Online Program

Climate Mitigation by Dietary Choices: The Carbon Footprint of Tofu

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Maximino Mejia, DrPH, Department of Public Health, Nutrition and Wellness, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI
Karen Jaceldo-Siegl, PhD, Adventist Health Study, School of Public Health, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA
Helen Harwatt, PhD, School of Public Health, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA
Joan Sabate, MD, MPH, School of Public Health, Center for Nutrition, Healthy Lifestyle & Disease Prevention, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA
Sherine Brown-Fraser, PhD, RD, Public Health, Nutrition, & Wellness, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI
Samuel Soret, PhD, MPH, School of Public Health, Center for Community Resilience, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA
A growing number of analyses demonstrate that in order to achieve global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs) targets, it is necessary to reduce GHGEs generated by the food industry.  Protein rich foods of animal origin have a particularly high contribution to global GHGEs; therefore, to mitigate climate change it is imperative to identify protein rich foods with a relatively low carbon footprint. The purpose of this study was to assess the GHGEs generated from tofu production.

We utilized SimaPro 8.0 software to calculate the GHGEs with global warming potential (carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O)) following the Traci 2 life cycle impact assessment (LCA) methodology with 100 years horizon.  To calculate the GHGEs we used cumulative data provided by a tofu manufacturer that contained all the inputs needed to produce tofu (soybeans, transportation, packaging materials, electricity, gas and water), including office operations.  The GHGEs are expressed as CO2 equivalents (CO2eq). Our functional unit was 1 kg of tofu and 1 kg of protein. The LCA boundaries are from the cradle (farm production) to factory gate.

Producing 1 kg of packaged tofu generates 0.622 kg CO2 eq. Producing 1 kg of protein from tofu generates 6.22 kg CO2 eq.    Comparatively, the GHGEs reported by SimaPro for producing beef round fresh at the warehouse generates 43 kg of CO2 eq per kg of beef and 184 kg of CO2eq per kg of protein from beef.

Tofu is a protein rich food with a low greenhouse gas footprint when compared to beef; therefore, it is a food that can be considered as part of climate change mitigation plans that reduce GHGEs through implementing alternative dietary choices.

Learning Areas:

Environmental health sciences

Learning Objectives:
Compare the greenhouse gas emissions generated from protein rich foods. Describe one way to mitigate climate change through dietary choices.

Keyword(s): Food Security, Climate and Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am lead life cycle assessment analyst and research team member of the Adventist Health Study, a cohort of 100,000 subjects. Recently we published the greenhouse gas emissions generated by diverse dietary patterns (Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jun 4;100(Supplement 1):490S-495S). I have extensive experience in assessing the environmental impact of foods.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.