Eat Lower Down the Carbon Chain

Cattle and sheep release a very powerful greenhouse gas called Methane as part of their digestive process.  Reducing meals with beef or lamb just once per week for a family of four is the same as taking the average car off the road for up to 1,500 miles.

Households: 27 completed, 6 committed
Points ?
Annual Savings
$0 - $0
Upfront Cost
These are estimates

Energy and water savings

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kWh Electricity
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Therms Natural Gas
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Gallons Gas
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Gallons Water
  • Reduce methane emissions
  • Conserve natural resources
  • Improve your health and lower your food costs

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The Action
We will lower our meals with beef and or lamb at least once/week.
Is this action for me?
Yes! This action is for everyone.
When and Who?
This action can be done anytime by anyone.
How long will it take?
Quick - just a few minutes to consider and choose alternatives.
What is the cost?
No cost - and possible extra savings from less expensive protein sources.


  • Reduce methane emissions

  • Conserve natural resources

  • Improve your health and lower your food costs

The Basics

Cattle and sheep release methane gas through their normal digestion process. Methane is a strong greenhouse gas that is over 35 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Reducing your weekly consumption of beef and lamb not only lowers your climate impact, it can also benefit your health. Learn more about the climate impact of food.


Learn about livestock and methane
Learn about the carbon intensity of food
Consider reducing beef and lamb consumption
Learn about the health benefits
Make it fun!

Cattle, sheep and methane

Cattle, sheep and goats all produce a large quantity of methane as part of their normal digestive process, called rumination (in plain language, they “burp” methane).  Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that is 35 times more damaging than carbon dioxide.  Methane is also created from the manure of cattle and other animals.  In total, methane and other greenhouse gasses from cattle and other animal livestock makes up nearly 5% of all greenhouse gases globally and close to 4% in the U.S.  Cattle has the largest impact in this category.  In addition to methane, raising cattle requires a very large amount of water, grains, land and energy to create just one pound of beef.  The overall impact of eating beef is significant on our natural resources.

The carbon intensity of food

Food varies widely in how much impact it has on climate emissions.  Beef and lamb are the most carbon intensive foods because of the impact of methane with beef at nearly 7 lbs of CO2e for a 4 oz serving.  How do other foods stack up?  Going down in carbon intensity, cheese, butter, pork and shellfish have just under 50% of the impact of beef and lamb.  (Since this measure is in emissions/lb, using butter has a bit less impact per serving since you generally use small amounts).  The next group is poultry, fish and eggs at just under 20% the impact of beef and lamb.  Milk, yogurt, nuts, grains, fruit and vegetables all have a very low impact, around 5% or less than the impact of beef and lamb.

Consider reducing meals with beef and lamb

Reducing your family's beef or lamb consumption by one or more meals per week can have a big impact on your climate emissions.  It also saves significantly on water, land, and other precious natural resources.  If you replace these meals with low impact foods like beans, nuts or yogurt you can save emissions equivalent of nearly 1,500 car miles for a family of four.  If you replace with poultry, fish or eggs, the impact is closer to 1,200 car miles.  Even small changes can make a big difference - lowering by just one meal per week can make a significant impact! 

Extra bonus - health benefits

Eating less red meat can also improve your long-term health.  Eating a diet high in red meat can increase your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.  Recent studies have shown that substituting one serving per day of red meat with other foods like fish, poultry, nuts, legumes (beans), low-fat dairy and whole grains could lower the risk of premature death from heart disease, cancer or other causes by 7-19%.  Eating protein sources lower down the carbon chain not only helps protect our future from climate change, but also helps protect your future.  Check with your doctor for more information on nutritional guidelines and what changes are best for your health.

The choices we make with our diet are highly personal and there are many cultural and local community ties as well.  Choose what is best for you and your family.  

Make it fun!

Make your plans to change fun!  Talk with your family and get ideas for what you would like to substitute for beef or lamb.  Ask everyone for ideas and then plan to try each one!  Search online or in cookbooks to find new recipes to try.  (If searching for recipes doesn’t sound fun, skip that step and consider looking for new alternatives at your favorite restaurant).  There are many great plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, quinoa and tofu or animal proteins like chicken, fish or turkey to try adding in.  These alternatives to beef are often less expensive and can save your family money on food as well.

Success Stories

I have been on the Menlo Green Challenge since it began in 2016, and have completed many of the actions on the website. 

One of the quickest and easiest ways to reduce Carbon footprints is to change eating habits. I cut red meat out of my diet since the carbon footprint for beef is 28 times its own weight and lamb has a footprint 35 times its weight. 

I also take alternative forms of transportation.  I’m a long-time bike rider and use a bike on most trips under 5 miles. Using bikes for short trips has enabled our family to share one car and save lots of money. Some folks say biking isn’t for everyone though; for two-car families, I highly recommend having one of the vehicles be electric!

I've installed solar panels on my home, which cut my electricity bill down to $10/month. That is the lowest bill a customer can receive from PG&E to support the electric grid. I work with a non-profit called SunWork, and they were able to help me install solar, with a 30% discount because our household was already energy efficient. If you’re efficient and your energy bill is less than $100 per month, you could also use Sun Work and their local volunteers to help install low cost solar.

I also installed a heat pump water heater in my house, replacing the gas one. After tax credits, the heater was $500. It is an electric heater, so together with solar panels, it’s great to use renewable energy instead of fossil fuels to heat our water.

I enjoy finding creative, innovative ideas that help my household become efficient and sustainable. I developed a system that delivers waste heat from solar panels back into my home, recycling the excess heat and making it purposeful. This solar heater is still a prototype; I’m still figuring out the best way to prevent leaks in the system.

Taking shorter showers is a great way to save water; you can save energy too, with lower water temperatures, starting by turning your water heater setting down. My shower has a covering that traps steam in, preventing drafts that makes you cold. The cover has the added bonus of allowing you to shower comfortably at cooler temperatures.  

Whether you’re handy at home or not, everyone can take actions to reduce their carbon footprint. Getting started is easy with this Green Challenge site.