Impossible™ Foodprint Project

Impossible™ Foodprint Project

"Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver." – NASA, Scientific Consensus

Fight climate change with food

Our global food system is intimately connected to climate change. Food systems account for 25-30% of human-created greenhouse gas emissions.1 The livestock sector alone contributes 14.5% of emissions—more than the entire transportation sector.2,3 At the same time, global food security is increasingly threatened by climate change—through higher food prices, productivity losses, reduced nutritional quality, greater distribution of pests and diseases, and increasing extreme weather events.1 Poor and vulnerable individuals across the globe are most affected by these threats.1

Foodprint Scorecard

The chart above illustrates the foodprint of a standard 4-ounce serving of menu options at Rendezvous West. (Note: a 4-ounce serving of cheese would be typical in a cheesy main dish, like a quesadilla, while adding cheese as a condiment on your burrito bowl would have a smaller foodprint.)

The stoplight color-coding is based on methodology developed by Leach et al. (2016), which considers the contribution of each food to the total carbon foodprint of a healthy reference diet (i.e., % daily value). In our stoplight scorecard, a 4-ounce serving of green foods contributes up to a quarter (0-25%) of the daily foodprint value, yellow contributes 26-50%, and red contributes >50%. You can also look for the Low Carbon Foodprint earth logo to identify green foods on the Rendezvous West menu.

Low Carbon Foodprint Low Carbon Foodprint

Minimize your foodprint

Minimizing the carbon footprint of your food—i.e. your foodprint—can make a meaningful impact on climate change and our planet. A foodprint includes every step in a food’s life cycle—the growing, harvesting, processing, and distributing of food around the world. Each step involves using resources and releasing greenhouse gases, which are quantified in carbon-equivalent units (CO2-eq).4 Clearing forests, raising livestock, and using fossil fuels for fertilizers and machinery contribute a large share of emissions in the food system.1

In general, animal-based foods have a larger foodprint than plant-based foods. That’s because growing food to feed animals requires many more resources than eating food directly. Plus, ruminant animals like cows produce methane (mostly by burping) and nitrous oxide (from manure), greenhouse gases 56x and 280x more potent than CO2, respectively.1,5

Reducing your meat and dairy intake is an impactful way to minimize your foodprint—especially if you’re a big meat eater. In fact, studies modeling a variety of climate change mitigation strategies indicate that shifts to diets with less meat and dairy—and much less beef—are crucial for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions within safe limits.5,6,7

In short, lower foodprint diets follow a “Flexitarian” pattern—with more plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes; less meat, dairy, and sugar; and much less beef.1,5,6,7

Impossible™ Foodprint Project

If you want to minimize your foodprint, we want to help. That’s why we’re introducing the Impossible™ Foodprint Project, along with Impossible™ plant-based meat—a delicious new option for meat lovers. We teamed up with campus researchers to provide data from life cycle assessments (LCAs) on the foodprint of our menu options. Our goal is to deliver delicious options and science-based transparency so you can choose what works for you.

In fall 2019, a pilot of the Impossible™ Foodprint Project will launch at one of our most popular quick-service restaurants, Rendezvous West. We’ll study how students respond—and we’ll measure changes in the foodprint of the meals we serve.

Can our food choices really make an impact on climate change?

Yes! Let’s do the math. Under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to meet the Paris Climate Accord, the United States aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 326 million metric tons per year (17% below 2005 levels).8 On a per capita basis, this amounts to 2,764 grams CO2 per person per day.

Let’s do some burrito calculations:

1 beef burrito with cheese, sour cream, and rice = 3,493 grams C02-equivalent

1 veggie burrito with beans, guacamole, and rice = 355 grams C02-equivalent

The difference is 3,137 grams CO2, which meets our 2,764 target (plus 14% more).

Let’s see how the Impossible™ burrito fares:

1 beef burrito with cheese, sour cream, and rice = 3,493 grams C02-equivalent

1 Impossible™ burrito with guacamole and rice = 581 grams C02-equivalent

The difference is 2,911 grams CO2, which meets our 2,764 target (plus 5% more).

In other words, you could meet the per capita CO2 reduction target just by choosing the veggie or Impossible™ burrito instead of the beef burrito each day. Choosing to swap the veggie or Impossible™ burrito for the beef burrito just twice a week would get you 32% or 30% towards the total per capita target, respectively.

Did you know?

Of all mammals on Earth, 60% are livestock, 36% are humans, and only 4% are wild animals.9

What diet is best for climate?

Studies indicate that reducing—rather than eliminating—meat and dairy intake is a viable strategy for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions within safe limits.5,6,7

Hungry for more?

Take the Foodprint class! C&EE 19: Foodprint: Connections Between Food and Environment (Prof. Jennifer Jay)

Calculate your dietary carbon footprint:

Read about how UCLA students reduced their foodprint after taking the Food Cluster class in this peer-reviewed article

Explore this interactive feature article on Food and Climate Change from NY Times.

Check out these great resources below, curated by our friends at Harvard:

Peer-reviewed journal articles linking food choices and climate change:

Reports on dietary sustainability and food system justice issues:

Organizations of interest:



  1. United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – IPCC Climate Change and Land Report (2019)
  2. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), GHG emissions by livestock
  3. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data
  4. Heller, M. C., & Keoleian, G. A. (2015). Greenhouse gas emission estimates of US dietary choices and food loss. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 19(3), 391-401.
  5. EAT-Lancet Commission – Summary Report of the EAT–Lancet Commission (2019) (PDF)
  6. Springmann, M., Clark, M., Mason-D’Croz, D., Wiebe, K., Bodirsky, B. L., Lassaletta, L., ... & Jonell, M. (2018). Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits. Nature, 562(7728), 519.
  7. Hedenus, F., Wirsenius, S., & Johansson, D. J. (2014). The importance of reduced meat and dairy consumption for meeting stringent climate change targets. Climatic change, 124(1-2), 79-91.
  8. Jay, J. A., D’Auria, R., Nordby, J. C., Rice, D. A., Cleveland, D. A., Friscia, A., ... & Reynolds, J. R. (2019). Reduction of the carbon footprint of college freshman diets after a food-based environmental science course. Climatic Change, 1-18.
  9. Bar-On, Y. M., Phillips, R., & Milo, R. (2018). The biomass distribution on Earth. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(25), 6506-6511.