Spicy Black Bean Dip

This is a really delicious and low carbon footprint dip to serve with veggies or chips.  If you really want to lay out a nice spread to get your party started, you can make this and Homemade Guacamole.  (They are both crowd pleasers.)


It’s also quick and easy enough to make for an everyday lunch.  Just spin it all up, transfer to a container, grab some veggies and you’re good to go!

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • One 15 oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Juice of one lime
  • One large clove of garlic
  • ½ t ground cumin
  • ½ t salt (to taste)
  • 1 t hot sauce (to taste)

Blend up in your blender or food processor (you may need to add a tablespoon or two of water or veggie broth to make it smooth), add salt and hot sauce to your taste, and enjoy!

Many of us are looking to decrease our carbon footprint, and there are so many great ways to do it!  For some people, decreasing our footprint will have nothing to do with food. But for many people, food can be a low hanging fruit for decreasing our environmental impact (and improving our health while we are at it).  Many of the most resource-intensive foods are ones we’d like to cut down on anyway!

Each serving of this dip has 148 kcal and 10 g protein, and results in just 95 g CO2-equivalents per serving.

Let’s compare this to the carbon footprint of some other appetizers.

  • Buffalo chicken wings: 236 kcal, 12 g protein, 287 g g CO2-equivalents per serving
  • Cauliflower buffalo wings: 239 kcal, 9 g protein, 58 g CO2-equivalents per serving
  • 1 oz cheese: 111, 7 g protein, 277 g CO2-equivalents per serving

The carbon footprint is low for the black bean dip because production of beans only results in 0.78 g CO2-equivalents per g of food.  For comparison, production of cheese, chicken, and beef result in 9.8, 5.1, and 26 g CO2-equivalents, respectively.  See the Science page for a table comparing embodied greenhouse gases in the production of protein-rich foods.)  Beans are especially environmentally-friendly because they need less nitrogen fertilizer, the production of which results in high greenhouse gas emissions.  Also, eating plants directly means fewer feed crops, food miles, and processing steps.

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Bon Appetit!!

Source for greenhouse gas emission data:

Heller, M.C. and G.A. Keoleian. 2014. Greenhouse gas emission estimates of U.S. dietary choices and food loss. Journal of Industrial Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/jiec.12174

Homemade guacamole

Making this quick and easy guacamole from scratch can cut its carbon footprint in half relative to store-bought!


Gather these ingredients for a large bowl of guacamole:

  • 3 avocados
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 limes
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • salt to taste

Simple cut the avocados in half, squeeze the lime juice into it, add the minced garlic (you can use garlic powder if in a hurry) and salt, and smash.  Add the chopped tomatoes at the end.  Also, you can add chopped red onion and cilantro if you’d like.

Ingredients alone (using conversions from Heller and Keoleian, 2014, which include average values for production and transport to a store or facility):



Carbon Footprint

g CO2-equivalents

3 avocados


3 garlic cloves


2 limes


1 tomato




When you buy a prepackaged guacamole, you also need to consider the energy in processing, packaging, refrigerated transport, and in-store refrigeration.

First, let’s consider refrigerated transport.  There is a great paper by Tassou et al. (2009) that compares the carbon footprint of various types of trucks carrying food at different temperatures.

In the paper, they give values for g CO2 per pallet per km (these values are for the energy required for transportation and cooling, but exclude refrigerant leakage):

Ambient Chilled Frozen
Med. rigid truck 88 106 112
Lg. rigid truck 85 102 108
City articul. 56 69 73
32 T artic. 51 61 65
38 T artic. 48 58 61

The paper also mentions a couple of other studies that indicate the greenhouse gas emissions are approximately 20% higher for the chilled and frozen scenarios if you do consider refrigerant leakage.

So, to send the same amount of chilled guacamole 1500 miles (assuming the pallet numbers and payload weights given in the paper for each type of truck, and assuming the 20% higher emissions with leakage), we would have to tack on 210 g CO2-equivalents for a large articulated truck (38 T) or 570 g CO2-equivalents for a medium sized truck per bowl of guacamole.

Next, what about the plastic container?  To make a 1 L plastic bottle requires about 270 g CO2-equivalents (Gleick and Cooley, 2009).  Assuming around the same amount of plastic for a fairly good-sized container of guacamole, we have a total of 480 to 840 additional g CO2-equivalents, just for the packaging and refrigerated transport of our bowl of guacamole.  This analysis does not take into account the energy to make the guacamole, or to keep it cold in the store.

In general, eating foods closer to their natural state and making things from scratch is preferable, since processing, the food miles associated with various processing steps, refrigerated transport, and packaging can really make a difference!

If you are in a hurry, though, go ahead and grab those pre-packaged healthy foods—relying on climate-friendly ingredients is still the best way to keep your footprint low!

In fact, a study on food miles by Weber and Matthews (2008) found switching out beef and dairy for foods with a lower carbon footprint just one day per week was as effective as eating locally seven days a week in reducing greenhouse gas emissions!!

Follow the blog for more recipes and tips!


Gleick, P.H., and Cooley, H.S. (2009) Energy implications of bottled water. Environ. Res. Letters, 4: doi:10.1088/1748-9326/4/1/014009

Heller, M.C. and G.A. Keoleian, G.A. (2014) Greenhouse gas emission estimates of U.S. dietary choices and food loss. Journal of Industrial Ecology.

Tassou, S.A., De-Lille, G., and Ge, Y.T. (2009) Food transport refrigeration – Approaches to reduce energy consumption and environmental impacts of road transport.

