Meating the need to reduce carbon

With growing interest in a meat-free lifestyle, Mitsubishi Electric’s Russell Jones explores the benefits of cutting down on this carbon-intensive food supply.

Spring sunshine and Russell Jones

You might be surprised to read an article from a heat pump manufacturer focusing on cutting meat from your diet but this is exactly the kind of topics we look at on our blogsite The Hub (
We post 4 new articles a week on topics as diverse as fuel poverty, indoor air quality, plastic waste, energy efficiency, and the technology such as heat pumps, that can help us all minimise the effects of climate change.
We have independent contributors, such as HA’s own Joe Bradbury, along with celebrities like George Clarke, who this month is blaming Right to Buy for the lack of housing in the UK.
We see our purpose as providing information that will allow people to make informed decisions on how to reduce the carbon footprints of their homes, their businesses, and their lifestyles.

Carbon intensive
We know that a vegetarian diet has about half the carbon footprint of a meat-eater’s diet. Whilst my eldest daughter has now been vegan for almost two years, I personally enjoy meat so the idea of giving it up completely may well be a step too far.
People choose to reject meat for many reasons such as animal compassion and the intense farming methods that my daughter objects to.
Whatever your views though, the production of meat is very carbon intensive so a non-meat diet will help save on emissions.
If everyone switched just one meal a week to a non-meat option, this would make a big difference to the nation’s carbon footprint.
According to the GreenEatz website, a food’s carbon footprint is the “greenhouse gas emissions produced by growing, rearing, farming, processing, transporting, storing, cooking and disposing of the food you eat.”
The production of lamb is recorded as the most carbon intensive food stuff generating 39.2 kilos of CO2 equivalent (or 91 miles by car), with beef second on 27 kilos (63 miles by car).
In comparison, the lowest food stuff are lentils with 0.9 kilos, with potatoes, rice, nuts, vegetables and beans all recording less than 3 kilos of CO2 equivalent (under 7 miles by car).

Meating our emissions targets
Greeneatz also reports that each US household produces 48 tons of greenhouse gases, with food producing around 8 tons of emissions per household, or about 17% of the total.
Whilst the UK still generally has a different diet to the US, we are starting to mirror them in many ways, not least the growth of fast-food and the lack of cooking skills in the nation.
The website also reports that “British and American households throw out a third of the food that they buy!” meaning we waste money on waste.
Few people also seem to have time to cook these days, so the increase in ready-made vegan meals and takeaways can only make things easier for the masses, which in turn, will help more people choose to go meat-free.

Cleaner energy
Cutting meat consumption is just one way we can all make a difference and we are also encouraged to reduce energy use in our homes. This is where a move to renewable heating technologies can also help make a difference.
In 2018 renewables supplied a record 33% share of UK electricity generation and this is likely to increase further this year. As the grid gets greener, the case for electric-powered heat pumps becomes even stronger and more sustainable.
We already know that the social housing sector has led the way in the use of renewable heating using heat pumps such as our own, market-leading Ecodan system.
These are being used to help tackle fuel poverty for tenants, whilst helping improve the carbon footprint of the HA’s stock, and helping reduce both running costs and maintenance regimes.
In the main, these have been used to replace coal, oil and LPG heating in off-gas areas, but we are now seeing Ecodan being increasingly used in hybrid situations to supplement existing gas heating.
Changes to the building regulations (SAP10) coming in later in the year now make heat pumps more of an automatic choice for the new-build sector, so we are likely to see a real increase in their use for new homes as well.
So there is technology available now that can help the nation reduce overall emissions, but coming back to my starting point, there are also choices we can all make as individuals that can really make a difference.  Anyone fancy a mushroom risotto?

• Livestock breathing makes up about 14% of greenhouse gases
• A quarter of land worldwide is used for livestock grazing
• 70% of the deforestation of the Amazon is to provide land for cattle ranches.
• A third of farm land is used to grow food for animals
• Nearly 40% of methane gas emissions comes from farm animals
• Methane is 70 times worse than carbon dioxide in global warming impact
Source: 2009 World Bank and IFC’s report ‘Livestock and Climate Change’