Carbon Footprint of Potatoes By Products: Calculator for Chips, Types

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Carbon Offsets Credits | March 29, 2024

Woman holding a raw vegetable and French fries wonders what is the carbon footprint of potatoes and is there a calculator for chips and potato products (frozen vs. fresh potatoes) emissions guide, that includes potato farming, production, processing?

Have you ever considered or thought about the carbon footprint of potatoes?

How you cook potatoes, the amount you waste annually, and the myriad of ways that potatoes are planted, farmed, produced, and transported through a global supply chain system make it a great source of high-quality protein, though in low quantities, with a somewhat high carbon footprint.1

Relative to other vegetable protein sources, the carbon footprint of potatoes is fairly equal (or low), but the processing can have a huge impact on how many emissions are connected to a potato.

This guide explains the carbon footprint of potatoes and other veggies, and how processing those foods increases emissions.

Likewise, the carbon footprint calculators in this article will show you how can food choices, opting for potato chips over other types of potato products, and food preparation affect your carbon emissions.

The Carbon Footprint of Potatoes: Life Cycle

There are numerous metrics that can be used to measure the carbon footprints of potatoes, and none of them offer encouraging data.

The carbon footprint number of potatoes refers to the number of units of carbon dioxide that are created during the production cycle and the supply chain system to transport them. It also refers to how they are cooked and wasted.

Road map showing the Life Cycle Assessment of Potatoes from production, to transportation, processing, retailers, distribution, consumption and disposal.

According to one such carbon footprint statistic relative to potatoes, the average consumer releases over 6 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere for every kilogram or 2.2 pounds of potatoes consumed.27

Potato chips or “chips” can refer to thinly sliced and fried potato slices or a local U.K.-based culinary vernacular for French Fries, as they are called in the United States. The various and differing methods for cooking potatoes, and their corresponding carbon footprints, will be analyzed further in the article.

The catastrophic carbon footprint damage of potato production being wrecked on the planet’s atmosphere is measured by experts using a variety of metrics. Still, these metrics can sometimes be confusing but will be presented in a straightforward manner in this guide.

For example, 6 pounds of carbon dioxide being generated per every 2.2 pounds of potatoes being eaten is a simple metric to remember. You would have to drive a car for less than 7 miles to generate the same carbon footprint via its emissions.27

But there is more than one metric to calculate the carbon footprints of potatoes.

An even simpler metric to remember the carbon footprint of potatoes is that for every pound of potatoes produced, about 4 ounces of carbon dioxide is generated.  The average potato weighs anywhere between 4 to 5 ounces and the typical American eats the equivalent of a potato daily.

However, the issue still cannot be that simplified relative to the global problem of carbon footprints and climate.

Another way to measure the carbon footprint of potatoes is to track the lifecycle of potatoes from seed to table or from seed to grave. These sayings are just convenient and production-based terminology—potatoes can be grown from seed, but most are grown from potato pieces, halves, or roots called potato seeds.4

Seed-to-table, which can also be referred to as cradle-to-table, is a phraseology that refers to the carbon footprint of potatoes from production to your table. Seed-to-grave refers to the carbon footprint of potatoes from production that is unused and wasted and goes straight to the landfill.

For example, seed-to-table potato production refers to the carbon footprint of potatoes from planting, processing, transportation, storage, delivery to retail, and all the way to their preparation as food on your table.

The carbon footprint of potatoes generated from seed to table can be as high as 220 kilos, or 485 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton.5

The seed-to-grave lifecycle production of potatoes refers to unfinished and completely wasted potatoes and potato-derived food that ends up in landfills. Over 3 billion pounds of potatoes are thrown away and wasted annually—those are enough potatoes to give over 6 billion people a serving each in a meal.6

The amount of wasted and decomposing potatoes in landfills, and all of the accompanying transport infrastructure required to move and dump them, exponentially add to their carbon footprint metric.

The carbon footprint of potatoes in the seed-to-grave metric can be as high as 520 kilograms, or 1146 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton of potatoes.

