If the numbers on your oat drink carton brought you to this page, cool. We’re hoping the food industry might drop by, too.
Humans eat and drink a lot. That is to say, all of the eating and drinking we humans do every day all over this planet of ours adds up to a massive impact on this planet of ours. In fact, food consumption accounts for a quarter of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions. So as you’ve heard a bajillion times, any changes we humans can generate in this area will absolutely make a huge difference. But the part where everyone knows precisely how to make the changes, or even where to begin, still seems to be missing.
So we thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if it was easy for people to see and compare the climate impact of different products right in the grocery aisle before even deciding what to put in the cart?” But we didn’t just think it in a “It might be fun for us, as one small oat company, to stick climate impact numbers on our products” kind of way, but more like a, “We believe that consumer empowerment should be a law, if not a human right” kind of way. Because if you think about it, a requirement to show a food product’s climate footprint isn’t so different from the rules governing the labelling of fat, sugar and other nutrients. However, getting everyone involved to agree about how that could be done will take time, and we are impatient — which is why we’ve decided to take the lead and do it on our own. (Or well, not totally on our own but with a company called CarbonCloud. We’ll tell you more about that later.)
All values are expressed in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e), the same measure used by the UNFCCC and The European Commission, which converts the varying effects of different gases into the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) it would take to create the same greenhouse effect. Got that? In other words, you can compare a flight with a piece of meat or a sweater with a glass of oat drink (or maybe things that are more logical to compare, like two different meals or a trip by air vs. train).
In case you haven’t already noticed them, we’d like to let you know that our CO2e figures can be found on the back of our packaging and in some cases, in a small bubble on the front of our oat drink cartons. It’s going to take a few months for us to have all the figures calculated and printed on all of our products, so if you’re an early adopter type, we suggest visiting our product pages where the figures will be posted as soon as we get them. The good news is, before the end of 2019, all the figures should be in place.
Now, the one problem with all these numbers is they don’t really say much as long as there’s nothing to compare them with. Like, is 0.38 CO2e really good or ridiculously terrible or somewhere in between? The solution, of course, is for more of the food industry to put their figures on the table — or preferably right on their packaging. So feel free to contact the food producers you’d like to compare us with and politely demand that they show us their numbers. You can blame this pushy piece of copy, if that helps.
And while you’re waiting for the numbers to come in, you might want to check out the "One Planet Plate" website created by the Swedish WWF together with researchers. It can give you a feeling of what numbers are reasonable. Their theory says the framework for a sustainable weekly menu is 11 kg CO2e per person, which corresponds to about 0.5 kg CO2e per meal.
First off, we didn’t do the calculations ourselves, they’ve actually been done by a company called CarbonCloud. This is important to emphasize. CarbonCloud's model is based on twenty years of research and has been reviewed in connection with a wide range of scientific publications. It has been used by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and is also the basis for international cooperation, for example with Princeton University and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). Okay, now to the “how” part. So CarbonCloud’s calculations are based on an analysis of the various steps in the product's “life" — in our case, from farm to shop. In this kind of life cycle analysis, you not only see how much greenhouse gases the product generates in total, it also becomes clear which steps generate the most emissions — and quite often, the biggest offenders may not be what you’d expect.
If you take a closer look at each of the steps, you’ll see, for example, that the greatest impact in the production of a food is neither the transport nor the packaging, but it is almost always in the "farm step” — during the creation of the raw material itself. Below, you can see how much CO2e is generated in each step of production of our oat drink as compared to cow's milk.
Today, animal-based products account for more than half (60%) of global food emissions, but supply only 18% of calories.* Clearly, that is a waste of resources, and one reason why virtually all researchers agree that we humans have to eat more plant-based if we want to cope with the climate challenges we’re facing.
Well, you have to draw the line somewhere. The production of equipment/machines and buildings is not included in the calculations, nor are our employees' transport to and from their job or overall business activities such as research, product development, sales and marketing. The reason for this is that these greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to be very small in relation to the total emissions and basically negligible.
The calculations include the steps from farm to shop. But we hear you. “Hey, this doesn’t cover the whole life of the product!” True, but what happens to the product after the shop step is difficult to figure out because we don’t know, for example, how and how far it is transported by the consumer, or if and how the packaging is recycled. So, when it comes to the climate impact of the product's after-shop life, you can make a difference yourself! (Is this piece of pushy copy ever going to end?)
No. Absolutely not. Because while our products are more climate-friendly than many alternatives, we want them to be even better. In fact, it’s exactly what we’re working on every day! So if you have some free time and want to become an expert about how we work (and the current status of it all), we have a sustainability report that’s just hanging around on the other end of our website, just waiting for you to read it. Just click here and enjoy!
*Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers: J. Poore1 and T. Nemecek (2018)