The carbon footprint

The impact of food waste

There is no simple way of calculating the impact of food waste on GHG emissions, nor is there a straightforward way of estimating the carbon footprint of food in general. Different food items simply have different carbon intensities for different reasons (FAO, 2015):

  • Food is produced through different processes and lifecycles
  • Food travels in different ways
  • Food is produced in different locations and circumstances
  • Food contains different ingredients and resources
  • Food has direct (transportation, production etc) and indirect (land use) emissions

This leads to significant uncertainty in attributing emissions. There are many studies and methodologies out there, and so we had to make a choice in order to measure the impact of meals saved on the environment.  Want to know how emissions and food are connected? Then have a look here.

Our calculation

In the end, we decided to follow the research conducted by the Food & Agriculture Organizaton of the United Nations (FAO) from 2013. It estimates that if food waste were a country, then it would be the third highest emitter of GHG emissions. Each year, we waste 1.3 gigatons of edible food and this releases 3.3 gigatons of CO2 equivalent (without taking into account land use change). This means that 1kg of food waste equals to 2.5 kg of CO2 equivalent (or 2.53846 kg to be more exact).

At Too Good To Go, 1 magic bag sold is counted as 1 meal saved, equalling on average to 1 kg of food and hence 2.5 kg CO2 saved.

We are not living in a perfect world and at times these calculations may not be an entirely accurate representation. Therefore, it is important to keep these things in mind for the calculations made:

  • Emissions of specific GHGs are converted into CO2 equivalents. How? Find out more here
  • Carbon footprint of food waste may not necessarily be related to weight. Why? Find out more here
  • It is difficult to define what percentage of food waste is edible and/or inedible. Why? Find out more here

We are always looking for new ways to update our calculation with recent estimations, so please contact us if you know of any newly released research.