The carbon footprint of potatoes exponentially worsens when potatoes are heavily processed, have additives added to them, or are frozen to extend their retail shelf life. The more time and energy you use to fry or cook potatoes for a meal adds more to the overall carbon footprint of potatoes calculation metric.

Consumers have to use even more energy to cook heavily processed potatoes, which adds to its already large carbon footprint. Consider that over 60% of the electricity generation in the United States is facilitated by the burning of fossil fuels.7

Another 18% of the household electricity that consumers generally take for granted is generated via nuclear energy. Less than 21% of American utility electricity is generated via renewable energy sources.

Many consumers fry, cook, or bake frozen foods, like frozen potatoes, without letting the food product thaw out completely first. So, it takes even more energy to fully cook heavily processed potatoes and potato-derived products than fresh non-frozen potatoes.

And the more electricity that you use to cook potato-based foods, the second most popular food in the country, the greater the carbon footprint that will be generated.

Over 60% of the potatoes produced in the United States are heavily processed and/or frozen and never eaten fresh by Americans.8

The carbon footprints of potatoes, specifically potatoes that are heavily processed and turned into frozen French Fries and other frozen products, have a seed-to-table carbon footprint of 950 kilograms or 2,094 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton. For added context, it’s important to note that one ton is the equivalent of 2,000 pounds.

Eye-level shot of French Fries in a round, steel strainer on top of some papers on a wooden table.

(Image: Mitchell Luo29)

Consider that for a moment—one ton of frozen potato products will generate an endpoint carbon footprint that is heavier than a ton. Also, keep in mind that this is only the seed-to-table carbon footprint metric.

The seed-to-grave carbon footprint of potatoes, specifically frozen potatoes, is estimated to be about 2,060 kilograms, or 4,541 pounds, per ton. In other words, for every ton of frozen and processed potatoes that go uneaten, wasted, and end up in landfills, the supply chain system and human activity carbon footprint that is generated from seed planting to landfill waste is more than double the original weight.

Climate change and correspondingly worsening global weather phenomena, like perpetual record-breaking heatwaves, are fueled by human and industry-caused hyper-inflated levels of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere. Numerous environmental impact experts now believe that the planet has long already passed a global tipping point of no return when it comes to untenable carbon footprints and climate change.9

The Carbon Footprint of Potatoes: The Global Tipping Point

The global tipping point is a point where the planet’s average global temperature rises only a few degrees over normal. Once that happens, the planet will become trapped in an irrevocable and self-perpetuating cycle of runaway greenhouse gas amplification, like carbon dioxide, resulting in melting glaciers, increasing temperatures, and experiencing other catastrophic weather and environmental phenomena.

If the planet has not reached a global tipping point yet, it may happen sometime in the 2030s, some scientists claim.10 The planet’s fragile ecosystem could collapse with no way to repair it anytime soon; this could certainly happen within the lifetime of the current generation of humans wittingly and unwittingly destroying it.

So, what does all of this have to do with the carbon footprint of potatoes?

The way human beings process and transport potatoes are releasing too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. If the carbon footprint of potatoes is not abated on a global scale, humanity might reach a global tipping point a lot sooner than later.

While this guide will exclusively discuss the carbon footprint of potatoes and various potato-derived food products, many types of popular foods have high carbon footprints as well. Tomatoes, bell peppers, and cucumbers have much higher carbon footprints than potatoes, for example.

And the processing of just one kilo of beef, or 2.2 pounds, generates over 27 kilograms of carbon dioxide, or about 952 pounds. Beef has the largest carbon footprint of any food.

So, what can you do to mitigate this problem?

You will learn everything you need to know about the carbon footprint of potatoes, the carbon footprint of various potato-based products, cooking potatoes with more effective eco-friendly methods, how to calculate your own carbon footprint, and how planting trees can help offset some of the unavoidable carbon footprints humans generate all of the time.

But here is what you must know about potatoes and carbon footprints to start with.

What Is a Potato?

