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Giving a toss about the climate



Shrove Tuesday, or more famously known as Pancake Day, is the traditional feast day before the start of lent, but have you ever wondered the level of carbon produced by making the pancakes on the day?


There are many ways to measure how environmentally friendly something is, in this case we have concentrated on the level of carbon produced by the food.


As reference, BBC’s traditional pancake recipe was used. For this the ingredients were:


· 100g of flour

· 300ml of milk

· 2 large eggs


For this recipe a batch of pancakes will produce 1070g CO2e, that however does not include oil or any toppings.


For toppings, the first we would come to of course would be lemon and sugar. Lemons are 90g CO2e each. Sugar is 2kg CO2e per kilo. The average person has about a 6th of a lemon and two teaspoons of sugar per pancake this combined topping creates 31g of CO2e.

Next, we get onto fruits, strawberries and bananas are popular toppings for pancake day. As the strawberry season starts in May, we would need to consider the CO2e for out of season strawberries. This is approximately 29g CO2e per strawberry. A banana on the other hand has an even higher level of CO2e at 80g each.


If you like to lather on thick your chocolate spread this could amount to a high level of carbon being produced. Although there is no data for chocolate spread specifically, for a 45g chocolate bar, 855g of CO2e is produced. Ice cream is also a high carbon contributor with a whopping 500g CO2e per scoop. Although this can be contributed to cows producing methane. For a savoury option, cheese is 60g of CO2e per 50g chunk.


However, let’s not forgot to include how the food ended up in your local store to begin with. The transportation method used will also have an impact on the level of carbon. Which would increase the overall carbon produced on the day.


Climate change is having an impact on the foods we love to pair with pancakes. Maple syrup, another popular topping, is at risk due to warming temperatures. These rising temperatures are making it difficult for the trees to produce syrup and is also affecting the quality. In addition, these rising temperatures are also having an impact on fruit production. The yields of grapes, bananas and other soft fruits are at risk of plummeting to almost a third as one study found.


By being more aware of our food and how it gets to our cupboards, it will enable us to become one step closer to becoming more carbon friendly. If you are interested in finding out your diets carbon footprint, the BBC has created a climate change food calculator which can be accessed here.


For the quickest and most impactful way to reduce the carbon of pancakes would be to use plant based alternatives. See BBC's plant based pancake recipe here


Which carbon emitting food or action are you giving up this lent?


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