons of greenhouse gases per person.

The exhibit featured innovation in food production by the National Centre of Food Manufacturing at the University of Lincoln, Entocycle and LettUs Grow, with underpinning research from N8 Universities of Sheffield, Lancaster, Manchester and others.

Lead scientist, Professor Sarah Bridle, from the University of Manchester, said: “Food contributes over 20 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions. As the barbecue season gets underway, people might like some food for thought about the impact of their choices on the environment.”

The team wanted to create a visual representation for visitors to their stand, so used helium-filled balloons to match the equivalent volume of CO2 that goes into the atmosphere in the production of different foods.

“By making a few small changes to our diets such as swapping beef for chicken or a vegetarian alternative, a fizzy drink to tap water, a cheese sandwich to a peanut butter sandwich, or a fry-up breakfast to porridge we can make a significant impact.”

Find out more about the exhibit, and how changing your diet could significantly reduce your impact on the environment here.