A potato is a starchy, root vegetable that is a popular and staple food commodity globally. It is a perennial vegetable that is part of the Solanaceae (Nightshade) family.11

Since the potato is a root vegetable, it grows completely under the ground rather than vertically above it.

The name for potato probably traces its etymology back to ancient Spain and was probably derived from the Spanish word patata. But the potato vegetable originated as a crop in regions of South America, probably in parts of modern-day Bolivia, Chile, and Peru, up to 10,000 years ago.

The potato is a vital staple crop on practically every continent. There are over 5,000 different species and varieties of potatoes and potato by products in existence due to thousands of years of selective breeding botanical practices.

Over 121,139,000 million metric tons of potatoes were collectively produced by China, India, and Ukraine in 2021.12 The United States and the Russian Federation came in fourth and fifth place, respectively.

Eye-level shot of different types of potatoes, including Potato Baking, Potato Red, and Potato White, sold in a grocery store.

(Image: photosforyou30)

A potato is comprised of 2% protein, and over 20% of carbohydrates, and the rest of it is over 77% water. The potato is rich in vitamin B6, some vitamins B and C, and various micronutrient amounts like phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

The most eco-friendly way to cook a potato is with a pressure cooker or with an energy-efficient deep fryer system (more on that later).

The Carbon Footprint of Potatoes

Perhaps now you’ll find yourself asking, “What is a carbon footprint, anyway?”

As previously mentioned, the carbon footprint of potatoes is the measurement of greenhouse gas emissions that are generated during the growth, transport, processing, utilization by consumers and industry, and even end-stage wastage in landfills.

Over 60% of the potatoes produced in the United States are heavily processed before they even reach consumers. This means that additives are added to them, they are cooked and then frozen so that they last longer as retail commodities.

Over half of the potatoes, you may take for granted as a food staple already have large carbon footprints before reaching you.

So, before going further in-depth about the carbon footprint of potatoes, here is what you must know about carbon footprints. After all, it is not just potatoes that generate carbon footprints—almost every activity committed by human beings and corporations on the planet generates witting and unwitting carbon footprints.

What Is a Carbon Footprint?

It is easiest to think of a carbon footprint as a personal activity footprint that will remain on the Earth for as long as you live and probably even after your passing. And every day that you are unaware of what a carbon footprint is, the more you will progressively and cumulatively generate one with ever-worsening results for the environment.

Carbon footprints exist because we live in a world that is dominated and facilitated by the fossil fuel industry, an industry that has been pumping incalculable amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for well over a century now.

In the most technical sense, a carbon footprint is a personal unit of measurement of the greenhouse gases that are generated by the witting and unwitting activities, lifestyles, and global-level industrial mechanisms of humanity. Every time you buy, use or waste a product, your activity causes the creation of greenhouse gases in a fossil-fueled world.

Calculate Your Carbon Footprint Now

Depending on the carbon footprint-based study that you refer to, each American household generates a carbon footprint of over 48 tons.13 Depending on which study you refer to, the typical American citizen may generate anywhere between a 5-ton to 20-ton annual carbon footprint.

So, while it may seem like splitting hairs, humans must learn to reduce and control their own carbon footprint generation, even when it comes to something minor, like potatoes.

There is so much about greenhouse gas generation that human beings can’t control, so why not take control of the actions that can actively decrease carbon footprints?

Potato Production

Various types of greenhouse gases include methane, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, and even water vapor.14 The planet naturally generates, scrubs, and recycles carbon dioxide via carbon sequestration, but human beings have been overburdening the planet with activities that generate more greenhouse gases than the planet can naturally process.

Do you like potatoes, French Fries, potato chips, are other various kinds of potato-based foods?

You’ll be interested to know that over 41 billion pounds of potatoes were produced in the United States in 2020. And over half of that number of potatoes were produced in the states of Washington and Idaho.

Consider some of the factors that go into the calculations of the carbon footprint of potatoes via the mechanics of potato farming.

Potato Farming

Potato farming experts suggest that over 200 kilograms of manure-based fertilizer, or 440 pounds, be used to fertilize each hectare of potato farmland, which is about 2.47 acres.15 So, that estimate can be simplified to 220 pounds of fertilizer being applied to every 1.2 acres of potato farmland.

