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[Ambassador report] Theme report - May 2020 - The Cheeseburger Footprint

by Aaditya Singh | 21-05-2020 09:34 Comments 10 Comments recommendations 0 recommendations

Calculating the Environmental Cost of a Human Activity


Awareness about greenhouse gas impact in transportation and energy production is becoming a hot topic for environmentalists and there are many discussions on the topic. However, while they may be the most pressing, almost everything we do leaves behind a carbon footprint. As long as it requires energy to do something, carbon was emitted somewhere along the path in the processes involved from start to finish of the production chain, on the way to the final product. Additionally there are other important aspects that are also to be kept in mind including use of resources and emission of other green house gases.


The Cheeseburger footprint

A juicy burger is a favorite all over the world. Not surprising that there is an International Burger Day on May 28th! Lost in satisfying our taste buds, we however fail to recognise the hidden cost of this popular delight. It is a highly resource intensive dish with a big footprint.

To explain this situation, I want to share an experiment called the 'Cheeseburger Footprint' which is about the carbon footprint left behind every cheeseburger that we eat. This is not only the energy used when we cook the cheeseburger. This footprint is calculated keeping the entire process from growing wheat and slaughtering the cattle for meat to pickling the cucumbers in mind.

The final result of the total energy going into a single cheeseburger was anywhere from 7 to 20 mega joules. (The research will be cited in the references if anyone is interested to see this in detail). 

The video in the following link is an interesting videographic representation of the carbon footprint of a simple cheeseburger.


Carbon Di Oxide

To calculate carbon dioxide footprint the researchers used figures from all forms of fuel including diesel, gas and coal and came to the conclusion that we can estimate between 1kg to 3.5kg of energy-based CO2 emissions per cheeseburger.



Furthermore, CO2 is not the only harmful GHG to keep in mind. Methane is calculated to be about 23 times more potent and effective as a GHG when compared to CO2 and it is also a major part of this equation. 

A cow must be 21 months old to be sent to the slaughter house. In one year a cow produces about 110 kg of methane so by the time it will be sent to the slaughter house it will have produced up to 220 kg of methane. Typically, a cow produces 500 lbs of meat (this is approximately 2000 burgers per cow). 

With this in mind, we come to the conclusion that a single cow produces 2.6 CO2 equivalent kgs of methane per burger.



It is said that the next wars will be fought over water. Water security is a matter of extreme importance today. Thus while looking at the footprint of our activities, we should also consider the water footprint starting from the beginning of the supply chain. For the burger, this does not just involve the amount of water that goes into the cooking but every step on the way from the farm to the fork.

It is estimated that the water footprint of one burger amounts to 2000-3000 Litres. This would mean that the amount of water needed for 1000-1250 burgers could fill an Olympic size swimming pool! Something to be kept in mind before we dig our teeth into the next burger.


The average American eats a cheeseburger 3 times a week. This would mean that 540-915 kg of greenhouse gas is produced by the average American every year. This is proof that even an activity as simple as eating a cheeseburger has a massive greenhouse gas impact in the grand scheme of things.

Indeed we must be watchful of our actions. Environmental statistics about impact of our actions can help to be aware and adopt eco friendly lifestyles with lower harmful footprint on nature.


Sources and references



Photo Credit




Arjun Anand

  • Arjun Anand says :
    your report on cheese burger was informative.
    Posted 30-05-2020 00:24

Taehyun Mentor

  • Taehyun Mentor says :
    Hello Aaditya Singh, this is mentor Taehyun!

    Thank you for your article, Cheese Burger, which examined the carbon footprint of food that people around the world eat! The process of finding reference literature and giving out quantitative data was impressive! Suddenly, there's a very famous and interesting assumption, Fermi's guess, like how many New York piano mechanics there are, for example, but it's not easy to guess, but it's logical thinking. The process of calculating the cheeseburger footprint is difficult, but it was nice to see how logical it was!

    Thank you for the report!

    Green cheers!
    Posted 26-05-2020 23:03

Sang Su Mentor

  • Sang Su Mentor says :
    Hi Aaditya Singh, this is a mentor Sang Su Lee.

    2000~3000 liters for one hamburger?? This is so crazy when we think that there are so many people in poor countries are dying because they are not able to drink water! Your article gives a lesson to people that they should not make leftovers when eating food!

    Thank you for your article! Green Cheers~!
    Posted 26-05-2020 23:02

Kushal Naharki

  • Kushal Naharki says :
    Hello Aaditya!

    I do hope that you are fine and doing great with your works.
    Thank you for your report about The Cheeseburger Footprint

    Green Cheers from Nepal :)
    Keep writing great reports.
    We are eager to read more reports from you.

    Kushal Naharki

    Posted 24-05-2020 22:07

Malika  Rustamova

  • Malika Rustamova says :
    Thanks a lot for such beneficial post. I hadn't idea that one cheeseburger can so impact on the environment. I'm glad that don't consume them
    Posted 24-05-2020 18:15

Heemani Singh

  • Heemani Singh says :
    Hello Aaditya,

    I hope you are fine and doing great

    Thank you so much for sharing such an informative report.

    I never knew that cheese burgers can also harm the environment.

    Got to know something new today

    Keep writing and sharing
    Hope to learn more from you.
    Posted 23-05-2020 11:38

Samiksha Adhikari

  • Samiksha Adhikari says :
    Thank you for sharing the informative report!!
    Posted 22-05-2020 18:40

Asmita Gaire

  • Asmita Gaire says :
    Greetings aaditya
    I hope you are doing well
    When we find how food contribute to footprint, we must be more concern to every activities.
    Thank you so much for this report
    Keep writing
    Green cheers
    Asmita Gaire
    Posted 22-05-2020 13:54

Sonika Pariyar

  • Sonika Pariyar says :
    Hello Aaditya!

    I hope you are fine and doing great!

    Cheeseburger has been one of my favorite food ,but I was unknown about its contribution on carbon footprint.I will try to reduce its consumption.

    Thanks for sharing new topic.

    Keep on sharing!

    Posted 21-05-2020 22:01


  • ALOK DHAKAL says :
    Thank u for sharing your article!
    Posted 21-05-2020 20:42

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