Swap feta for mozzarella and make your own burgers instead of buying premade ones: Scientists reveal the simple supermarket swaps you can make to cut your carbon footprint

  • Scientists studied production of 30 popular foods, from farm to shelf
  • Feta and goats cheese produce higher CO2 than mozzarella or halloumi
  • Ground beef was found to produce 25 per cent less CO2 than premade burgers
  • In terms of alcohol options, gin releases 2.8kg of CO2/kg more than red wine

Whether it’s turning off lights when not using them or deciding to walk instead of drive, many of us try to take measures to reduce our carbon footprint.

Now, scientists have revealed the simple supermarket swaps you can make to cut your ‘carbon calories’.

Their findings suggest that people looking to go greener should swap feta for mozzarella and make their own burgers instead of buying premade ones.

Scientists have revealed the simple supermarket swaps you can make to cut your ‘carbon calories’


Feta (left) requires huge amounts of water to produce, and releases 34kg of CO2/kg during production, according to CarbonCloud. Instead, they suggest that shoppers should consider swapping to mozzarella (right), which produces 9kg of CO2/kg

In the study, researchers from food data firm CarbonCloud were commissioned by natural energy drink TENZING to investigate the carbon footprint of the average shopping basket.

The team studied the production of 30 popular food products, all the way through from farm to supermarket shelf.

Factors considered included the nitrous oxide levels from fields, emissions from fertiliser, emissions from deforestation, energy use at factories, and the productivity of crops.

Based on their analysis, the team was able to estimate the number of kilograms of CO2 produced per kilogram of finished products.

Their findings show that feta and goats cheese both require huge amounts of water to produce, releasing 34kg of CO2/kg and 46kg of CO2/kg respectively during production.

Instead, the experts suggest that shoppers should consider swapping to mozzarella (9kg of CO2/kg) or halloumi (30kg of CO2/kg).

Looking at popular meats, ground beef was found to produce 25 per cent less CO2 than premade burgers, while ham from the deli counter is a greener option than pre-sliced ham.

And in terms of alcohol options, gin releases 2.8kg of CO2/kg more than red wine.

Other easy options include switching from milk chocolate to foam sweets, changing from frozen broccoli to fresh broccoli, and opting for yoghurt from a paper pot rather than a glass pot.

And while it might sound counterintuitive, the researchers say that shoppers should choose tomatoes from Spain over those from the UK.

Dr Erik Edlund, VP of Science at CarbonCloud, explained: ‘A tomato grown in the UK that has travelled less but is greenhouse-grown has a higher climate footprint than the Spanish tomato, not grown in a greenhouse.

‘This is just one example of how the food we perceive to be more artificial and processed doesn’t always have a higher footprint.’

In terms of alcohol options, the study found that gin releases 2.8kg of CO2/kg more than red wine


Looking at popular meats, ground beef (left) was found to produce 25 per cent less CO2 than premade burgers (right)

While you might worry that making these swaps will increase the price of your weekly shop, CarbonCloud says this is not the case. 

The average costs of the ‘high carbon’ and ‘low carbon’ baskets were compared using www.trolley.co.uk, which confirmed that they were similarly priced. 

‘The basket of swaps proves that reducing the carbon footprint of Brits’ weekly shop doesn’t mean having to spend more money,’ CarbonCloud added. 

The report comes shortly after researchers from the University of Bristol called for restaurants to add carbon labels to their menus to encourage diners to choose greener options. 

In their study, the team asked survey participants whether they would order a burrito with a beef, chicken or vegetarian filling.

Each burrito was accompanied with a traffic light-style ranking of sustainability, of which the vegetarian option was in green for most sustainable.

They found that five per cent more of the participants went veggie when the eco-labels were included, while 15 per cent more went for vegetarian or chicken – the second most sustainable option.

The authors wrote: ‘The eco-label was particularly effective among those who were motivated to act sustainably.’

WHAT IS THE CARBON FOOTPRINT OF SANDWICHES?

The overall annual consumption of sandwiches across the UK has the same environmental impact as the use of around eight million cars a year, scientists have claimed.

Researchers arrived at the figure after studying the carbon footprint of different types of sandwiches – both home-made and pre-packaged. 

The team from the University of Manchester calculated the carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq) – a standard unit for measuring carbon footprints – for the snacks. 

Their calculation was based on British Sandwich Association (BSA) figures that 11.5 billion sandwiches are eaten each year in the UK.

This shows the total carbon footprint (grams of CO2 per sandwich) of 24 shop-bought sandwiches.

All-day-breakfast 1441.3g

Ham and cheese 1349.5g 

Prawn and mayo 1254.7g 

Egg and bacon 1182.4g

Ham salad 1119.1g 

Cheese Ploughman’s 1112.1g 

Sausage and brown sauce 1087.2g

Double cheese and onion 1078.4g 

Cheese & tomato 1067.3g 

Roast chicken and bacon 1030g

Bacon, lettuce and tomato 1007.4g

Ham & mustard 1000.5g

Roast chicken and stuffing 991g 

Ham and mayo 978.2g

Cheese and mayo 976.2g 

Chicken salad 963g 

Cheese & pickle 956.4g 

Ham and egg 947.8g 

Tuna and cucumber 942.9g 

Chicken and mayo 887g 

Free range egg and rocket 853.8g

Tuna and sweet corn 851.6g 

Chicken & sweetcorn 769g 

Egg mayo and cress 739.0g 

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