WHAT IS NET ZERO FOOD?
The food you are eating right now has been gone through a long process until reaching your plate. From the crop, the farm or even the sea all ingredients have been transported to the food manufacturing site, where they have been processed to become the final product suitable for eating. Once packed, they have been delivered to the store for customers like you to buy them.
This process comprises many different activities like growing, harvesting, cleaning, transporting and producing that have a negative impact on the environment. For example, the use of fertilizer releases nitrous oaide ( a very powerful climate change gas ) to the atmosphere and manufacturing factories require energy that may come from non-renewable sources which emit CO2e and cause air pollution.
As you may know CO2e includes all climate heating gases like methane and nitrous oxide and expresses this as equivalent to CO2. The sum of all these gas emissions produced by growing, rearing, farming, processing, transporting, storing, cooking and disposing of the waste is the carbon footprint of the food. The total amount of carbon equivalent released to the atmosphere is called the embedded CO2e. While transport is one factor, on average it is only 5% of this total embedded CO2e. Most of this CO2e comes from the farm in the form of nitrous oxide, land management systems that reduce soil carbon and deforestation
However not all emissions are the same. They are categorized into three groups named “scopes” depending on the origin and control companies have over them:
- Scope 1 – All Direct Emissions, related to fuel combustion and under control of the company
- Scope 2 – Indirect Emissions, linked to electricity purchased and also under control of the company
- Scope 3 – All Other Indirect Emissions, associated with the food,, the packaging, the transportation and distribution and many other factors. Most of these are not under the control of the company and easily have the greatest share of the carbon footprint of a food product.
The last category, Scope 3, is by far the most difficult one to calculate. However all of them must be taken into account if we want to know the real total amount of embedded carbon on our plate.
There is no practical way yet to get food to a factory gate without releasing climate heating gas. To get to net zero a company starts by using renewable energy and then offsets the CO2e in the food they produce.. One of the best methods to do this is by planting trees as they capture CO2 and use it to build their trunks, branches, roots, and leaves. By doing this planting, companies can “absorb” from the air the same amount of carbon that has been released to manufacture their products.
We can consider as net zero all foods whose total carbon emissions have been calculated in order to sequester them back from the atmosphere and then plants trees or some other system that sequesters carbon from the air.. Therefore the impact of their manufacturing process on the climate has been “neutralized”.
WHY SHOULD WE CONSUME NET ZERO FOOD?
Switching the lights off when you leave the room and unplugging your electronic devices when they are not in use are some easy examples of actions you do in your daily life to consume less energy. Also using public transport or commuting by bike are simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
Eating net zero food is just other habit you can incorporate in your routine to take care of the environment. We turn on and off several lights every day and we also eat several times per day. If you think about it, we all eat at least three times per day and every day of the year during our entire life so you cannot imagine how many tons of food each human consumes in total and how big is our personal carbon footprint.
For example, eating just a serving of avocado once a day contributes approximately 72kg to greenhouse gas emissions per year. That is the same of driving 297km with a car, heating a home for 11 days or taking 252 showers lasting eight minutes.
You probably were not expecting such a high amount and we can imagine how surprised you may be right now. As you can see, consuming net zero food has a much higher positive impact on the environment than you think and can really make a difference in the fight against climate warming.
In this piece of news by BBC you can check the impact of some of the food you eat everyday: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46459714
WHERE CAN I BUY NET ZERO FOOD?
Up until now there were no carbon neutral foods available in the market but this has recently changed. We are happy to announce that Alara has become the first cereal manufacturer on Earth to produce net zero food after the launch of our new cereal line including their embedded CO2e on pack.
Our new net zero food cereals are available in four different flavours – Apple & Cinnamon Bircher, Crispy Fruit Muesli, Fruits & Seeds Muesli and Original Muesli – and each of them have also a different embedded CO2e depending on their ingredients.
Our Crispy Fruit Muesli goes first in the ranking as it has 105g per 100g followed by Original Muesli with 79g per 100g, Fruits & Seeds Muesli with 72g per 100g and Apple & Cinnamon Bircher with 62g per 100g.
