How is your diet affecting your yearly CO2 emissions?

How is your diet affecting your yearly CO2 emissions?

So recently we have been digging more into the actual environmental impact different kinds of transportation have. In our latest blog post, we revealed the total cost, time and CO2 emission of our road trip from Copenhagen to Malaga and we compared it to flying the same distance. And the result was actually shocking! But when we showed you our findings of how damaging the flight would be compared to taking the car, one question you guys kept asking us was:

“What if we do take flights on vacation, but at the same time we eat vegan(or cut down on meat) – Doesn’t that save up some CO2, that we can use on flying instead?”

And honestly, this is one of the myths we see a lot on social media! Especially when we talk about the fact that we MAX fly once a year, we get a lot of comments from people who continue to fly a lot, but they recycle, eat less meat and secondhand shop – because they care about the environment. So it would be so interesting to investigate how much our diets really are affecting our CO2 emissions! And also see if people are actually able to save some CO2 by changing their diets and in that way “save up some unused CO2” they can use on their flights.

So in this blog post, we are going to investigate how your diet is affecting your yearly CO2 emissions!

According to Source 1, this is how many kg CO2 different diets emits yearly(Source: 1):

  • Diet group 1: If you eat meat every day and beef is a big part of your diet you emit around 2600 kg CO2 yearly.
  • Diet group 2: If you have 1 meat-free day every week and you eat a variety of meat you emit around 2000 kg CO2 yearly.
  • Diet group 3: If you eat meat 3 days a week and it mostly consists of fish and chicken you will emit around 1200 kg CO2 every year.
  • Diet group 4: If you are vegetarian that number is around 1000 kg CO2 yearly.
  • Diet group 5: If you have a vegan diet you emit around 640 Kg CO2 yearly.

A danish article from 2018 shows that the average Danish person eats around 840 g red meat weekly(Source: 2). That is 120 g daily. So that will place the average Danish person in diet group 1, where the person’s diet is consisting of meat every day and where beef is a big part of the person’s diet. That means that the average Dane emits around 2600 kg CO2 yearly through their diet.

Can you “save up” emissions by changing your diet, that you can use on flights instead?

How much CO2 you can save yearly due to a change in your diet will depend on how your diet is today. By switching to a vegan diet the average Dane will be able to lower their CO2 emissions from 2600 kg CO2 yearly to 640 kg CO2 yearly. This is a total difference of 1960 kg CO2 saved yearly.

So theoretically, if you change your diet from diet group 1 to diet group 5, you can save 1960 kg CO2 yearly, that you can use on flights instead.

HOWEVER, we want to make it very clear that we should all try to lower our emissions in all aspects of our life from diet to transportation! Not just lower our CO2 emissions in one aspect of our life, so we can continue to have high CO2 emissions in another aspect. The climate crisis is very real and imminent, and we all need to do what we can to lower our total amount of yearly emissions. Therefore, we do not recommend anyone to change their diets just so they can continue flying. We encourage everyone to change their diets AND lower their number of flights.

How much am I able to fly if I change my diet?

Having said that – we are going to make a fun little theoretical overview of how much you are able to fly if you change your diet and save CO2. We are going to use the example of a person changing their diet from diet group 1 to a vegan diet (diet group 5). Our recent findings were that this person can save 1960 kg of CO2 yearly by changing their diet. If this person were to use the 1960 kg of CO2 on flights this is how many flights the person could take:

2 roundtrips from Copenhagen to Rome

One roundtrip per person in economy class from Copenhagen to Rome emits 883 kg CO2. If we divide our total saved CO2(change in diet) with the total flight emission of this trip, we will know how many roundtrips from Copenhagen to Rome we are able to take every year by changing our diet.

1960 kg CO2 / 883 kg CO2 = 2,2 roundtrips

Theoretically, this means, that every year you can fly two times from Copenhagen to Rome and back by changing your diet from eating meat every day to eating vegan. In other words, changing your diet could save the amount of CO2 that is equivalent to two short-distance flights roundtrip yearly.

0,3 roundtrip from Copenhagen to Australia

One roundtrip per person in economy class from Copenhagen to Brisbane with overlay in Singapore emits around 7515 kg CO2. We are going to calculate how many roundtrips it is possible to fly from Copenhagen to Brisbane by changing our diet in the same way as we did before:

1960 kg CO2 / 7515 kg CO2 = 0,26 roundtrips

Theoretically, this means, that you cannot even fly once(not even one way only) from Copenhagen to Australia by changing your diet from eating meat every day to eating vegan. In other words, changing your diet can not save the amount of CO2 that is equivalent to one long-distance flight roundtrip yearly.

0,8 roundtrips from Copenhagen to Dubai

One roundtrip per person in economy class from Copenhagen to Dubai emits around 2547 kg CO2. We are going to calculate how many roundtrips it is possible to take from Copenhagen to Dubai by changing our diet in the same way as we did before:

1960 kg CO2 / 2547 kg CO2 = 0,77 roundtrips

Theoretically, this means, that you cannot fly roundtrip once from Copenhagen to Dubai by changing your diet from eating meat every day to eating vegan. Again this shows that changing your diet can not save the amount of CO2 that is equivalent to one long-distance flight roundtrip yearly.

Myth busted: You cannot offset your long-distance flights by changing your diet!

Our conclusion is, that if you change your diet from eating meat every day to eating vegan, you can save around 1960 kg CO2 yearly. However, this amount of saved CO2 is not even enough to fly roundtrip from Copenhagen to Dubai – and not even close to flying one way only to Australia once on a yearly basis. Therefore, a change in your diet can not save the amount of CO2 that is equivalent to one long-distance flight roundtrip yearly.

Lastly, we want to emphasize again, that we should not just lower our CO2 emissions in one aspect of our life, so we can continue to have high CO2 emissions in another aspect. We all need to do what we can to lower our total amount of yearly emissions.

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