Earth Hour - How much meat is it worth?

Earth Hour was launched in 2007 by WWF as a symbol of international unity and our ability to act on the challenges of climate change, embodied in an iconic action: turning off the lights.

Every year at the end of March, at 20:30, the whole world is invited to turn off the lights for one hour. It is an opportunity to discuss what each and every one of us can do to address climate change at our own scale, in our communities and through our own activities.

This is a symbolic action, and the event is not intended to be a greenhouse gas reduction exercise.

But it did make me wonder: how does an hour without electricity compare to not eating meat?

To do this, you need to know:

  • the electricity consumption per person and per hour, for that I used the list of countries by electricity consumption on wikipedia
  • the share of lighting in the electricity consumption: I took 20% everywhere, probably overestimating the importance (it's March, we light more, right?), because I found 10% and 15% in the United States, 12.8% in France, 15% in United Kingdom, 19% in the world.
  • CO2 equivalent of kWH
  • the CO2 equivalent of meat: I used the data from and Poore & Nemecek except when I found better data like for France, United Kingdom or United States.
  • the size of a portion for a steak or a chicken fillet: I took 150g, the value I found on the ADEME for a classical meal, except for the United States where I took the minimum value I found (from 300g to 400g)
  • the weight of an egg: about 60g

I discovered a point of attention on the CO2 emission figures for meat: the data are sometimes presented in kgCO2 per carcass/animal weight, which makes the figures lower than when they are reduced to edible weight (by a factor of about 3).

With all this, what do we arrive at? It depends on the country of course, both how the electricity and the meat is produced.

Here are some examples:

  • πŸ‡§πŸ‡· Brazil:
    πŸ₯© : 1h = 0.04g, meaning a meatless meal saves 3726h of light
    πŸ₯š: 1h = 1.4g, but an egg is 44h of light
  • πŸ‡«πŸ‡· France:
    πŸ₯© : 1h = 0.24g, meaning a meatless meal saves 638h of light
    πŸ₯š : 1h = 1.8g, but an egg is 34h of light
  • πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺ Germany:
    πŸ₯© : 1h = 2g, meaning a meatless meal saves 78h of light
    πŸ₯š : 1h = 9.4g, but an egg is 6h of light
  • πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§ United Kingdoms:
    πŸ₯© : 1h = 0.44g, meaning a meatless meal saves 338h of light
    πŸ₯š : 1h = 4.7g, but an egg is 13h of light
  • πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ United States:
    πŸ₯© : 1h = 1.87g, meaning a meatless meal saves 160h of light
    πŸ₯š : 1h = 22.7g, but an egg is 3h of light

You can consult the database that I have established; it is a work in progress 🚧. Please do not hesitate to contact me to help me refine or complete these data!

Earth Hour is a great initiative because the gesture is so simple.

This hour can be a good time to discuss how plant-based meals can fit into your eating habits. Or, since it’s around dinner time, why not avoid meat at least this once?