Additionally, the average large-scale potato farm in the United States can be as massive as 1,000 acres.16

A lot of methane and nitrous oxide is released into the atmosphere through cattle flatulence, fertilizer processing, and manure decomposition. In 2020, the flatulence and manure collection of all the collective cattle, goats, and sheep in the United States generated over 175 million metric tons of methane.

Now consider the exponential effect of all these greenhouse gases being released into the environment over a global level.

Still, the potato has a relatively low carbon footprint compared to other produce.

Here’s a quick rundown of how to grow potatoes.

Potato tubers grow completely under the ground.17 The potato plant can have flowers and compound green leaves that can grow up to 40 inches above the soil with vertically growing stems.

Each potato plant can have anywhere between 10 to 20 potato tubers growing under the plant.

Photo of a bunch of raw potatoes on the ground, freshly rooted out from the soil.

(Image: Markus Spiske31)

If you’re wondering how to grow potatoes, you need to know that they can be grown from potato parts and root fragments which are called seed potatoes.

The potato plant can receive a lot of self-generating energy from growing from potato fragments and thus grow relatively faster than other crops. Some potato species can be harvested eight to 12 weeks after initial planting.

Some farming experts even believe that potatoes don’t require as much manure-based fertilizer, or fertilizer in general in the amounts which is usually applied to them.

Still, the harvesting, mechanical and physical processing, transportation, and freezing of potatoes are what increase their natural carbon footprint.

Transporting Food

Consider the amount of gasoline, diesel, and oil that is used by farmers and potato processing employees in personal and work vehicles to get to work and power machinery to harvest, process, clean, and transport them on a global scale.

Transporting food or potatoes from a farm to storage, processing, and cleaning plants, to factory cooking and flash-freezing facilities, and finally to retail shelves, requires the use and burning of a lot of gasoline, diesel, and oil.

A lot of fossil fuels have to be burned to transport wasted potatoes to landfills too. All of these activities contribute to the accumulative carbon footprint of potatoes.

Potato Processing

The potato is kind of a paradoxical vegetable when it comes to its carbon footprint impact.

Even though the potato leaves a relatively small carbon footprint relative to other vegetables, you must remember that over 60% of potatoes are heavily processed and/or frozen before they ever reach you. And it is this heavy processing that adds to the carbon footprints of potatoes before you even buy one.

Remember that depending on the metric that you refer to, the use and consumption of 2.2 pounds of potatoes will cause the generation of a 6-pound carbon dioxide footprint. Another small-scale metric suggests that about 4 ounces of carbon dioxide is generated for every pound of potatoes produced.

However, there are various kinds of processing methods that exponentially add to the footprint when potatoes are produced on corporate-scale farms.

Eye-level shot of raw potatoes going through a sorting machine during potato processing.

(Image: Tomwsulcer32)

Firstly, consider how much electricity must be consumed by small, medium, and large-scale potato farms. Remember that almost 80% of the electricity generated in the United States is created via the burning the fossil fuels.

Massive amounts of electricity, fuel, and oil are required to power vehicles and farm machinery to harvest, sort, collect, store, process, and transport potatoes within a state, regionally, or across the country.

The energy and work hours to divert, irrigate, or transport water to a potato farm also add to its carbon footprint.

There are machines called de-stoners that weigh, visually assess potatoes with cameras, and autonomously remove small stones or rocks and other foreign matter from potato harvest as they are sorted.

In the factory world, there are many industrial machines that can cut, peel, mash, slice, liquify, dehydrate, flash fry, flash freeze, boil, or bake potatoes on an industrial scale for retail purposes. Such machines are custom-made to process millions of potatoes daily, and they also require the consumption of a lot of electricity and fossil fuels to accomplish such tasks.

Many companies create customized machines that are designed to extract starch from potatoes or components for fermentation to create potato-based alcohol.

These same facts are true for the proprietary industrial packaging machines that place processed or frozen potato food products into plastic or cardboard packaging for retail sale. A lot of potatoes that aren’t sold for human use are processed in industrial machines to create industrial-scale cattle feed.

