Helsinki investigated the climate load of workplace canteen meals – the carbon footprint of food was revealed with a new calculator

News 2022-08-04 at 13:43
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The City of Helsinki's Canemure subproject sought to find out the carbon footprint of the restaurant (Ravintola Merta) in a new office building in Helsinki. The goal was to be able to monitor and reduce the carbon footprint.

The carbon footprint survey was limited to the carbon footprint of food, and relevant information was collected, for example, through recipe-specific calculations and following the number of visitors and the total sales of food. In addition to the calculations, the result was a new food carbon footprint calculator, which is suitable for more accurate daily carbon footprint calculations in restaurants and canteens.

Largest carbon footprint from meals of animal origin

In the case of Ravintola Merta, the average of all the meals included in the calculation (incl. main dish, side dishes, salad, bread, drink, dessert and any other components) is 2.20 kg CO2e. The largest carbon footprints result from red meat, cheese and other dairy products. Avoiding or reducing these will effectively reduce the carbon footprint. However, local food does not significantly reduce the carbon footprint and can in some cases even increase it.

When comparing the carbon footprints of different meals, it was found that the differences can be large. For example, the carbon footprint of vegan food was on average about 40 per cent of the carbon footprint of meat-based food. Thus, one’s meal choices can have a great impact on the carbon footprint of the meal. The restaurant should offer a meal with the lowest possible carbon footprint and it should be cheaper or include some other incentive. In addition, the carbon footprint of foods should be mentioned clearly and comparably, so that the customer can make a choice if they wish.

Read more about the new food carbon footprint calculator

The Finnish Environment Institute's previous food-related calculator has focused on determining the carbon footprint of entire food service areas, which distinguishes it from the newly published calculator.

Learn more

Author: Researcher Teemu Helonheimo, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE,

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