You can easily check these numbers at the back of each pack:
As you can see these numbers significantly change between these four products. Apple & Cinnamon is the recipe with less carbon emissions while Crispy Fruit Muesli goes first but the reason behind this is easy to understand. Both of them have a similar amount of ingredients but for example, the crispy what flakes have been cooked much longer and these differences are responsible of this difference. Every ingredient has an impact on the environment as does every tiny action we make to fight against climate warming.
HOW DO WE MAKE SURE THESE FOUR PRODUCTS ARE NET ZERO FOOD?
We made a list of the 21 raw ingredients we use in these four new products. Then a team of tutors and students at Westminster University helped us to research the total embedded CO2e of each of them until they leave our premises.
As we were already aware of the Scope 1 and 2, they evaluated the Scope 3. This way we were finally able to calculate the total amount of embedded carbon both direct and indirect.
We took these numbers and talked to Rainforest Saver, an organization dedicated to promote environmentally-friendly farming techniques amongst Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and South America farmers. Cutting and burning plants, also known as slash-and-burn agriculture, is a widely used method to clear the land to cultivate food, but it causes huge damage to the environment. Rainforest Saver promotes an alternative farming technique consisting on planting a tree called Inga, which has been proved to maintain soil fertility and good harvests without destroying the forest as it sequesters nitrogen.
We donate money to Rainforest Saver to promote the Inga alley cropping in those areas so they can help farmers to learn how to plant these trees. By doing this we do not only prevent the forest from being destroyed but also to offset our carbon emissions, as each Inga tree will capture an average of 1,250 of CO2 during its life.
By comparing our embedded CO2e with the average quantity absorbed by each tree, we can offset all carbon emissions we have generated along the manufacturing process. This way we take back from the atmosphere, all gases we have released before to produce the cereals you have in front of you.
HOW WE CALCULATE AND WHAT WE PAY FOR OUR OFFSETS WITH RAINFOREST SAVER?
Alara started contributing to Rainforest Saver in 2015 to help support their capacity building and so far we have sent them £35,000.
We are now changing our payment system to them and from now on we will remit a minimum of £550 per month. We also increase it if the cost of the embedded CO2 in our net zero products exceeds the cost of carbon on the UK carbon market.
The carbon market opened in the UK after Brexit on 19th of May with a price of approximately £50 for Carbon. As the atomic weight of a carbon atom is 12 and the atomic weight of oxygen is 16 the total atomic weight of CO2 is 44 (12 + (16 * 2) = 44) so 1kg of CO2 can be expressed as 0.27kg of carbon.
The traded price is therefore £13.50 for a ton of CO2. We get our carbon price from for our offset from here: https://www.energylivenews.com/2021/05/20/britains-emissions-trading-system-starts-with-a-boom/
HOW DO OUR CEREALS COMPARE TO OTHER BREAKFAST?
You may believe there is not much of a difference but there is! For example the embedded carbon of a fried eggs and bacon breakfast is the same as leaving a bulb on for 17 hours. Similarly having avocado on toast equals to 6.5 hours. However making porridge with Alara cereals emits as much carbon as switching off the lights of your house, zero.
HOW MUCH CO2e ARE WE OFFSETTING?
Below you can find our monthly report gathering the total embedded carbon of the sales of our four products together with its total cost in the market and the contributions made to Rainforest Saver. We will keep it updated so get back at the end of every month to check how we are doing.
|Embedded CO2e (T)||CO2e Trade price||Contributions to Rainforest Saver|
|Period/ Product||Bircher Apple and Cinnamon||Original||Crispy Fruit||Fruits & Seeds||TOTAL (T)||Total Amount (£)||Total Amount (£)|
This is just the first step in our journey. We are planning to extend this new feature to all our range so keep an eye on our website for updates.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO TRY OUR NET ZERO MUESLI?
Please fill in the form below and some samples will be at your door in a few days.
Delicious, nutritious and sustainable. Tasty without compromise. This is how we think food should be.