Since 60% of potatoes are heavily processed before you touch them, a lot of electricity must be consumed by businesses to keep millions if not billions of tons of potatoes frozen for retail purposes. Think about how much electricity, an energy commodity created through fossil fuel burning, must be used by corporations, regional supermarket chains, and even your refrigerator to keep frozen French Fries in that plastic package frozen until they are consumed.

Cooking is a form of processing. So, every time that you cook frozen and processed French Fries in your home kitchen, you are adding to your own carbon footprint.

If you fried 200 grams, or about 7 ounces of processed frozen French Fries as a meal, you would generate a carbon footprint of over 2.7 pounds of carbon dioxide.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Canning Potatoes vs Organic Potatoes?

The carbon footprint of one aluminum from cradle-to-your-household is 77.1 grams of carbon dioxide.19 That is about the equivalent of 2.71 ounces. From cradle to grave, the carbon footprint of an aluminum can because of canning potatoes is 96.8 grams of carbon dioxide or about  3.41 ounces.

And, again, the carbon footprint of non-processed organic potatoes is about 4 ounces per pound of potatoes.

The Carbon Footprint of Potatoes: What State Produces the Most Potatoes?

As previously mentioned, the metrics and calculations when calculating the carbon footprint of potatoes can become immensely challenging where there are so many different metrics. And it can be harder to do when trying to calculate which American states produce the most potato harvest.

There are also varying weight metrics when it comes to collecting statistical data about the amount of potatoes produced in each state. You must remember that since over 41 billion pounds of potatoes are grown annually in the United States, that is a mathematical work to deal with when it comes to selling them.

The term CWT, or cost per hundredweight, is used to discuss the weight of potato harvests on industrial scales. It brings the estimates and calculations of billions of pounds of commoditized potatoes in the millions instead of billions range.

To make matters even more confusing, one US short CWT is the equivalent of 100 pounds; but in the UK, a long CWT is the equivalent of 112 pounds.

These varying metrics regarding potato production are also why it is difficult to get one or two definitive source estimates regarding the carbon footprint of potatoes.

The United States alone grew and farmed over 41.4 billion pounds of potatoes in 2020.3 The states of Washington and Idaho collectively grow over 56% of all the potatoes in the United States.

So, what state produces the most potatoes?

Color-coded map of the USA illustrating the Top 10 Potato-Growing States in the country by pounds namely: California, Michigan, Maine, Minnesota, Colorado, North Dakota, Oregon, Wisconsin, Washington, and Idaho.

State Potato Crop Size (Pounds)
California 772 million
Michigan 1.6 billion
Maine 1.8 billion
Minnesota 2 billion
Colorado 2.1 billion
North Dakota 2.3 billion
Oregon 2.5 billion
Wisconsin 2.8 billion
Washington 9 billion
Idaho 12 billion

The table above shows the top 10 potato-growing states in 2022 listed in billions of pounds for simplicity. Additionally, about 30 American states grow potatoes as a commodity, but only these top ten grow them on a vastly larger industrial scale.20

What Foods Are Made From Potatoes?

The favorite food of Americans varies according to the region and survey and interchangeably ranges between hamburger, pizza, BBQ, or other similar comfort foods, like French Fries.

The typical American consumes over 135 pounds of potatoes annually, which is the equivalent of about eating one serving of a whole potato, or a potato-derived food product, daily.2 This makes potatoes, whether mashed, baked, fried, or roasted probably the second most popular food item in the United States.2

There are no limits to the types of foods and processed food products that can be made from potatoes.