Weber, C.L., and Matthew, H.S. (2008) Food-miles and the relative climate impacts of food choices in the United States. Environmental Science & Technology, 42:3508-3513






Planet-Friendly Hummus Pomodoro

This beautiful main course (or starter) is planet friendly and soooo delicious!  The recipe is called Hummus Pomodoro with Warm Pizza Crust, and it’s by the amazing Chef Chloe Coscarelli.  You can find the recipe here.  The spread is actually a white bean puree with lemon garlic flavor, so think Italian, rather than Middle Eastern.


Please check out the original link for the full recipe.  I’ll summarize here:

  1. Process in a blender till smooth:
    • 1 15 oz. can of white beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 1 T lemon juice
    • 1 clove garlic
    • 1/2 t salt
    • 1/2 t freshly ground pepper
  2. Combine one medium chopped tomatoes and 1/4 cup freshly chopped basil.  Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.  You can top the creamy garlic dip with this mixture, or leave in separate bowls.
  3. Spread the delicious creamy dip and tomatoes on warm pizza crusts (see recipe for homemade).  You can also use crostini or baguette slices.

This will serve 4 to 6 as a starter, although my husband and I polished the whole recipe off for dinner.


  • I made it without the oil just to keep it lighter and it was still really yummy.  I added a bit more lemon and some water to make it smooth.
  • I added two cloves garlic rather than just one.

Nutrition Info and Environmental Footprint:

Assuming 6 servings, each serving has 314 calories (the version without oil has 230 calories), 9.9 grams protein, and a carbon footprint of just 89 g CO2-eq. The embodied water footprint is 223 L of water, and the nitrogen footprint is 1.9 g N lost per serving.

Compare this to a pasta with ground beef tomato sauce, which for the same 9.9 grams protein has a carbon footprint per serving of 552 g CO2-eq.  The water footprint is 285 L/serving, and the nitrogen footprint is 5.5 g N lost/serving.

The carbon saved by cooking this recipe rather than the pasta with meat sauce just one time is the equivalent of the carbon emissions in a 12.5 mile car drive!  If you made a similar switch every day for a year, it would mean saving the equivalent of about 4500 miles (assuming 40 MPG)!!

Enjoy!  Please follow the blog for weekly low carbon footprint recipes!


USDA Food Composition Database

Leach et al. (2016) Environmental impact food labels combining carbon, nitrogen, and water footprints. Food Policy, 61:213-223.




Baked Buffalo Bites

Like buffalo sauce?  You will love this recipe for baked buffalo bites of cauliflower, tofu, or tempeh, and the planet will be happy due to the low carbon footprint!  Don’t be daunted by the directions, which sound a bit complicated.  The prep is actually really fun and pretty quick, and the bites are sooo delicious.  My nephew and his fiancé made a gigantic pile of these made out of tempeh for a dinner party, and everyone, omnivores and veggies alike, devoured every last one of them (even though many people were new to tempeh).  My family loves them best made out of cauliflower (a great way to increase your vegetable intake), and next best out of firm tofu.

Here they are made out of cauliflower:


You can find the original recipe for tempeh wings here at Home for 28 Cooks (shown below).


You’ll need to set up four bowls in series:

  • This first bowl will contain at least 2/3 cup soymilk (you can also use other alternative milks)
  • 2/3 cup flour with the following mixed in:
    • 1 t salt
    • 2 t thyme leaves
    • 2 t paprika
    • 1 t garlic powder
    • black pepper to taste
  • another bowl of at least 2/3 cup soymilk
  • Italian seasoned panko crumbs (about 2 cups)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly oil a baking sheet.

Break a large cauliflower head into bite sized pieces.  Pick up each piece individually and dip it into each of the four bowls sequentially.  Place each bite onto the baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake for 10 minutes, flip, then bake another 10 minutes, or slightly longer so the batter on each piece is dry.

You can toss these in straight Frank’s or a similar Lousiana-style sauce, or you can mix ½ cup of Frank’s with 2 T margarine and 1 T ketchup.

If you are using firm tofu instead of cauliflower, you can just slice it up straight out of the container, and start dipping. If you are using tempeh, it may taste better if you boil or steam it first (see the link above).


Each of the four servings made by this recipe (using cauliflower, and margarine in the sauce) has 209 calories and 6 grams protein, and delivers fiber, Ca, and vit C.  The carbon footprint is a very modest 48 g CO2-eq per serving!  Using tempeh or tofu instead of cauliflower increases the calories, protein, and carbon footprint by just a bit (to 239 calories, 9 grams protein, and 57 g CO2-eq per serving), while also increasing the fiber, calcium, iron, and vit A.

If you made this recipe with chicken, butter in the sauce, and dairy milk, the carbon footprint of each serving would be 287 g CO2-eq, with 127, 83, and 54 g CO2-eq coming from chicken, butter, and milk, respectively.  Each 236 calorie serving has 12 grams protein, but is lacking in fiber and vitamins.

Each time you cook a batch of these using either tofu, tempeh or cauliflower, you save the equivalent of the gas used in a drive of about four miles, or the energy required to burn a halogen bulb for approximately 40 hours.




Beet hummus



Below is a recipe that the UCLA Public Health Nutrition Club and the Healthy Campus Initiative have been using in instruction food demos.

Assuming 6 servings, the hummus results in 90 g CO2-equivalent emissions per serving.  For comparison, a 1 oz slice of cheese results in 274 g CO2 eq emissions.  To put this in context, switching from the cheese to the hummus just once equates to saving emissions equivalent to those released by a 0.8 mile drive (assuming a 40 mile per gallon car).





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