This Is the Carbon Footprint of Your Easter Dinner
Curious about the carbon emissions associated with your Easter feast? We broke it down for you and calculated the average carbon footprint of an Easter dinner.
Easter signals spring: Flowers are blossoming, the weather's getting warmer, and the sun's shining. It also means taking part in wholesome traditions like dyeing Easter eggs, participating in an Easter egg hunt, and gifting chocolate-filled Easter baskets. If these activities are on your radar, you're not alone: In 2022, about 80% of surveyed Americans intend to celebrate Easter.
And while Easter celebrations are fun for the entire family, it's no secret some of these festivities can come with a massive carbon footprint. However, there are a few steps you can take to make your Easter more environmentally friendly, such as swapping plastic eggs for wooden ones or dyeing eggs with natural, plant-based dyes.
But the truth is, there's still a lot we don't know about how eco-friendly Easter celebrations really are. Take your Easter feast, for example. Like Christmas and Thanksgiving, it's likely your meal contains foods that come with a high carbon footprint. Have no fear, though. We're here to help you get a better understanding of the environmental impact of your Easter dinner.
In this investigation, we calculated the average carbon footprint of traditional Easter dishes—and we even have a few ways to help you make your holiday more eco-friendly.
How Eco-Friendly Is Easter Dinner?
While many of us participate in similar Easter traditions, our dinner tables are often unique to our families. However, as Thanksgiving is associated with turkey and Christmas is associated with roast beef, Easter is typically associated with glazed ham. According to the Food Network's list of the 30 most popular Easter dishes, classic glazed ham is the number one most popular dish for this spring holiday.
For our research, we calculated the average carbon footprint of an Easter ham. We also calculated the footprints of popular side dishes you might find on the table this year.
Similar to our research on the carbon footprint of both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, we multiplied the carbon emissions of each serving by 12 to represent 12 people at the table. We also consider the carbon emissions associated with cooking time.
The Average Carbon Footprint of an Easter Dinner
1. Glazed Ham
Total Emissions: 104 pounds of CO2
It's no secret that meat and other animal-derived products come with a massive carbon footprint. According to a 2019 study, livestock contributes a large portion of the world's greenhouse gases—about 14.5%. And according to our previous research, pork is one of the most carbon-intensive meats you can eat. That means ham has a high carbon footprint.
Specifically, it takes approximately 20.5 pounds (9.3 kilograms) of carbon dioxide to produce just 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of processed, frozen ham. That's equivalent to driving a car 21.5 miles. To feed 12, you'll need 4-6 pounds of ham. For this research, let's say you make 5 pounds of ham. That means your ham can generate about 102.5 pounds (46.5 kilograms) of CO2 equivalent gases.
But wait, there's more. It takes about 15 minutes per pound to cook a ham, so your 5-pound ham can take about an hour and 15 minutes to cook in an oven. Each oven consumes energy differently, but if you're using an electric oven for about 75 minutes, your Easter ham can emit approximately 1.3 pounds (0.6 kilograms) of CO2.
In total, the ham alone can emit about 103.8 pounds (47.1 kilograms) of carbon dioxide and equivalent gases.
2. Deviled Eggs
Total Emissions: 96 pounds of CO2
According to a 2019 survey, about 61% of Americans planned to have deviled eggs on Easter. And while deviled eggs may be delicious—often topped with mustard and paprika—it's true that eggs aren't exactly environmentally friendly.
As we know, eggs are an animal-derived product, and a lot of factors go into determining their environmental impact. To understand the full environmental impact of your eggs, you'll have to consider whether the eggs are cage-free, organic, or antibiotic-free.
In this particular study, we're analyzing their general carbon emissions. One kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of eggs produces about 10.6 pounds (4.8 kilograms) of CO2. If a large egg weighs about 1.1 pounds, or 0.5 kilograms, just two large eggs emit over 10 pounds of CO2.
According to the Food Network's recipe for classic deviled eggs, six eggs only make four servings. You'll likely need about 18 eggs to feed a table of 12, give or take. That means you're looking at about 95.4 pounds (43.3 kilograms) of carbon dioxide equivalent gases.