So, what foods are made from potatoes? Here are a few to consider:

  • Potato chips
  • French Fries (AKA chips in the U.K.)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Dehydrated potato powder and flakes
  • Croquettes
  • Potato pancakes
  • Potato au gratin
  • Potato salad
  • Potato dumplings
  • Hash browns
  • Potato wedges
  • Potato skins
  • Tater tots
  • Roasted potatoes
  • Colcannon (Irish potatoes and cabbage dish)
  • Scalloped potatoes
  • Twice baked potatoes
  • Latkes
  • Cottage pie

Potato Uses (Potato By Products)

Not all potatoes are processed as direct food products or even for human consumption. Below are the potato uses:

  • Starch, potato skins and peels, slurry, extracted proteins, culinary thickeners, and assorted pulp can be used as ingredients and additives for processed foods.
  • Potatoes can be fermented or have vital ingredients and flavors extracted to create alcohol and liquor products.
  • Potato by products can also be used to make cattle feed, glue, and even as the main organic component in ethanol-based fuels.

What Does the Potato Chip Manufacturing Process Entail?

The potato chip manufacturing process starts with industrial farming machines sorting and grading potatoes. Depending on the company’s sizing standards, the machines are designed to sort, grade, and collect potatoes of predetermined dimensions so that each potato chip has similar sizes.

Road map showing the Life Cycle Assessment of Potato Chips and the potato chip manufacturing stages from production, transportation, processing (including peeling, cutting, frying, salting, cooling, packaging) all the way to distribution, consumption and disposal or end-of-life.

The potatoes are then washed, cleaned, and then destoned to make sure that they are free of small rocks, stones, and organic matter.

The potatoes are then trimmed, peeled, sliced, or cut into strips or wedges. (French Fries in the U.K. are also known as chips; potato chips are called crisps.)

Then, the sliced potatoes are lined up on conveyor belts that ferry them into shallow and wide-berth vats of cooking oil for flash frying.

The conveyor belt then ferries the potato chips to other machines for seasoning. Then, the potato chips are allowed to cool in large batches.

American potato chips are then packaged into bags. French fry products are chilled or flash-frozen to be transported to restaurants or supermarkets.

Carbon Footprint Potato Chips: The Basics

Contrary to popular belief, you are not supposed to eat a whole bag of potato chips. Depending on the serving recommendation written on the bag, one serving could be the equivalent of anywhere between 10 to 20 individual chips.

For the sake of the calculation of the carbon footprint potato chips have, your serving of potato chips will be 20+ potato chips or about 80 grams. The carbon footprint for 80 grams of potato chips is about 386.6 grams or about 13.6 ounces.

Almost a pound of carbon dioxide is generated by the heavy processing and manufacturing of 80 grams of potato chips.

Environmental Impact of Potatoes

When it comes to the environmental impact of potatoes, potato farming and even potato frying alone do not create a catastrophic carbon footprint.

Are Potatoes Sustainable?

If you’re wondering, are potatoes sustainable? Yes, potatoes are very sustainable for the environment.

Less farmland and water is required to grow potatoes relative to other crops. Potatoes can be grown from the remnants, roots, and cuttings of other potatoes.

Seed potatoes, as they are called, also give the potato plant extra energy as it grows.

How Do Potatoes Affect the Environment?

On how do potatoes affect the environment, over 60% of potatoes are reserved for heavy processing and freezing for sale as comfort food products, it is this processing that magnifies their carbon footprint.

What Is Climate Smart Farming?

Climate smart farming, which is also known as climate-smart agriculture, is an eco-friendly agricultural method of strategically growing, managing, and interconnecting farmlands, forests, fisheries, and livestock management in a way that makes harvests more sustainable, bountiful, and protective of the environment.

Climate-smart farming could reduce food insecurity and global greenhouse emissions, and help combat climate change.

Sustainable potato farming practices could be a great way to better market and validate climate-smart farming strategies to a world used to the old ways of farming.

Here is one example of an experimental climate-smart farming strategy that could be enacted on a global scale.

A 2021 Chinese agricultural study posits that if people would significantly shift their dietary preferences to potatoes as a daily food staple, instead of wheat, corn, and rice, then the greenhouse emissions caused by the production of all four would be reduced by 25%.23

If the Chinese economy would adopt eating more potatoes, then over 17% arable land would be freed up for other uses, since potato tubers grow in 10 or 20 bunches per plant and require less land to grow compared to other crops.

