What's the carbon footprint of mushrooms?

Mushrooms are edible fungi that come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colours. They’re packed full of flavour, have a range of health benefits and can be grown all around the world. But do you know mushrooms' carbon footprint and their impact on the planet?

Carbon Footprint of Mushrooms

 

1 portion of mushrooms (50g) produces 70g CO₂e*

97% less than beef which produces 2170g COe

22% less than tofu which produces 90g COe

40% more than red lentils producing 50g COe  

Equivalent to charging 8 smartphones

*CO₂e means carbon dioxide equivalent and measures total greenhouse gases

 


 

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There are over 3,000 edible mushroom species in the world, but only around 200 species are actually eaten by humans.

Where do mushrooms come from?
 

In your local supermarket, you will likely have come across a few of the standard mushrooms often used for cooking, such as white button, chestnut, portabello and shiitake mushrooms.

 

Mushrooms can be grown all over the world. In the UK tend, supermarkets tend to source them fairly locally. About 75% of our mushrooms come from the UK and Ireland, and the remainder from other parts of Europe, like the Netherlands and Poland.

 

Of course, you can buy all sorts of mushroom products online or in smaller, specialist shops. These mushrooms may come from further away.

Can you grow mushrooms in the UK?

 

Yes, absolutely! Commercial mushrooms can be grown in the UK, and you can even try and grow them yourself at home. 
 

Mushrooms typically require damp, dark conditions and a substrate... a special substance that helps the mushrooms grow.

 

The mushroom substrate is normally sawdust or wood chip. But some people have started trying more innovative materials, like coffee grinds and sugarcane. This is helping to make food chains more sustainable!

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Greenhouse gas emissions from mushroom production

Good news! Research has shown that mushrooms are good for the planet!

Life cycle assessments (LCAs) help us understand greenhouse gases released from mushroom production and the overall carbon footprint of mushrooms.

 

Mushroom farming emits much less carbon dioxide, requires less land and water than other industries. making the process a lot more climate-friendly than many other types of farming. 

 

And as the majority of the UK’s mushrooms are produced locally, the carbon footprint from transport, or food miles, is also pretty low.

Are there other ways mushrooms impact the environment?

In general, mushrooms are pretty good for the environment and they can provide both nutrients and water for other plants. This improves soil health and quality. They can even contribute to a zero-waste economy, as waste from other industries can be used to grow mushrooms.

When it comes to commercial mushroom farming, mushrooms are normally kept in containers above the ground. This limits the benefits that mushrooms can have on soil quality or plant health in the area. 

Tips for choosing environmentally-friendly mushrooms

Mushrooms are already a planet-friendly ingredient, but you can make them even more environmentally friendly by eating mushrooms in season. Check out our seasonal ingredients chart to find out when mushrooms are in season.

Foraging your own mushrooms is a great way to connect with nature. Of course, we wouldn't advise picking and eating mushrooms unless you have a good idea of what you are doing... or have an expert forager with you.

If don't fancy foraging in the forest, why not try growing your own mushrooms? There are plenty of grow-your-own kits out there, including this oyster mushroom kit from Gro Cycle.

Sustainable recipes and substitutes using mushrooms

 

Mushrooms are an amazing low-carbon ingredient and can make a sustainable alternative to higher-emission foods. Some sustainable recipe ideas include:

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  • Creamy Mushroom Risotto - a delicious vegan-friendly dinner option

  • Free-From Mushroom Bourguignon - a hearty dish, perfect for the winter

  • Replace beef mince with finely chopped mushrooms for a low-carbon dinner

  • Fry oyster mushrooms as a sustainable alternative to fish and seafood in tacos.

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