Carnegie Mellon University
February 26, 2020

EPP studies greenhouse gas emissions from Pittsburgh’s food system

Ellis Robinson

A first-of-its-kind study by a team of 19 Carnegie Mellon University students has estimated the carbon footprint of the entire food system of Allegheny County. Their study tabulates the emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases (GHGs)—mainly carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide—associated with the sum of activities required to get food from farm to table. Their calculations include the emissions from the production, packaging, and transportation of food brought into the region, as well as from local distribution and refrigeration, and even landfilling of food waste by residents around Pittsburgh.

The study found that Allegheny County, as a whole, the emissions from the food system are more than the yearly emissions from the generation of electricity required to power all households in the county.

Compiling these emissions estimates for the county’s food system was a massive undertaking. The study team, lead by Ed Rubin and John Miller, consisted of 19 students, two project managers, and an expert review panel that included city government officials, leaders from local non-profits, and supply-chain experts from food suppliers and distributors.

The study found that the two biggest sources of GHG emissions are things Pittsburghers are known to love—beef and beer. By weight, beer represented 29% of all the food consumed whereas beef represented less than 3% of the total mass of all food, but contributed 34% of all GHG emissions, by far the biggest source.

To find more out about the study and to read the full story go here.