A Vegan’s Carbon Footprint

A great way to reduce your carbon footprint is to become a vegan and exclude all meat products from your sustenance.

Perhaps you can try trading meat for tofu, which is typically considered a “greener” alternative to a lot of food products these days since the carbon footprint of tofu is much lower.

A typical single serving of tofu is about 100 grams or about 3.5 ounces. A 100-gram serving of tofu generates a carbon footprint of 433.5 grams of CO2, or about 15.29 ounces, which is almost a pound.

Overhead shot of different chopped vegetables and herbs like carrots, spring onions, mushrooms, parsley on a cutting board with a small bowl of soy sauce and a bowl of tofu on the side,

(Image: Ella Olsson33)

But just how much can you help the environment by doing this? What is the carbon footprint of vegan diet, anyway?

Well, you could reduce your daily carbon footprint down to 3.6 pounds by becoming a vegan.21 That is the equivalent of having a carbon footprint of 1,314 pounds annually.

And depending on your dedication to a vegan diet, you could reduce your overall annual carbon footprint by over 73% according to another study.22

Aside from changing your diet, participating in tree planting activities through a one-month carbon offset program will help reduce your carbon emissions.

Trees are known to sequester and store carbon dioxide making them one of the most effective ways to combat the continuing rise of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.

Carbon Footprint in Food (Vegetables)

It is important to remember that it is the over-processing of potatoes into processed and frozen foods that creates the majority of its carbon footprint issues.

Look at the relative carbon footprint in food and other vegetables against the potato:

Bar graph showing the carbon footprint per pound of common vegetables with vegetables, such as onions, potatoes, carrots, lettuce, celery, broccoli, bell peppers, tomatoes and cucumber on the x-axis and the amount of CO2 per pound on the y-axis.

Type of Vegetable (per Pound) Carbon Footprint (CO2)
Onions 4 ounces
Potatoes 4.23 ounces
Carrots 6.4 ounces
Lettuce 9.12 ounces
Celery 9.6 ounces
Broccoli 9.6.ounces
Bell peppers 25.6 ounces
Tomatoes 28.8 ounces
Cucumbers 35.2 ounces

All vegetables in the list are staples in most dishes, which means that they, too, are as over-processed as potatoes. Still, potatoes have a relatively lower carbon footprint than almost all of them.

Common Food Carbon Footprint Calculator

If you look at the carbon footprint of potatoes against other foods, you can see that its carbon footprint is even smaller.18

Check out the food carbon footprint calculator of these various food products that measure how much carbon dioxide is generated per kilo, or 2.2 pounds, of food:

Bar graph illustrating the carbon footprint of common food, like potatoes, apples, tofu, banana, rice, berries, eggs, dark chocolate, fish, chicken, pork, cheese, prawns, lamb, and beef.

One Kilo (Or 2.2 Pounds) per Food Product Carbon Footprint in Kilos (CO2)
Potato 0.05 kg
Apple 0.06 kg
Tofu 0.08 kg
Banana 0.11 kg
Rice 0.16 kg
Berries 0.22 kg
Eggs 0.53 kg
Dark Chocolate 0.95 kg
Fish 1.34 kg
Chicken 1.82 kg
Pork 2.4 kg
Cheese 2.79 kg
Prawns 4.07 kg
Lamb 5.84 kg
Beef 15.5 kg

The reason that potatoes have such an impact on carbon footprints is that potatoes are highly processed, each producer has their own production techniques and potatoes are such a wildly popular food. Most people eat processed or frozen potatoes that are fried, which uses a lot of electricity and generates even wider carbon footprints.

Knowing the Carbon Footprint of a Product

The typical American household generates over 48 tons of carbon dioxide annually. Each American personally generates a carbon footprint of anywhere between 5 to 20 tons of CO2.

This is why it’s important to learn how to calculate the carbon footprint of a product.

Because in an industrialized world powered by fossil fuels, there is no way to not generate a carbon footprint. The best that you can do is to learn how to calculate your own carbon footprints so as to learn how to reduce on your own terms.

