The cheeseburger footprint e85 gas stations in iowa

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We’re growing accustomed to thinking about the greenhouse gas impact of transportation and energy production, but nearly everything we do leaves a carbon footprint. If it requires energy to make or do, chances are, some carbon was emitted along the way. gas oil ratio But these are the early days of the climate awareness era, and it’s not yet habit to consider the greenhouse implications of otherwise prosaic actions.

So as an exercise, let’s examine the carbon footprint of something commonplace — a cheeseburger. grade 9 electricity formulas There’s a good chance you’ve eaten one this week, perhaps even today. What was its greenhouse gas impact? Do you have any idea? This is the kind of question we’ll be forced to ask more often as we pay greater attention to our individual greenhouse gas emissions.

Burgers are common food items for most people in the US — surprisingly common. electricity for kids Estimates for the average American diet range from an average of about one per week, or about 50/year ( Fast Food Nation) to as many as three burgers per week, or roughly 150/year (the Economist, among other sources). So what’s the global warming impact of all those cheeseburgers? I don’t just mean cooking the burger; I mean the gamut of energy costs associated with a hamburger — including growing the feed for the cattle for beef and cheese, growing the produce, storing and transporting the components, as well as cooking.

The first step in answering this question requires figuring out the life cycle energy of a cheeseburger, and it turns out we’re in luck. Energy Use in the Food Sector (PDF), a 2000 report from Stockholm University and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, does just that. i feel electricity in my body This highly-detailed report covers the myriad elements going into the production of the components of a burger, from growing and milling the wheat to make bread, to feeding, slaughtering and freezing the cattle for meat — even the energy costs of pickling cucumbers. electricity experiments for high school The report is fascinating in its own right, but it also gives us exactly what we need to make a relatively decent estimation of the carbon footprint of a burger.

With these ranges in hand, we can then convert the energy use into carbon dioxide emissions, based on fuel. Diesel is straightforward. electricity production in north korea For electricity, we should calculate the footprint using both natural gas and coal, as their carbon emissions vary considerably. (If you’re lucky enough to have your local cattle ranches, farms and burger joints powered by wind farm, you can drop that part of the footprint entirely.) The results:

…for a combined carbon dioxide footprint of a cheeseburger of 766 grams of CO2 (at the low end, with gas) to 3000 grams of CO2 (at the high end, with coal). Adding in the carbon from operating the restaurant (and driving to the burger shop in the first place), we can reasonably call it somewhere between 1 kilogram and 3.5 kilograms of energy-based carbon dioxide emissions per cheeseburger.

By regulation, a beef cow must be at least 21 months old before going to the slaughterhouse; let’s call it two years. gas oil A single cow produces about 110 kilos of methane per year in manure and what the EPA delicately calls " enteric fermentation," so over its likely lifetime, a beef cow produces 220 kilos of methane. Since a single kilo of methane is the equivalent of 23 kilos of carbon dioxide, a single beef cow produces a bit more than 5,000 CO2-equivalent kilograms of methane over its life.

A typical beef cow produces approximately 500 lbs of meat for boneless steaks and ground beef. If we assume that the typical burger is a quarter-pound of pre-cooked meat, that’s 2,000 burgers per cow. Dividing the methane total by the number of burgers, then, we get about 2.6 CO2-equivalent kilograms of additional greenhouse gas emissions from methane, per burger, or roughly as much greenhouse gas produced from cow burps (etc.) as from all of the energy used to raise, feed or produce all of the components of a completed cheeseburger!

This was, ultimately, an attempt to take a remarkably prosaic activity and parse out its carbon aspects. After all, we’re all increasingly accustomed to recognizing obvious, direct carbon emissions, but we’re still wrapping our heads around the secondary and tertiary sources. gas 2016 Exercises like this one help to reveal the less-obvious ways that our behaviors and choices impact the planet and our civilization.

I doubt that we’ll have to go through this process with everything we eat, from now until the end of the world. As our societies become more conscious of the impact of greenhouse gases, and the need for very tight and careful controls on just how much carbon we dump into the air, we’ll need to create mechanisms for carbon transparency. Be they labels, icons, color-codes, or arphid, we’ll need to be able to see, at a glance, just how much of a hit our personal carbon budgets take with each purchase.