No Matter How You Slice It, Bread Has a Significant Carbon Footprint


Bread is a food as common as they come. Many eat it almost everyday. So it might surprise you to learn that this seemingly inconspicuous item actually has quite the impact on our environment.

How big of a carbon footprint does bread making have on the environment? A carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide let into the atmosphere by human activity. A study published recently in the journal Nature Plants closely observed the “real-world supply chain” of bread making.

The researchers behind the study completed a life cycle analysis of every step of the bread-making process, from planting the wheat to grinding flour at mills and sending it to bakeries to shipping it to vendors. Many of the steps, especially in the farming process involved using energy and intensive machinery. In fact, 66 of the carbon emissions from fertilizer alone accounted for 40 percent of emissions associated with growing wheat.

Fertilizer plays a key part in bread’s footprint. To reduce food production waste, humans need to urge fertilizer manufacturers to cut down on environmentally-unfriendly practices and to take steps towards sustainability. For example, they could use ingredients that wouldn’t cause water pollution for when fertilizer seeps into streams or rivers. Also, to grow wheat sufficiently farmers must prepare, irrigate, harvest, and transport soil. They can also help reduce the carbon footprint of bread further by using fertilizer only when the crops really need it.

We often take bread off a packed shelf and consume it without thinking about the environmental footprint it created coming to us. Being more conscious of how our food is made is critical to a sustainable future for the Earth.

[Source: Wisconsin Public Radio NPR News & Classical Network]

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