Calculating Carbon Footprint On Your Own

If you’re wondering just how to calculate carbon footprint manually, you may refer to the table below:

Annual Carbon Footprint Calculator
1. Multiply the monthly energy bill by 105
2. Multiply the monthly natural gas bill by 105
3. Multiply the monthly oil bill by 113
4. Add up and multiply your annual car mileage number by 79
5. Multiply the number of commercial flights, 4 hours or less than, taken in the past 12 months by 1,110
6. Multiply the number of commercial flights, 4 hours+ or more, taken in the past 12 months by 4,400
7. If you don’t recycle newspapers, add 184
8. If you don’t recycle tin and aluminum, add 166
Add up lines 1 through 8 to learn your annual carbon footprint.

It should be mentioned that these numbers are only estimates, to get your more accurate carbon footprint, use an online calculator.

Alternatively, you can use a carbon footprint calculator worksheet that can help you calculate your annual CO2 footprint.24

You want to have your annual carbon footprint land anywhere between 6,000 to 22,000 pounds annually.28

Take note that this carbon emissions calculator is not standard and that the carbon footprint calculation differs from region to region.

Overhead shot of french fries on a yellow plate with a knife and fork on each side, laid on a yellow tray held by two human hands.

(Image: KoolShooters34)

The United States and the world love potatoes, but the way potatoes are grown, transported, stored, and sold via supply chain mechanisms, and the way that they are cooked, makes the vegetable one of the worst offenders when it comes to carbon footprint consequences for the environment.

Enjoying French Fries should not have so many environmental consequences, but it does. Just remember to buy organic and in season, use a pressure cooker or eco-friendly fryer, and plant some trees to reduce the carbon footprint of potatoes in your area.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Carbon Footprints of Potatoes

Can the Use of Carbon Footprint Calculation Strategies Reduce a CO2 Footprint to Zero?

No. In a fossil fuel-driven world, there is no realistic way to drive your annual carbon footprint down to zero without using offsets that erase the emissions you generate each day.

What Methods Could One Use To Reduce the Carbon Footprints of Potatoes?

Buy potatoes locally, preferably organic and non-GMO ones, during its season which is usually between June and October. Additionally, walk to buy your groceries with a cart instead of driving and try cooking the potatoes in a pressure cooker or eco-friendly fryer.

What Are Some Other Solutions That Can Reduce Carbon Footprints?

Plant trees or plant some shrubs, which are technically just shorter trees and can grow exponentially faster than typical trees that can help you reduce carbon footprint. Shrubs are massive carbon sequestration engines of the natural world, and when spread out over 2.47 acres of land can sequester up to 15 tons of CO2 annually.25

What Is Carbon Sequestration?

Carbon sequestration is the process where trees, shrubs, and soil naturally absorb ambient carbon dioxide from the environment. The more trees and shrubs you plant, the more you can reduce the carbon footprint of your local area, and the less CO2 that pollutes the environment, the less the world has to deal with climate change.

Will Buying Only Organic Potatoes Solve the Carbon Footprint Issue?

No, there has to be a happy medium of strategies, like climate smart farming strategies, to make organic farming feasible on a global level. Organic farming can’t compete with traditional farming yet without using vast amounts of farmland, which would hamper the local ecosphere’s ability to carbon sequester efficiently.26


References

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29Photo by Mitchell Luo. Unsplash. Retrieved from <https://unsplash.com/photos/ChXHveqrb28>

30Photo by photosforyou. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/photos/potatoes-meal-market-vitamins-food-1907712/>

31Photo by Markus Spiske. Unsplash. Retrieved from <https://unsplash.com/photos/h-CGKH94oIs>

32Machine to process potatoes Photo by Tomwsulcer / Public Domain. Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Machine_to_process_potatoes.JPG>

33Photo by Ella Olsson. Pexels. Retrieved from <https://www.pexels.com/photo/top-view-photo-of-vegetables-3026802/>

34Photo by KoolShooters. Pexels. Retrieved from <https://www.pexels.com/photo/potato-fries-on-yellow-plate-6975534/>