What's the carbon footprint of seaweed?

Seaweed, an edible algae, is one of the most exciting plant-based foods. Even better, seaweed may just be the tasty ticket to tackling climate change. Let's explore the carbon footprint of seaweed and its greenhouse gas-fighting credentials.

Carbon Footprint of Seaweed

 

100g of seaweed produces 304g CO₂e*

93% less than beef

83% less than prawns

70% less than tuna

5% less than cod

63% more than tofu

*CO₂e means carbon dioxide equivalent and measures total greenhouse gases

 


 

 
 
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Seaweed isn't a traditional food in the UK, but you might be used to seaweed products like nori, kombu or wakame in dishes like sushi or poke bowls.

 

From a health perspective, seaweed is packed with a range of vitamins and minerals which are great for your body. Seaweed can be eaten in many forms and added to foods for style, taste and nutrient purposes. 

 

The UK is actually the current biggest importer of seaweed within Europe. Research suggests this is due to the growing vegan and vegetarian population on the hunt for fish-free flavour, alternative protein sources, and health supplements that can reduce their climate impact!
 

Where does seaweed come from?
 

The top five exporters of seaweed are; Korea, Indonesia, Chile, China, and the Philippines.

 

Many other countries also produce different seaweed products including America and Ireland.

 

China is one of the world’s top exporters of seaweed. Seaweed farming started in the 1950s and the country has continuously developed production, preservation and packaging processes to compete in the seaweed market.

 

Can you grow seaweed in the UK?

Although not a huge seaweed producer, commercial seaweed farms in the UK have increased over the last 10 years.

 

Increasing awareness and demand for seaweed products have boosted the industry and it’s sure to grow over the coming years.

carbon footprint of seaweed nori

Greenhouse gas emissions from seaweed production

Research has shown that seaweed is actually one of the few foods that remove CO from the atmosphere!

Unlike planting trees, seaweed doesn’t need fresh water and it can grow at a much faster rate.

 

At the moment seaweed production, unfortunately, doesn’t solve the problem as it's difficult to scale up its growth to the amount needed to mitigate our global carbon emissions. 

 

Seaweed can also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in other interesting ways. A lot of research has gone into the use of algae in cattle feed to help reduce methane production (one of the main greenhouse gases) and the results are promising. 

Where do greenhouse gas emissions from seaweed production come from?

So if seaweed removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, where does the carbon footprint vome from you ask?

 

When we consider the life cycle assessment of seaweed production, we see that most of the greenhouse gases come from energy needed to process seaweed after it has been grown.

  • Processing and cleaning the seaweed

  • Drying and dehydrating the seaweed before it can be packaged

  • Creating the ropes and anchors that seaweed grows on.

Are there other ways seaweed impacts the environment?

Wild seaweed has a beneficial impact on the environment. Even commercially grown seaweed has a lower environmental impact than other food industries. But there are still some challenges with farmed seaweed that need to be managed.

  • The sea bed where seaweed is grown needs to be cleaned and prepared. This means that wildlife is often disturbed or removed and could lead to loss of species and habitat diversity.
     

  • Fertilisers used to increase seaweed growth can reduce the water quality, deoxygenate the water, and harm biodiversity

 

Sustainable recipes and substitutes using seaweed

Seaweed is a clever way to give food a fishy flavour without using fish and seafood which are responsible for higher greenhouse gas emissions.

For example, our No-Tuna Mayo uses chickpeas flavoured with seaweed flakes to create a plant-based and low-carbon alternative to tuna mayo.

 

Our recipe (get it in the app now) saves 1.36kg of CO₂... or the equivalent of 3.4 miles driving in a car. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some other sustainable recipe ideas include:

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  • Nori chips - a delicious snack which can be seasoned with sesame oil and salt, and then lightly fried.

  • Wakame coleslaw - a traditional coleslaw, but with seaweed. Seasoned with rice vinegar and sesame oil. 

  • A veggie breakfast bowl - with all your favourites, and some nori sheets added for an extra health kick. 

  • Miso soup - a delicious Japanese soup made with miso paste, water, tofu, green onion and Wakame seaweed. Mushrooms and even noodles can be added to make it a full meal.

low carbon footprint no-tuna mayo plant-based tuna mayo alternative

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