NZ household’s carbon footprint

We have discovered in a previous post that what we are eating has a significant impact on our Carbon footprint. How come food has such an impact on the environment? Is there “environmental” good and bad food?

Feeding the world releases up to 17,000 mega tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2eq) into atmosphere annually, according to the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) it represents approximately 29% of Global Greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture (growing crops, raising livestock, manufacturing and use of fertiliser) accounts for 80% of these emissions. However the combined contribution of transport, refrigeration, consumer practices and waste management is growing (20% of total Food GHG emissions in 2012)

In New Zealand, an average household spend approximately $8,500 in food (based on the average number of people in each household of 2.07), generating 6.3 tonnes of CO2eq. Meat, poultry and fish account for 34% of these emissions, followed by processed food (21%), fruit and vegetables (19%) and milk/cheese & eggs (17%).


Carbon footprint (i.e the amount of GHG released along the ingredients whole supply chain, including agriculture, storage, transport and refrigeration) varies significantly from one ingredients to another as shown on the graphs below, based on our calculations.


In order to lower the greenhouse gases released by global food supply change, regulatory framework for sustainable farming and strong leadership from businesses and governmental agencies is required to develop new technology and release farming best practices.  Beyond its direct influence on Climate Change, agriculture is also strongly impact by Climate Change (Draught, Flood, Water scarcity…) so the way the science is spread will be key to create a sustainable resilient Food industry. CCAFS.s program director, Bruce Campbell said that “Farmers around the world, especially smallholder farmers in developing countries, need access to the latest science, more resources and advanced technology”.

Even if a global consensus is needed, consumers at their level also have a key role. Colibri is developing a carbon footprint database to ultimately help NZ consumers with their food purchase decision. By providing clear environmental information, we hope to engage people and retailers toward sustainable consumption.

If you want to know more about the carbon footprint of food ingredients or if you have any question about the source and methodology used to obtain those results, feel free to contact us. We will be happy to exchange on our work.



Greenhouse Gas Emissions of a kiwi consumption

New Zealand’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) is pretty big when compared with other developed countries. “How come?” You may ask “We are using mainly renewable electricity!” Well, the GHG per capita is usually calculated by taking total emissions as reported under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and dividing by population.



Hence it is focused on New Zealand whole production and therefore includes emissions from exported goods (i.e. emissions from farms are included even though we are mainly exporting meat and dairy products). Does the figure change if we are focusing on the greenhouse gas emissions of our Consumption?

The following results are sourced from a study undertaken by MOTU in 2014 and show the emissions broken down by consumption group such as food or energy for an average kiwi household.


It can be noticed that Food represents 32% of kiwi household greenhouse gas annual emissions, followed by Transport (personal car, public transport, air travels…) and House utilities (e.g. electricity and gas) that account respectively for 27% and 24% of household GHG annual emissions.

The way we are consuming goods has a large impact on our environment as our yearly consumption is responsible of almost 10 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq) per year per person. For comparison, when calculated nationally on a Production basis, New Zealand’s per capita emissions reached 17.6 tonne of CO2eq and 13.4 tonnes of CO2eq if the carbon removed from forestry is included.


Whatever policy and “reduction route” is taken at a global and national level, it seems obvious that a change in our consumption is a key to drive significantly climate change mitigation. Colibri is a first step of a 1000 miles journey, let’s walk with us.