To hard-boil eggs, you'll need to boil them on the stove for about 10 minutes, depending on how you prefer your eggs. If you boil six eggs at a time for 10 minutes on an electric stove, that's a little under 0.2 pounds of carbon dioxide. To boil all 18, that's roughly 0.6 pounds of CO2.
This brings the carbon footprint of your deviled eggs to about 96 pounds (43.5 kilograms) of CO2.
3. Roasted Carrots
Total Emissions: 2 pounds of CO2
What would Easter dinner be without the Easter Bunny's favorite food? Roasted carrots—or any roasted vegetable, really—are a common side dish on Easter Sunday. And luckily, any vegetable you choose to have on your table will have a relatively low carbon footprint. Especially in comparison to meat and dairy products.
For every 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of carrots, only 0.2 pounds (0.1 kilograms) of CO2 are emitted. That's roughly the equivalent of driving 0.3 miles in a car. A general roasted carrot recipe makes about six servings and requires 12 carrots. To feed 12, you'll need 36 carrots, more or less.
If the average supermarket carrot weighs 0.5 ounces, 36 carrots weigh about 180 ounces, or 11.3 pounds. Lucky for carrot lovers, that's only about a pound of CO2 so far! And your roasted carrots only need salt, pepper, olive oil, and fresh dill or parsley. All in all, this dish is pretty sustainable—just be sure you're using organic, non-GMO carrots whenever possible.
The carrots also need to be roasted in the oven for just 20 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In an electric oven, roasting your carrots will emit about 1.4 pounds (0.6 kilograms) of carbon dioxide. In total, your carrots emit about 2.4 pounds of CO2.
4. Scalloped Potatoes
Total Emissions: 13 pounds of CO2
Potatoes in any shape or form are a staple for most holiday dinners! From mashed potatoes to sweet potato casseroles, the holidays wouldn't be complete without a potato dish on the dinner spread.
For Easter, many people pair ham with scalloped potatoes. Both ham and scalloped potatoes are seeing a peak, according to Google search data. And scalloped potatoes are even second on the Food Network's list of popular Easter foods.
One kilogram (2.2 pounds) of potatoes emits about 6.4 pounds (2.9 kilograms) of CO2. A sample recipe of scalloped potatoes calls for 3 pounds of thinly slices potatoes (8.7 pounds of CO2), 6 tablespoons of butter (0.1 pounds of CO2), and 3 cups of whole milk (2.9 pounds CO2).
Other ingredients include onions, flour, black pepper, and sometimes, cheese. For the purposes of this research, we're using a recipe that doesn't include cheese. However, it's important to note that cheese would increase the carbon emissions in our findings.
Combine the ingredients, and your potato casserole reaches approximately 11.7 pounds of carbon dioxide and equivalent gases. Cooking the casserole in an electric oven for about 45 minutes emits about 1.2 pounds (0.5 kilograms) of CO2.
That means your delicious potato casserole has a carbon footprint of about 12.9 pounds (5.9 kilograms).
5. Carrot Cake
Total Emissions: 25 pounds of CO2
To wrap up your Easter dinner, it's possible your family is having a delicious carrot cake! This springtime dessert is light, airy, and topped with creamy icing we can't get enough of. But the only question is: What's the carbon footprint of your carrot cake?
A simple carrot cake recipe contains flour, 4 large eggs (20 pounds of CO2), sugar, canola oil, and—of course—2 cups of grated carrots (1 pound of CO2). And carrot cake variations can include walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts.
And the icing? That's cream cheese frosting, which contains dairy. Specifically, it contains 1/2 cup butter (0.4 pounds of CO2), 3 ounces of cream cheese (2.7 pounds of CO2), 3 tablespoons of milk (0.2 pounds of CO2), and sweeteners like vanilla extract and sugar. Before baking, your carrot cake mix emits approximately 24.3 pounds, or 11 kilograms, of carbon dioxide.
