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Food’s Carbon Footprint in Saudi Arabia and Food Choices to Reduce it.

The way we consume our food has a significant impact on our planet. Food production, processing, packaging, transportation, and cooking are all significant contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Food accounts for one-quarter of the global GHG emissions. The global food wastage has increased to approximately 1.3 billion tonnes, that is roughly one- third of the food available for human consumption.



The food waste in Saudi Arabia is one of the major challenges to food security in the kingdom. According to Saudi Grains Organization (SAGO), the average food waste per capita is almost 184kg, whereas it is between 95-115 kg in Europe and North America. The deserted kingdom, with scarce water sources and limited cultivable land, much depends on food imports to meet ever-growing food demand. Given the environmental, financial and food security challenges, Saudi Arabia launched a national program that aims to reduce the food waste by 50% by 2030.

People around the globe are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of their food and diet choices on food security and food footprint. However, in Saudi Arabia, the excess and lavish display of the food at parties, weddings, social events or celebration is still regarded as a symbol of hospitality and generosity. There is little to no understanding that each spoonful of food contributed to GHG emissions before it reached our plate. And when we throw our food away, the wasted food that ends up rotting in landfills, again releases GHG emissions. Although it is no possible to completely zero-out food footprint overnight, changing our food choices slightly and adapting climate-friendly eating habits can significantly improve food security, reduce carbon footprint and slow global warming. Here is what you can do to reduce your food footprint:

Know food ranking based on food’s carbon footprint: To reduce carbon footprint, the first and foremost step is to understand the carbon footprint of the food we consume. Meat and dairy products are on the top of carbon footprint rankings while vegetable, fruits, lentils, and nuts have the lowest carbon footprint. Reducing our meat and dairy consumption and moving towards a vegetarian diet can have a significant impact on our environment.

Reduce Food Waste: Generally, people purchase more food than they need and end up throwing excess food in the garbage. Before purchasing your food, always ask yourself, do I need this much quantity? Is their any greener or less processed alternative available?. Further, in Saudi Arabia, food waste is common in social events and celebrations. To reduce food waste, it is imperative to estimate the amount of food required and plan accordingly carefully. If you have leftovers from your kitchen or any social event, pack them and donate them to a food bank or distribute them in poor and needy.

Prefer Home Cooked food: Eating home-cooked food means you are slashing the resources needed for processed foods to reach your plate. Go for energy-efficient ovens or cooking stoves, plan for meals and save your leftovers for the later use.

Eat Local and Eat Seasonally: Eating locally grown food not only reduces GHG emissions due to food transportation but also helps to support local farmers. Though, Saudi Arabia (being a deserted area) heavily relies on food imports, prefer locally grown food whenever possible. In most cases, non-seasonal food is imported or requires more resources to produce, process and transport. Eating seasonal food indirectly helps in cutting the food imports and improving environmental footprint. It will further help to enhance your intake of fresh food.

Be an Advocate for Action: The food security and carbon emission is not a particular headache but collectively affects us all. Every voice matters to make people aware of the importance of food security, global warming and its disastrous impacts on our life. Be an advocate for food security and climate protection push government towards sustainability. In a nutshell: simple choices can lead to significant differences in future. Consuming less processed food, eating more home-cooked food, using less plastic, and reducing your food waste can bring about a significant change in the environment. Be a responsible citizen and bring your friends and colleagues along for this ride.


Written by Tayyab Asharafat

A dedicated Khadoum volunteer


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