Greenhouse gas emissions and the Australian diet—comparing dietary recommendations with average intakes

Gilly A Hendrie, Brad G Ridoutt, Thomas O Wiedmann, Manny Noakes
Nutrients 2014 January 8, 6 (1): 289-303
Nutrition guidelines now consider the environmental impact of food choices as well as maintaining health. In Australia there is insufficient data quantifying the environmental impact of diets, limiting our ability to make evidence-based recommendations. This paper used an environmentally extended input-output model of the economy to estimate greenhouse gas emissions (GHGe) for different food sectors. These data were augmented with food intake estimates from the 1995 Australian National Nutrition Survey. The GHGe of the average Australian diet was 14.5 kg carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) per person per day. The recommended dietary patterns in the Australian Dietary Guidelines are nutrient rich and have the lowest GHGe (~25% lower than the average diet). Food groups that made the greatest contribution to diet-related GHGe were red meat (8.0 kg CO2e per person per day) and energy-dense, nutrient poor "non-core" foods (3.9 kg CO2e). Non-core foods accounted for 27% of the diet-related emissions. A reduction in non-core foods and consuming the recommended serves of core foods are strategies which may achieve benefits for population health and the environment. These data will enable comparisons between changes in dietary intake and GHGe over time, and provide a reference point for diets which meet population nutrient requirements and have the lowest GHGe.

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