When baking for 40 minutes in an electric oven, you're emitting another 0.8 pounds (0.3 kilograms) of CO2. If we add it all together, your Easter carrot cake emits about 25.1 pounds (11.4 kilograms) of carbon dioxide.
Total Emissions for the Entire Easter Dinner
Total Emissions: 240 pounds of CO2
Your Easter dinner likely contains a lot more yummy foods than this list, but generally, these are some of the most popular dishes found on the table on Easter. Together, these delicious dishes emit roughly 240 pounds (109 kilograms) of CO2. That's the equivalent of driving 270 miles in a car or charging 13,242 smartphones.
While this figure can be daunting, there are ways you can decrease it. Here's how to make your Easter dinner more eco-friendly—without compromising deliciousness!
5 Ways to Make Your Easter Dinner More Eco-Friendly
Living a more eco-friendly lifestyle doesn't mean you have to give up the foods you know and love. Instead of eliminating your favorite holiday recipes, you can make eco-friendly swaps! Specifically, you can trade in foods with a high carbon footprint for options that are better for the planet.
Just remember that your eco-friendly Easter extends beyond the dinner table. Rethink the gifts in your homemade Easter baskets, buy organic and eco-friendly candy, and choose more sustainable travel methods to get to where you need to be.
For more information, check out our guide for celebrating an eco-friendly Easter! For now, here are our tips for making your Easter feast more eco-friendly.
1. Make Plant-Based Swaps
If you're willing to make a big change to your dinner, try curating an entirely plant-based menu. Yes, this can be tricky—especially when ham (or roast beef) and deviled eggs are Easter dinner staples. However, there are plenty of plant-based alternatives to try, including tofu, tempeh, and jackfruit.
If you're not ready to let go of your glazed ham, don't worry. You can still make a smaller ham, especially if not every person at the table is going to have a piece.
Studies show that making sustainable food swaps can decrease your carbon footprint by about 48%. So even if you just make one plant-based swap on Easter, you'll be decreasing the environmental impact of your meal. Plus, it's always a good idea to incorporate more veggies into your meals. The more colors, the better!
2. Decrease Dairy
If you can't swap the meat for a plant-based alternative, try swapping dairy products for vegan, non-dairy alternatives instead. There are plenty of vegan swaps you can make in the kitchen, and you and your guests probably won't be able to tell a difference.
For example, the icing on your carrot cake may be delicious, but it likely includes cream cheese. Try a vegan icing recipe instead! You can also opt for vegan butter, and if you like a glass of milk with dessert, try a dairy-free milk like oat milk or almond milk.
3. Buy Fair Trade, Organic Chocolate
A major part of celebrating Easter is egg and bunny-shaped chocolate. Many of us like to stuff our Easter baskets with sweet treats, but we rarely consider where the chocolate comes from. That's why it's important to check the label. Specifically, make sure your chocolate is organic and Fair Trade certified.
Also, consider the packaging your chocolate comes in. Luckily for conscious consumers, many companies are starting to ditch the plastic packaging. And other companies are taking on new, more sustainable challenges, including making upcycled foods and planet. Now it's up to us as consumers to pick the most sustainable options for the planet and the people.
4. Choose Sustainable Wine
While the kids' table is munching on egg-shaped chocolates, the adults' table is making a toast with glasses of wine. And yes—you can even make more sustainable choices when it comes to wine.
"Clean wine" is becoming more and more popular, and all it means is that the wine has a few extra certifications. Specifically, look for organic, sustainable, and biodynamic certified wines.
Check out our guide to sustainable wine for more information. And check out these stemless handblown wine glasses made from recycled glass. They're ethically made and make a great addition to your table!
5. Use Reusable Napkins
If you're still not sure how to revamp your Easter meal, and you're not ready to part with traditional recipes, don't worry. There are several other ways to make your holiday dinner more eco-friendly that don't include switching up the menu. Try using reusable napkins to help reduce paper waste.
Eliminating single-use napkins (and any other single-use tableware) eliminates landfill waste. To find reusable cloth napkins, check local thrift stores. You're bound to find unique prints, and you'd be giving pre-owned products a second life.
Reporting by Angelica Pizza
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